Thursday, June 30, 2011

BC Strawberries - socialized

The Fraser Valley Strawberry Growers Association had some very specific changes in mind, with regard to their website.  Just some of these changes were the additions of a Twitter and Blog feed to their BC Strawberries home page.

The great thing about Twitter, and Blogger (really the great part about developing now) is that they both offer their feeds as JSON.  JSON can be a pleasure to work with, especially when using PHP or Javascript.  I tend to make heavy use of both, so learning this - well, it felt a little like my birthday.

Twitter, you may not know, imposes a limit on its feed requests.  It's something rather small — 150 requests per hour or so.  Probably you did know this, and you're wondering why I brought it up.

As you can guess, this limit became a problem during testing (during the modify, save, refresh cycle).  Foreseeabley (who knows if that's a word?), it could become a problem during production as well.

An obvious solution is caching the response.  When a solution is obvious, there's often no real reason to look further.  I wrote a Twitter class which did the following:

First, it checked the users session for a response.  If one was stored, that was used.  If not, it requested the feed from Twitter.  There were two usual outcomes here.  The first is that Twitter returned an error message.  Should that be the case, a stored response was retrieved from the database.
If Twitter returned a valid feed, it was then stored in the database and in the user's session, and that response was used.

It seemed to work fairly well.  I did the same for Blogger - though I have encountered no such request limit. (There may well be one. Who knows?)  If there is, this should prevent ugly errors from distracting from the home page's content.

I set up their Blogger account, and skinned it so as to match their website.  When put into production, I removed the session caching as it seemed unnecessary.

But there was one more thing that needed doing, and it was neat.  The FVSGA requested the addition of a video gallery, but only required the inclusion of a very limited number of videos which I'm told wouldn't often change.
Something easy to manage, but which didn't require elaborate back-end integration into their CMS (to keep costs down and save them money) was the goal.  What I did was write some code to convert a list of Youtube links into a video gallery, which you can learn more about here:

The idea is that when managing the content, they need only update a list of links and everything else will happen automatically.  Or as we so often say on the internet, automagically.

Your friend,

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 launched!

The Raspberry Industry Development Council has a new website!  If you're stuck in the old have-raspberries-but-want-to-delay-eating-them situation, it provides a number of solutions in the form of recipes.
If you're not quite there yet, it'll help you find raspberries in British Columbia.

It presents all sorts of information about the council and their projects, and if you're a grower there's an extensive growers-only section to give you with in-depth grower-specific information.  Just request a log in via the contact us page.

But best of all, it features a moving slideshow (with a berry overlay) that we put together just for them.

Oh look, there it is!

You can find the new BC Raspberries website at

Thursday, June 9, 2011

We finally have a website!

It's been over two years, but Altered Effect finally has a website of its very own.  It's really only two pages, but better than nothing!

It has an excerpt from this very blog, and some expanding content areas:

The contact form slides down when you click the contact link:

 The portfolio page is full of thumbnails which provide more information on mouse over:

Hopefully people like it!  At the very least, it will give our clients something to see.

Some flash games

Here are a few example games we've done.

Chromatic Resitiution - a simple game of skill

We were going for a very specific visual style with this game, and I think we achieved it!

Complete the circuit as quickly as you can.  (This one requires a pretty fast computer)

Want to fly a little blue spaceship around?

The classic you as a ravenous snake against an unending supply of apples.

The Family Wishlist

The Family Wishlist is another site we made to solve a very specific problem:  sharing wishlists, and preventing organizing buying to prevent duplicate purchases.  Recently, we added a Secret Santa feature.


Bradicon converts images into .ICO files, and was designed and programmed right here at Altered Effect.  You don't have to download any software, or sign up, and it's completely free to use.

You can find out more about the mysterious Bradicon here:


Codepaste allows visitors to share their code, without losing its format.  You can paste files, or upload them.  Some of its features include ownership, revisions, and branching.  And all this, without ever having to sign up or sign in. (In fact, there is intentionally no way to sign in.)

Any code you add, be it by pasting, uploading or branching is owned by you. You can edit it, and save new revisions. Every file has a public key: a string of characters you can give to your friends, or anyone you want to be able to revise your files – ideal for situations where you’ve grown too accustomed to some code, and need fresh eyes to spot and correct an error.

Codepaste will email a link to the code to a friend, or you can download the code for use.


Ardcorp came to us looking for a website on which they could share information about their many projects and initiatives.

Aquaflora Nurseries

Aquaflora Nurseries produces underwater plants, and needed a logo.  We produced a number of concepts for them, this is the one they chose.

We also made a custom inventory and content management system for to suit their business.  It keeps track of where plants are, and when they needed to be re-potted.  It also manages their orders and sales to dealers, and has so many other features.

Maan Farms

Maan Farms came to us looking for a website that was rustic, and old-timey, but very kid-friendly.

WinMar Fraser Valley

WinMar Fraser Valley came to us looking for a website that focused on the renovation, restoration, and esporta cleaning aspects of their business respectively.  They wanted something upscale, classy and professional.

Wildflower Birth Services

Wildflower Birth Services needed a logo and a website, and we came through with both!

Vancouver Island Head Injury Society

VIHIS came to us for a logo.  Oh, man do we have sheets and sheets of logo concepts we produced for them.  Here are two!

(They wanted it to include a lightbulb, and maybe a tree, some hills, and water.)

Tsang Dentistry

Tsang Dentistry is a local dental office who came to us in search of a logo.  We produced a few concepts for them.

We also put together a website design for them.

But what's really neat is that we had the opportunity to create a poster for them (it was for display at a Judo tournament).

Oh, and there were various newspaper ads that we designed.


For SenorSpine, we put together a logo:

A simple website design:

And illustrated a poster:

Oh, we also did another logo for him:

Ron C

Ron C is a local artist who wished for a website through which to sell his paintings and photographs online.  We put together a few design concepts.  Here's one of them:

Propel Renovations

Propel Renovations came to us with their existing logo in search of business cards, but not quite ready for a website.  We created a couple of card designs, and even got to work a QR code into the design (something I've wanted to do for a while now).

Once we'd designed the cards, Propel got back to us with some great news.  They'd decided they wanted a website designed after all.  We put together a very clean design for them, and set them up with a CMS for easy editing.

Lonely Fish

Lonely Fish was a website/blog/newsletter/store for underwater plants.  We designed a logo, business cards, and a website for them.  Since they needed a webstore, we set them up with Magento and creating a custom skin to match the design concept.

Oh, we also did some bag designs for them.

Legend Painting

Legend Painting approached us looking for a logo, business cards, and a website.  They had some specific requests in terms of logo, and we produced concepts to match.  One had to include a paint brush or roller, and another should incorporate the mountains, the sun, and the sea.

I'm sure you can figure out which they chose from the business card concepts we designed below.

We produced a website design for Legend Painting, and set them up with a CMS.  Featured on the Home page (below) is an animated three-panel slideshow which they can add pictures to through a gallery in the CMS's backend.

Dr. Jonathan Tsang, DMD

Dr. Jonathan Tsang is a Dentist located in Abbotsford. (Possibly the greatest Dentist in Abbotsford; though I'm not an expert in the area, nor have I done an exhaustive study - or really any study, for that matter.)

He came to us for a logo and some new business cards.

Dr. Tsang's needed a logo that was limited to grayscale.  We produced a few logo concepts, and some even included teeth.

He went with the top one (which was my personal favourite).

Next, we got started on his business cards.  We produced a few concepts, and are very happy with the final version.  It's difficult to see here, but the logo on the front of the card is shiny.

(Click the card below to flip it over.)

Recently, we also put together a custom inventory system for them built specifically for use on iPhones, an iPod touch, and iPads. It's pretty cool, and makes keeping track of when to re-order items easy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Best Home Product

Best Home Product came to us looking for a logo, and a web-store.  We started with the logo, and produced a few concepts:

Logo concepts

From the concepts came the final logo:
Best Home Product logo

Once the logo was done, we got started on the website design.

After a few changes, we set them up with Magento for their e-commerce needs and created a custom skin to match the concept's design.  Of course, a bit of programming was necessary to trick Magento into displaying some things in ways it didn't immediately wish to.

The four-tabbed image near the top was custom made.  We wrote a Magento plugin to allow them to update it from right there on Magento's settings page.

The house plan was also custom made, and is configured via XML file.

Fraser Valley Strawberry Growers Association

FVSGA is one of our long-time clients, and recently had us refresh their website.  We started by producing a design concept for them:

The top half of the home page, which included Strawberry news, alerts, and a featured farm.

The bottom half of the home page which featured two of the many recipes the website offers.

The farm information page.  There's one of these for each farm in the association.

After a few changes, we set up the website for them (complete with a CMS so that they could easily keep the information up-to-date).

Recently, they've had us working on some further changes, mostly to the home page.  As well as some basic layout modifications, we did some programming to add a custom Blog, and a twitter feed to the home page.

Oh, and we made them a Blogger skin to match their website.  

Poseidon plumbing

Poseidon plumbing approached us about getting some business cards designed using their existing logo.  For reference, they provided a copy of what was then their current card.

Their old card.

The first thing we did was find out if we could clean up their logo a bit.  The Ps were redrawn, their spacing and colour were adjusted, and the stroke was permanently removed to lend the logo a cleaner, more professional look.

The company's name was added and with it a faint gradient to the name and the foreground P.

Using the updated logo, we designed them a business card complete with a spot gloss on one side (that's what the bubbles are), and are very happy with the results:

(Click on the card below to flip it over.)