Building the new Luc Hoffmann Institute Website

Way back in December 2019 I was invited to help relaunch the Luc Hoffmann Institute's website, an environmental organisation dedicated to maintaining biodiversity in life on earth through innovative projects.

I'd already been working on updating the site in its previous form which was showing a little bit of age and using a page builder. Page builders are good to get websites up and running quickly, but are cumbersome on larger websites. This site had become slow and somewhat of a technical chore to update. That needed to change.

The Luc Hoffmann team were great to work alongside, very clear and thorough in what they needed. We reviewed the development of the site continuously as it evolved in line with their mission statement. In partnership with the World Wildlife Fund they are "the world’s leading catalyst for innovation and transformative change to maintain biodiversity, the foundation for all life on Earth".

I ran a demo of WordPress 5 past the team, showing the new features that could be achieved, then stripped down and rebuilt their content on a fresh install of WP5, running to around at around 150 pages and no page builders in sight.

This was a big project, but the goal was the same as any good website; ease of use. Training and video tutorials allow the team to focus on publishing and promoting their work, without calling on a developer every time they want to update the site.

Since it's launch I've used WP5 on my own website and am impressed with how the new block system allows for dynamic page layouts. It also keeps the best basic functionality, templates and categories - which help automate publishing content to site with minimum fuss, all of which came into play here.

On a technical level, I used tried and tested plugins to manage content and SEO. Content views is great for automating news articles and Yoast is a great gateway into Search Engine Optimisation that helps users write content with search engines in mind. I also coded some custom blocks for the project timeline pages.

There was a lot of feedback and de-bugging required before a site with this many moving parts was ready to go live, and I had a real sense of achievement when we went into soft launch in April.

At this scale it's impressive to see WordPress flexing its content management muscles, a long way from the simple blogging platform it was ten years ago.

2020 also marks 10 years since I began creating websites in WordPress, watching it become the industry-standard platform it is today. Before WordPress, a website of this size might have been created by a team of 2 or 3 developers. I'd like to think my knowledge and experience have paid off with this project.

As I became familiar with The Luc Hoffmann Institute and their work, they really do some fascinating work in innovation and the environment. Check them out here.

“John was wonderfully proactive and efficient in getting our new website up and running. He took the time to understand our needs and always strove to find solutions. His keen communication sense, positive attitude and good sense of humour made the process of updating our website clear, easy, and even fun!”

Jessica Villat, The Luc Hoffmann Institute

Ecommerce website for 'At The Kitchen'

Just finished an eCommerce website for at the kitchen, a great new Kitchen space in Cheadle Hulme (Greater Manchester) offering cookery workshops to all ages and tastes.  I met with owners Angela and Craig who already had a website, but it wasn't quite doing the job they wanted, to see how I could help. 

The story of their business is pretty cool.  Angela is a cook, writer and food stylist with a background working with the BBC's good food guide. If you take a look at the website you'll see just how gorgeous the food they make looks, and that's down to Craig. Craig is a food photographer and you can see a lot of both Angela and Craig's work in BBC food books.

I can't make a souffle, but I do know the ingredients of a good website and who are the better value for money hosting services. After a little bit of exploration, I discovered who they were using and moved them over to a more reliable service. A fresh install of WordPress, with an extra serving of WooCommerce for their shopping cart, was a far more flexible and scalable solution.

I really wanted to make maximum use of the great photography by Craig (which the old website was doing) but also tie that into the SEO, making sure the photos of the food were correctly tagged and captioned, fine details that help get the website ranked properly. Naturally, both Angela and Craig are busy hosting their workshops, so equally important was to make sure the new website could be updated easily with as little technical fuss possible.

Using the WordPress twenty seventeen base theme as a starting point, and as with every site I build,  the layout was then customised at the code level, adding and adjusting the HTML,  CSS and PHP to get the right result. The training was provided using videos that were created showing Angela and Craig how they could add new workshops to their own site.

I really appreciate a clear cut brief and with this project that's exactly what I got.  As the dark nights draw in and their seasonal workshops for festive dining have started appearing on the site, I can only see them getting busier in the new year. All this talk of food is making me hungry!

At The Kitchen Website

Guilty Pleasures - A new website for the Kings Arms Pub.

It was a bit of a guilty pleasure to create a new website for my favourite local.

The Kings Arms in Salford is not only a pub but also a theatre & music venue so they are a very creative bunch of guys and gave me a lot of freedom with the new website design. The new King's Arms site needed to be made responsive and have an updated calendar system - a way of organising all the various types of events they put on there.

The original site also had some illustration, so it was fun to build on that quite literally and draw the venue itself. There's also a little bit of script underneath that turns day into night, depending on the time that you visit the website. If you're in Manchester, don't just visit the website, visit the pub too - they have a great cider on tap!

Visit the Kings Arms website:

Face the music! Branding, web and print design for Wentworth Music Festival

A logo, a poster and a quick loading responsive website that sells tickets, for a new music festival. I love it when I get a project that covers all design disciplines for great cross branding experience.

One such recent project was Wentworth Music Festival. Working with a client I've had for many years they said 'this is what we want, and this is the deadline.  It needed to be bright and punchy, but also put on show the spectacular venue itself, Wentworth Woodhouse. A large privately owned stately home outside of Rotherham.

Choice of font and colour scheme was a delicate process of finding something loud and energetic enough to capture the identity and vibrance of a music festival, while also being respectful of the venue. Chatting with the clients while knee deep in organising  big name bands , I put forward a big splash illustration. Working up detailed sketch of the venue would show it off with a lot more vibrancy than a photo alone could achieve. There was also a tight deadline and go live date. Four bold colour silhouettes of non specific singers and musicians meant the pre-publicity for the event could being while waiting for the confirmation of the big names to come.  After sign off the graphics were reformatted for social media covers and the project was- quite literally - read to rock!

With over 18 years of industry and design studio experience and a dedication to researching the latest design trends and web technology, it's not just about creating a look and feel , but solving design problems. JCU is more than just the final product, it's a design service.

Design is everywhere. Everywhere we look on an increasing number of screens and  on signs of all sizes, each one seeking attention and engagement. We understand the DNA of design communication and how to get you noticed. We do it with efficiency and impact for clients throughout the UK and overseas.

WordPress Training. 5 top tips for working with this powerful website platform.

WordPress now powers 20% of the web. While it's not the only platform out there for maintaining a website it's become one of the most powerful and accessible content management systems available. JCU have been using wordpress for over six years and offer wordpress training to clients.  It's highly customisable nature and design friendly UI help focus the design process and enable clients to take real control of their online identity. wordpress training.

Here are 5 of top tips for make your wordpress experience comfortable and effective;

1. Keep your website active with scheduled posts.

Updating your website regularly is one of the best ways to increase activity to your website. This doesn't mean you have to be on it every day, or every week. By using the option to schedule posts, you can create content when time allows, to publish in the future. Timing the release of new content is a great way to maintain engagement. 

Wordpress publish settings. WordPress training.


2. Resize your images.

By resizing your images within wordpress you can keep the loading time on your page down. Slow website page loading times are an achilles heel for any website which leads to visitors clicking away from your site. An image doesn't need to be massive to be clear.

Wordpress training. Resizing images.


3. SEO as you go.

Search Engines Optimisation for websites is big business, and constantly shifts as the search engines companies themselves alter their search criteria for better results. Take time to get your head around the SEO tools on your website is a good start to understanding how SEO works. A good app like Yoast will help you write better content as you go, optimizing your ability to be seen search based on the kind of content you create.

4. Use good images.

Sourcing good images takes time. This is partly one of the reasons include illustration as part of the design service. That way I can create new content which is specific to the project. With photography a mindful client will allow some of the budget to be covered by royalty free images, as misleadingly the term royalty free doesn't mean 'free'. This is where creative commons licenced images are invaluable, allowing use of professional quality images with just and credit to the author, or simply free for any purpose. Some great CC license sites include, and There is of course google image search, but that's the fast track to breaking copyright law. As I say, sourcing good images takes time.

5. Don't loose your password.

This comes up again and again. Get a good solid password and attribute it with the same level of security as your would with bank details. Using the forgotten password link is a quick and easy way to get a new one, but over time can get messy very quickly, especially if you have more  than one person updating your website with different admin roles. Aha. If I was doing a top 6 wordpress tips, admin and editors roles would be it. 

Want to know more? JCU offer wordpress training to help you make the most of your website. Face to face, via video or skype, communication is key to what we do. For more information email or call using the contact info at the bottom of this page.

WordPress training. John Cooper design umlimited. wordpress development. Website training.

Responsive design, a 'must have' for 2017

Responsive design is no longer a new thing. It's surprising how many websites still don't have it. With Google's 'mobilegeddon' update to it's algorithm (how it see's the web) favouring website's with good access via mobile devices and access to the web via mobile making up more than half of total internet traffic,  there's no excuse not to have it.

Responsive design

In the last couple of years website developers have begun to offer responsive design as part of their service. A website's average lifespan is somewhere between 2/4 years depending on the product or service. It's understandable from a client point of view. With larger websites and non-technical companies their website may not necessarily be a priority and without a reliable web design service  transition can be hard. Do you need a new website?  Does your existing one require converting? It doesn't have to be a  painful experience, in fact it can be a great way to refresh and renew for the new year.

JCU is here to help not just with a new website, but also to guide and explain. We provide the design and training so you can get a website that works for you, and does it efficiently and effectively. 

About us.

JCU is a Manchester studio with clients all all over the world.  Working with people and businesses of all sizes providing them with websites that gets attention and illustrations that are as unique as they are. Good design aids good business, and also win new customers. It’s my passion to engage people with good design across all media. JCU is more than just the final product, it’s a design service. With over 18 years industry and design studio experience and a dedication to researching the latest design trends and web technology, it’s not just about creating a look and feel , but solving design problems.

Responsive Design | WordPress Training | Basic SEO


How much for a website guv?

I need a new website

Yesterday I drove past a sign for a website company which had it's prices displayed in it's front window.  For some companies letting customers know your prices is important, I know when shopping in a supermarket I always check to see I'm getting the best value, it's something we've all become trained to do. I don't put prices on the website for my services, mainly as all jobs are different. Using the metaphor of food I'm by no means the most expensive restaurant out there, but I'm not McDonalds either, I care about what your eyes consume. I'm told I'm very competitive, just ask.

There are plenty of cheap options out there for websites services which let you choose a template and add your own content. Picking from hundreds of templates you'd think that there would be one which would suit your choice of styles. I tried an experiment back in 2010, and again recently and found the same problem, hundreds of templates which all say very little, with even more limited adaptability.

The problem of templated website services is compounded when you look at Search engine optimisation and domains. More metaphors. Imagine the big website service is an enormous tower block of hundreds of flats, each flat is a website and each template a front door, recurring every so often. Now imagine google's search engine is the postman trying t deliver a letter. Not so easy to be seen.

I've had clients who have come to JCU having used this of type service and wanted to move away when they realise their website contains adverts for competing services they can't control and they aren't getting any traffic. They try to leave the service and transfer their domain (website address) elsewhere and discover that the cost cutting service makes most of it's savings with it's lack of technical support. In this case months passed before any action was taken, new 'named contacts' were added and forgotten. Eventually , despite best efforts on both from myself and the client we hit a brick wall of failed actions, the client resigned to getting a new new domain and starting again which had a knock on effect of their pre-existing print publicity.

I've never used an off the shelf  template service for a website never would. I find their enticing designs of what your website 'could look like' to be mis-representative of final product and they  break an old rule of design - 'content is king' -  content aids design, not the other way around, and it's lazy. Good design is a problem to be solved and all clients are different and unique. Look at your own website and be honest. Every site I set up has it's own hosting space, with it's own database and back end best practice.

To cut a long story short, the internet is a infinite expanse of land without the burden of our physical property market. With a good site and content management system you can have as many pages on your website as you like. You can have a mansion, a show-home or a shed. I love sheds.

What is Responsive Design?

I'm recently getting more and more requests from new clients with older websites who want them tweaking or re-designing to look better on tablets and phones. Web developers live in interesting times, if you've looked into your own website recently you may have come across the terms 'HTML5' and 'Responsive design', but what do they mean?

Responsive website design

Put simply responsive design is how a website 'responds' to being displayed on a phone or tablet. Once upon a time print magazines were 'portrait' and websites were 'landscape' but that's not the case  now. There are dozens of permutations of screen sizes, resolutions  and proportions. Unlike print the modern web no longer thinks in terms of pixels, with  images and text moving around to make best use of the screen they are being displayed on. Everything is fluid, nothing is fixed. Understanding this is key to getting the best out of a web based project.

Responding to new design.

After lots of blood sweat and toil here it is, the new website.

It's been at least 5 years since I last updated the site.  Back then the idea of animation in HTML was little known,  flash was still king and people were talking about WAP compatibility. Technology and the web has moved on so much since then, as the web does. The shift towards the new HTML5  is in full swing making designs that are compliant with the phones and tablets and a whole new set of standards.

The new website uses wordpress, jquery, svg vector graphics, CSS3 and Edge animate. It will continue to grow with new portfolio samples, expanding with more  forward thinking features.