Debbies Placement Report


 

1 Introduction


 

On the 6th of August 2007 I started working as a web designer for Blue Cubes Enterprises ltd.  Since this time I have had the opportunity to design and develop many websites (working on an average of at least three a week) and I have gained a great insight into the workings of a web development company.  

In this document I will evaluate my time spent at Blue Cubes over the past year, including company structures, the role I played within the company, training received and the various skill I have developed as a result of my placement.

 

 

1.1 History and Development of Blue Cubes Enterprises Ltd

 

BlueCubes Enterprises Ltd is a web development company made up of a small, yet efficient, team of four employees including myself.  It was founded in December 2002 by Stephen Cousins, and since then BlueCubes has grown to be a very successful company, targeting a niche market of clients.  The unique Data Management System is ideal for Car Dealers, Art galleries and Estate agents, to name a few, making BlueCubes the number one choice for these companies.  BlueCubes now work with many of the biggest Car dealer companies in Northern Ireland, including Shelbourne Motors and SERE.  Some of the highest regarded art galleries in the province now use BlueCubes Software to promote their work, including Gormleys Art Gallery and Taylor Art Gallery.  BlueCubes also boast to produce effective Website Design and Development that works as a marketing tool for clients.  Content Management, E-commerce solutions, Database Development, and Internet Consultancy are also provided at Blue Cubes Enterprises, making it a very diverse and successful business.

 

 

1.2 Organisational Structure

 

Stephen Cousins - Managing Director

Aidan Cranston - Senior Web Developer

Paul McQuillan - Middle Weight Web Developer and Programmer

Debbie Wilkinson - Web Designer (Placement Student)

 

Stephen Cousins - As Managing Director for Blue Cube Enterprises, Stephen overlooks all projects undertaken by the company.  He meets with potential clients to brief them on the software and how to use it and why Blue Cubes would be profitable for them.  From this meeting he then develops an outline specification for the website design and development.  Having an in depth knowledge of both these areas, Stephen overlooks all elements of the build and sees the process through from start to finish.  He also handles all other aspects of the business, creating financial budgets and cost, along with timescales for each website build for the team to work to.  Stephen also helps to motivate his team and keep them on track to ensure that the work is finished to the highest standard and in time.

 

Aidan Cranston - As Senior Web Developer, Aidan has detailed knowledge of programming languages including ASP and SQL.  Aidan supervises the continual development of Bluecubes Software, including developing new features and altering already existing features.  He also works on projects, dealing with customers and developing their websites while directing other work to team members.

 

Paul Mc Quillan - Working with ASP and SQL, Paul develops clients websites through to the finished product and manages their upkeep.  Having some design experience Paul mixes his skills with using Fireworks and Dreamweaver effectively and also designs some of the websites for Client's.  Paul also liaises closely with clients, ensuring that any changes or developments are made to the websites.

 

Debbie Wilkinson - As Website Designer, I receive a brief from Stephen and produce prototype designs that can be shown to the client.  Once a design has been agreed and finalised, I build the initial stages of the site in Dreamweaver, using my design.  I then work closely with the developers, making alterations to websites, including general tasks such as creating flash animations and graphics.

 

 

2 My Role


 

2.1 Job Description

 

My job title states that I am a Website Designer accountable to the senior web developer Aidan Cranston.  I also work closely with the Managing Director Stephen Cousins, who produces briefs for me to work to.  My main task as Web Designer is to design and undertake the first stage build of websites for commercial clients.  Some of my responsibilities include:

Below you can see a selection of the websites that I have designed throughout the year:

 

 

                                Ross's Auctioneers    -    John McHugh Car Sales    -    BeaufortShop    -    TanTastic    -    Justin Glasgow Art

 

2.2 Skills Required

 

The technical skills required for this job include:

The personal skills required for this job include:

 

 

2.3 Skills I have Developed

 

Since starting at Bluecubes I have benefited from working with experienced professionals, having the opportunity to develop many new skills, both technically and inter-personally.  As a designer I feel I have progressed a great deal working to a much higher standard.  When I began my placement last year I was lacking a great deal of confidence about my design capabilities and doubted weither I was truly able to do the job.  This steadily increased as the year progressed as I was given more and more design tasks to complete (with clients actually liking my working).  This was a great boost to my confidence and I feel alot more competent with my work and responsibilities.  A skill I feel I have developed greatly is the ability to work and keep to a brief satisfactorily.  My first initial design jobs alerted me to the fact that a client likes things done their way and its to deliver what they want.  This has proved very successful for me with most of my initial design concepts being accepted by clients.  The structure a brief provides works well with me as I like to be organised and know that I have ticked all the asked requirements, and also no time is wasted producing unnecessary elements.  This has a very positive effect on my time keeping, making sure my tasks are completed with efficiency. 

 

The benefits of working with others is the feedback that they provide were words of praise, and also structured critism, helps in many ways.  Before I would not have been too particular about placement of design elements i.e. making sure everything is aligned properly with the same spacing throughout.  My colleagues have made me realise the importance of this, especially when it comes to design, and I have become more particular about fine details of a design that can effectively make or break it.  Personally I have developed a much higher standard and attitude to my design work, striving for perfection in my designs and feeling much more confident in doing so.

 

My ability has also developed when working with various programs for both the design and build of a website.  The main skill I have developed is using Macromedia Fireworks, for designing my work.  Before working at Bluecubes, I was mainly used to working with Adobe Photoshop to produce my design concepts ,so I was quite daunted with the idea of having to change.  However, the benefits to using this program were evident as I became more familiar with its tools.  Fireworks uses alot of the same tools as Photoshop so it was a rather easy transition.  It is more cross compatible with Macromedia Dreamweaver, having several features that contribute to speeding up the design and development process.  The main tool I found invaluable was the useful 'Slice tool', which allows me to slice up the design and export the sections in my desired format, and easily import this into Dreamweaver.  This saves alot of time, and does away with the 'writing down of co-ordinates' and pasting out selections, which is a timely drawback to using Photoshop.  Photoshop still comes in handy when i am looking to export images at a high quality or manipulate photography for a client, but when it comes to the main designing of a website I have found Fireworks very useful.  My confident in using Macromedia Dreamweaver and Adobe Flash has also grown significantly with day to day useage and I feel I am much more competent in using them.

 

Along with the design of a website I have also had the chance to work alongside the Developers and gain experience using ASP, SQL, Javascript, CSS and HTML.  I mainly work with the latter two on a daily basis as I build the initial stages of the website.  Although various tasks have been assigned to me to help me get used to using the other languages, including creating questionnaires in Javascript, as well as pages that both read and right data to and from a SQL database, using ASP.  I feel I have still alot to learn about these programming languages but have a solid foundation to build upon.

 

Personally my communication skills have developed greatly from working with Bluecubes.  I especially enjoy conversing with clients and expressing my views on various issues.  The managing director Stephen brings me on many client meetings where I have had invaluable insight into the sales side of the business and what a client is looking for from our company.  I have also found that my opinion is valued in these important client meetings and that my communication skills are quite high.  Within the team I have no issues with asking for help or opinions from my colleagues and get on well with everyone.  Other skills include contacting clients by email and via telephone calls to discuss designs and answering various queries.  

 

2.4 Social Aspects

 

Since starting at Bluecubes last year, we have had a few nights out together as a team which allowed me to get to know everyone better.   The first time we went out was for a employee of a neighbouring companies leaving doo!  We went to Pappa Joes in Bangor for dinner and then onto the Marine Court hotel for a drinks and some alchol enduced dancing.  This was an excellent opportunity for us all to let our hair down and get to know each other without it being  work related.   Stephen also arranged a team building day at his home, were we took a day off work, and productively played the nintendo Wi  for the entire afternoon.   We also had a chinese, so good day at the office all round.  This was brilliant craic, with a bit of friendly banter.

 

                                               Me and Stephen at the Marine Court                   Paul and some of the Rich Sauces Workers 

 

The Main Highlight of the year for me was the Christmas Party at the Galgorm Manor.  This was for the Bluecubes team and their partners.  Stephen had booked rooms for us all to stay in, so after our meals we got to boogie on into the night without the worry of having to get back to Belfast.  This was a brilliant night and an extra treat because I got to meet all my colleagues partners and vice versa.  I really enjoyed this night and waking up to the sound of a waterfall outside my window the next morning was the icing on the cake.

In May 2008, we moved from our offices in Newtownards to new premises on the Malone Road.  This resulted in another leaving party, but this time for Bluecubes.  Having loved Papa Joes in Bangor so much, I suggested this be the venue.  Chicken Tenby is the most mouth watering dish ever!  Again the craic was flowing, along with the wine, and it was a very enjoyable night.

Whilst working at Bluecubes, I have also felt welcomed and encouraged to be involved in any of the activities going on.  In turn this has really benefited the team dynamics and helped me feel more at ease with everyone.  The support from my colleagues has been great and I feel they have alot of time for me.

 

3 Training


 

3.1 Training Recieved (formal & informal)

 

 

Over the past year I have recieved training in many different aspect of web development, gradually building upon my technical ability and experience at doing various tasks.  By working with experience professionals in this field, I feel that I have benefited greatly, even by watching them work and how they take on the tasks themselves, to hands on training from them.

My first formal training began with an introduction to the BlueCubes Software and database.  This is the back end to all the websites and what the developers continually strive to develope and enhance.  I was shown the basics on how to use the software, from loging in, viewing information, adding/editing/deleting images and text to adding flash animations and various other elements of design.  This helped me to get an idea of what their software was about and the main features it included.  This was important for me to remember whilst carrying out design concepts, to be aware of how the software could be adapted to be incorporated in the design.  It also gave me a good insight to a successful database management system and how it worked both at the front and back end.

 

My first design task to complete in August 2007 detailed the redesign for an already exsisting Bluecubes Client, The Donnelly Group, who is one of the biggest car dealers in Northern Ireland.  I was asked to redesign the top strip for the donnelly store in Macromedia Fireworks.  Having no previous training with this package, Paul, who also designs, sat with me for a few days showing me the tools and how to use Fireworks to the best advantage, including shortcuts and time saving techniques i.e. Using the Slice tool and its benefits.  He also explained to me as my training progressed the advantages using Fireworks over Photoshop in a work enviroment.  Paul also advised me on how to make my designs cleaner, more functional and better aligned, using the rulers and guides.  These guides have been invaluable to me ever since and have given me a clear standard to work towards for creating concepts for clients.

 

Over the year I have also been trained in developing front end web pages from Database Managed Systems using ASP and SQL as well as creating pages to add information into the database.  This has been a gradual process throughout the year, with no specific training, but more developed from working on different projects and different elements within a project, alongside the Developers.  I believe that my training took place all year round, as I continually learnt new skills, tips and "tricks of the trade". 

 

4 Reflection


 

4.1 Reflection

 

Looking back on my year placement with BlueCubes it has been an invaluble experience for me, in terms of training, direction and development.   I feel much more prepared and equiped with working in a company and with experienced professionals.  Having the opportunity to work with very talented designers and developers has encouraged me to fufil my work to a high quality as well as challenging me to develope new skills and evolve as a designer.  I am much better equiped with working in a team and knowing how to communicate with my collegues in order to get the best results for a client.  I believe I have a natural ability for talking with clients and grasping a good understanding of their needs, which is a skill that has only became apparent from my time working at BlueCubes. 

 

While working on various projects, I have had to organise myself in order to successfully meet my deadlines and to a high standard.  Being able to prioratise is key, and having the ability to estimate how long a particular job should take to complete, and sticking to it.  I have noticed that in times were I have deviated from my schedule or spent too long dwelling on one project, throws my work flow off and has negative effects on other members of the team, who are depending on me to keep their work flow afloat.  I have developed a good talent for "getting the job done" by assessing, above all, the clients requirements and needs, and hopefully delivering them efficiently in good time.  I definatley feel that my time management skills will benefit me greatly for future job as I have become very organised and I am able to plan well in advance.

Having the opportunity to work on all stages of developing successful websites has been very useful.  This includes all aspects from the design stage right through to the development and upkeep of a website.  To date I have worked on and contributed to around one-hundred websites.  I definatly feel that my design work has been greatly influenced by my time spent at BlueCubes, as I have come to learn that when it comes to the "world wide web" less is more and the placement of elements is crutial to producing an effective design. 

 

I feel priveledged to have had the opportunity to work for such a successful company and they have aided my development immensly since I started with them last August.  My initial fears and lack of confidence have been overcome and I now feel much more certain about where I would like to take my career.

 

4.2 Evaluation

 

My placement at BlueCubes has provided me with a solid foundation of working for a company and life outside University walls.  All of the skills I have developed over the last year will no doubt contribute to my growth as a web designer, aiding my final year at University and my future career.  These include my technical skills along with organisation and interpersonal skills. 

 

Looking forward to my final year, I feel much more confident with what may be thrown at me, in terms of work load and a high standard of work.  I believe that the skills I have gained from my placement will help me overcome new challenges, as well as being able to stay focused and organised.  My overall technical ability will benefit me greatly, as I am more capable of producing coherent and well-structured designs, as well as writing and developing code.  However, I am also aware of various areas that I have not really had the chance to tackle successfully, mainly being the use of CSS, as this is used mainly as an aid to HTML at BlueCubes, rather than replacing it.  At the moment CSS is used in style sheets to alter text and font styles etc, but does not actually hold the stucture or layout of the site as tables are still used.  I intend to address this issue before returning to final year in order to meet criteria and produce a standard that I am happy with.  I have basic knowledge with CSS having used it in second year, although I confess that it has been pushed to the back of my mind since and I fully intend to revise this before starting back. 

 

Overall my time at Bluecubes has been excellent, and I have had the chance to work with a brilliant group of people.  I have gained alot of experiences as well as learning new skills and developing as a person.  I have matured a great deal, and feel more focused on what I wish to achieve from my career, as well as life itself.  I look forward to bringing these new skills to the classroom next year and hopefully produce a successful final project, that will showcase my newly learnt talents effectively.