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Fluent Conference 2014

by Jamil Evans May 12th, 2014 Software Web

Every developer at EC gets to attend a training of their choosing, and this year, I again chose to attend the Fluent Conference in San Francisco.  Being a JavaScript developer, I think this is the best place to see the latest developments in the community and create my own syllabus for things I need to learn over the year.   Held sometime in Spring, the venue moves to a different location in the city, but the overall format remains the same — 3 days of sessions and workshops on JavaScript and HTML5 (aka The Web Platform).

My favorite sessions:
• Express.js and Node.js workshop — a look at MVC in server-side JS, supplanting server-side frameworks like Spring MVC and Struts.
• Ember.js vs Angular vs Backbone — a quick comparison of the 3 most popular JS MVC frameworks for building Single Page Apps. Conclusion: I need to do more research on my own.
• Web Components and Polymer — still in the early stages, but the most exiting new framework in JS.
• JavaScript and Unicode — an illuminating look at an oft overlooked topic … but perfect for a conference session, because it’s not casual reading material.
• SVG — a tutorial on plain SVG, something of a refresher from a year ago when I had to used Raphael.js, a charting/drawing library for JS.

Some lessons learned for tech conferences in general: Note taking with Evernote on a laptop is a lot easier than using a Tablet, like I did previously.  And a laptop is required for the workshop hands-on sessions.  Expect the conference Wifi to get overwhelmed, so download anything you’ll need for the workshops beforehand.  Don’t pick a session on the title alone, they can be misleading.  Do read up on topics beforehand, follow the twitter feeds/blogs of speakers to get links to slides, and follow the official conference twitter hashtag during the conference.  Put the code you write at the workshop in Dropbox so it’s available for review at work the following Monday.

Putting things in perspective, it was amazing to see the amount of innovation happening in the Web Platform community.  Coming from a Java background, the Javascript community is still evolving, but for Browser development, already outperforms competing approaches I’ve worked with in the past.

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Rebuilding TASN’s Online Presence

by Jamil Evans Jun 6th, 2013 Web

When the Tennessee Association of School Nurses decided to update their website, they called on us. They knew what they wanted – a clean, modern update and complete reorganization, plus a behind-the-scenes Custom Management System (CMS) that would allow them to update the site on their own.

Tennessee Association of School Nurses Website Before...and After

The Tennessee School Nurse Association (TASN) is a professional member organization of school nurses with the mission to promote, improve, and maintain quality comprehensive student health services by advancing the professional practice of school nursing. An affiliate of the National Association of School Nurses, TASN members enjoy member events, educational opportunities, and a variety of resources available to help them improve their nursing practice and stay up-to-date on state guidelines and legislation.

Navigating TASN’s site, however, was difficult. It was a complicated web of links with no discernible structure. Users found it confusing to navigate, and it wasn’t visually attractive. Plus, it wasn’t easy for new users to find out how to join the Association. Right away, we knew that designing the site for usability and member conversion was important, and TASN had other things in mind: namely, the look and feel of the site. TASN’s new red, white, and blue logo didn’t match the site, and, for that matter, the site wasn’t at all attractive to modern users. To improve, TASN wanted modern images that rotated on a cleaner, modernized homepage, and wanted to make it easier for users to find out how to join TASN with a button that would direct users to a sign-up form.

After gathering these requirements, we offered suggestions for reorganization, and created a few design options from which to choose. We also suggested that the new site be built on top of the WordPress CMS – that way, TASN can update their events, resources, and administration information without a developer. While we built the site, TASN focused on reorganizing their links, resources, and content for an improved user experience.

The site itself featured a clean design and was manageable using WordPress, no development experience necessary. TASN can edit page content using a what-you-see-is-what-you-get editing tool. We incorporated WordPress widgets into the site to feature an RSS feed to promote news from the affiliated National Association of School Nurses, a callout box with information on joining the Tennesses Association of School Nurses, and sidebar information for each of the subpages. TASN can edit this content, and even move the widgets around to change the order in which they appear.

To improve the look-and-feel, TASN chose several modern images for their site, which we featured as main images on each subpage, and as rotating images on the homepage. Using WordPress, TASN can change the order in which the images appear, add new images, or feature specific images on each subpage. When the site went live, it was completely unrecognizable.

To close out the project, we showed TASN how to work with WordPress until they were comfortable making changes themselves. The new site is is now a far cry from the previous one – it is easy to navigate and looks great. TASN is very glad that their internet presence represents the professionalism of the organization. So much so, they provided us with the following feedback:

For years I have put off updating our website since it seemed like such a daunting task.  Working with Evans and Chambers was the best decision I made when I finally bit the bullet to move forward.  They expertly guided me through the process, gently redirected me if I strayed from my vision and offered professional advice when I was really stuck creatively.  Most of all, they were beyond patient as I revised, revised and revised again up until minutes before we went live.  Since the new version was launched, the support has been fabulous. I received an easy to follow tutorial so I can now manage the website on my own. If you could only have seen the mess my website was before compared to the clean, professional version I have now. I am happy to point people to our website and the feedback is very positive.  Kudos to Nicole, Jamil and the rest of the Evans and Chambers team!

~ Lisa, President, Tennessee Association of School Nurses

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