Look Ma, No Table Cells
The new look Stuart Vallantine Web Experience
Sunday 10th June 2007
After nearly eighteen months of being in cyberspace, this website has had its first real makeover.
In the last six weeks, the main sections of the Stuart Vallantine Web Experience has been revamped and changed beyond slight recognition.
Out are the table cells. The whole thing is done using <DIV> tags and CSS style sheets for positioning. The result is a more contemporary look, though with some continuity to avoid regular visitors. Happily, for regular visitors, the Greater Manchester Transport style colour scheme is integral to the site. For the transport geeks, the design is inspired by GMT's 1974 - 1980 colour scheme.
Most of the site is now coded using XHTML markup and has fewer accessibility issues than its predecessor.
This site has also been tested on Opera, K-Meleon and IE6 as well as Mozilla Firefox, my usual browser. Compared with the previous incarnation, no proprietary software was used, apart from images seen on the previous version. All new graphics were produced with the GIMP. Coding was done using a freeware text editor, and Nvu, an open source equivalent to Dreamweaver or Microsoft Frontpage.
Feel free to comment. If you think I've made a mistake akin to Coca Cola's new formula in 1985, or a technical revolution, please tell me.
One Year On
The first twelve months in the life of the Stuart Vallantine Web Experience
Saturday 27th January 2007
Was it really a year since this website was uploaded? Yes.
The 26th January 2006 saw the launch of this worthy venture, designed to showcase the artistic and written work of The Travelling Poet, a.k.a Stuart Vallantine.
In fact, plans for a website had been in place since 2001, which at the time I regarded as an irrelevance. I was under the idea that I would be one of several insignificant billion upon billion websites, unvisited and (worse), designed using proprietary software and design templates.
By 2003, I joined a search engine consultancy, which has seen me gain knowledge in HTML, CSS and (whilst trying to remain sane) that necessary evil of content management systems. The year after, I experimented with a WYSIWYG web editor, which led to the current Stuart Vallantine Web Experience which you see today.
One year after, the current site has gained an average of 42 visitors a day. It has spawned a Blog, entitled 'East of the M60' and has had favourable reviews. Recent comments have been made about the site heuristics (in layperson's terms, site navigation) and the Greater Manchester Transport style colour scheme.
The future Stuart Vallantine Web Experience will maintain a link with the Greater Manchester Transport influenced colour scheme. This will aid and establish familiarity with persons browsing the website (as proof of this, eBay, Google and Amazon have had virtually unchanged schemes from the start). Future developments will see a transition towards tableless formatting with greater use of CSS commands and <DIV> tags, plus fluid positioning. Though still designed for 800x600 resolution, the site will be more visually attractive to persons browsing on 1280x1024 and above resolutions.
Here's to another year, then... CHEERS!
A Transition from one Doctype to another
Sunday 12th November 2006
The Stuart Vallantine Web Experience has been converted from the Transitional to the Strict version of the HTML 4.01 Doctype.
The advantages of using the Strict Doctype are improved CSS and browser compatibility. Most pages have also been converted from ISO-8859-1 to UTF-8 Unicode encoding for similar reasons.
Improved Drawings Section and Compatibility
Further artworks added and slight CSS amendments
Wednesday 24th May 2006 (formerly British Empire Day)
In a bid to raise the artistic profile of its offline cousin, the Stuart Vallantine website has seen the drawings section of the site expanded.
The number of drawings throughout the site have doubled from five to ten. There are now two colour plates within the website. Of the drawings within this site, sixty percent of them have been drawn from memory, with the rest using photographs. As of before, the drawings are navigable via the Drawings menu with the thumbnail images, and between the inner pages featuring the artworks.
Accessibility and Engineering Works
Further tweaks to improve site accessibility
Tuesday 7th March - Wednesday 10th May 2006
There has been some slight changes to this website, which have made little cosmetic impact, with an emphasis on improved site accessibility.
Firstly, Breadcrumb links have been added to the drawing section of this site, to allow easy navigation into the drawings menu. Another change has concerned the email addresses. There are now three new email addresses accessible from this site, designed for more specific enquiries, with the poetry, drawings and articles allocated their own mailbox. These are in addition to the generic email address for more general enquiries.
This April has seen further developments towards improved accessibility. All links to the main pages of this site have their own keyboard short cut. For example, ALT+0 (or CTRL+0 on an Apple Macintosh) leads to the first page. This is great for mouseless users or persons who cannot be bothered to drag their mouse up to their desired link.
This has been augmented by a list of the key commands. Users may wish to place this on the side of the browser, or print them off for future reference. To facilitate this move, the shortcuts list loads in a separate browser window.
In the long term, one aim is to make the site more compliant with WAI standards, in addition to being compatible with most web browsers.
Three chances to see Stuart Vallantine at Bolton Arena in 2007
Tuesday 12th December 2006
Regular readers of this section may assume I have taken up boxing, or gained a support slot with a half decent rock band.
If you have, you are wrong on both counts. In a venue more synomynous with Amir Khan, I will be doing a series a talks at Bolton Arena. These will take place in the January, February and March of 2007.
The talks will focus on early years provision for children on the autism spectrum. These will include comparisons made with two examples in the Bolton area, and some reference to my own experiences.
East of the M60
New blog launched
Thursday 24th August 2006
Accompanying this very website is a new web venture, 'East of the M60'.
'East of the M60' is the official blog of Stuart Vallantine himself, with due focus on transport, technology and his area.
Lovingly created using Wordpress, an open source blogging content management system, this blog includes opinions on television, transport and the like by yours truly [the author of this website].
The web address for 'East of the M60' is http://mancunian1001.wordpress.com.
When Stuart met Donna
The Travelling Poet meets fellow wayfarer Donna Williams in a Sheffield church
Thursday 10th August 2006
On the Saturday before the second May bank holiday, I met up with fellow comrade Donna Williams, during a lecture in a Sheffield church.
Her lecture, 'Autism as a Fruit Salad' was well received by an audience of nearly three hundred persons. As well as the talk itself, she was supported by Philippa Rogan, who had a 15 minute slot comprising of her own musical compositions. Regular readers of this section will remember Philippa from my previous article on my Sunfield talk.
Donna enlightened the three hundred strong audience with her description of autism being a 'fruit salad' of several splinter conditions of varying degrees rather than one homogenous condition. Her vocal delivery was augmented with descriptions of her life experiences sourced from "nine books including four autobiographies".
Prior to her talk, I was ordered by Donna herself to read one of my poems, 'Celebrating Differences' (which appears elsewhere within this site) and give a brief description on Auties.org, a useful directory for persons on the autism spectrum to showcase their talents from fine art to web design.
Sunfield Success Story
The Travelling Poet inspires in soirée on himself, his poetry and visual arts
Tuesday 7th March 2006
Last Wednesday's talk at Sunfield School proved to be a success for the Travelling Poet, his peers and their audience.
This full day event celebrated the artistic endeavours of persons on the autism spectrum, with lively contributions from Philippa Rogan (with an excellent poem on Jegsy Dodd), Zoe Garrett (with an illuminating talk on living with autism, and her charitable deeds), and Keith McKenzie, whose contribution was the culmination of a two year survey on the needs of persons with Asperger's Syndrome.
The afternoon was reserved from Wendy Lawson, who spoke about living with Asperger's Syndrome, a misdiagnosis of Schizophrenia and monotracked information processing. Her two hour lecture was most interesting, open, humorous and honest.
My contribution included a description about myself, some sample poetry and artwork. On a personal note, I received some great feedback via message boards and emails after this event.
Live from deepest Worcestershire, the Travelling Poet
Sunday 22nd January 2006
The Midlands has assumed second home status for myself, due to following the mighty Stalybridge Celtic and other recreational activities. To confirm this even more, I shall be doing a talk at Sunfield School on the 1st March 2006 (St. David's Day), along with three other persons on the autistic spectrum, including the author Wendy Lawson.
This will be a full day event, celebrating the artistic endeavours of persons on the autism spectrum. Also, the year 2006 is the 25th anniversary of Dr. Lorna Wing's translation from the original German to English of Hans Asperger's paper on Autistic Psychopathy (his words!) into what we now know as 'Asperger Syndrome'.
Tickets are available from Sunfield School at £50 for professionals and £20 for parents and carers.
Seven Days in the Life of www.stuartvallantine.co.uk
The Honeymoon Period Reviewed and Further Improvements
Tuesday 31st January 2006
Since its launch on the 26th January 2006, the Stuart Vallantine website has seen positive reactions from friends and family alike. Fulfilling its remit to showcase the visual and written works of Stuart Vallantine, the site will remain a "work in progress", with the site seeing new articles, artwork and poetry.
As proof of this, I have now beefed up the drawings section. Following comments concerning the small size of the images, I have addressed this, by enabling users to see an expanded version.
In my opinion, all websites are "under construction". They do not have to say "under construction" on certain pages. This is a sign of manana. A website should be a living breathing unit kept alive by a dedicated team of coders, designers, one person bedroom outfits and adequate network facilities (be it dial up or broadband so fast that the page loads up before you write "http" on your web browser address bar). An "under construction" statement is a death sentence towards improving site accessibility with search engine directories and people browsing at their home or office.
The wait is over, after a lengthy gestation period of five years
Tuesday 24th January 2006
The super soaraway Stuart Vallantine website is fit for public consumption and perusal. Its aim is to provide a showcase for Dukinfield's very own performance poet and visual artist.
Accessible and W3C compliant
The wait is over, after a lengthy gestation period of five years
Tuesday 29th November 2005
The all singing all dancing Stuart Vallantine web experience is W3C compliant. Most pages within this website are now compliant to W3C standards, supporting the HTML 4.01 Transitional Document Type Declaration. The whole of this site has also been tested using browsers other than Microsoft Internet Explorer (such as Mozilla Firefox and other Open Source browsers) for maximum compatibility.