I love the image that I’ve used for the featured image on this article. It’s my brother walking my grandparents’ Samoyed on July 3rd 2014 and it’s probably the most ‘summery’ image that I’ve taken!

With the end of Year 1 ever approaching and a long summer coming up, I thought I’d write about some of the things that I personally plan to do over the summer to keep myself occupied and my UX and coding skills up to scratch!

PAL Mentor Training (end of May)

A few months ago I applied to be a PAL Mentor, starting in September 2018. My role as a PAL Mentor will involve getting the new Year 1 BSc Games Development, Interaction Design and User Experience Design students settled into NUA and ensuring that they have a good start to their university career and have a friendly face in Year 2 to talk to if they need help with anything, whether it be wanting to know more about the university, which nightclubs are safe to go to, where they can buy food in Norwich and also come to me if they are struggling with work and/or want suggestions. On May 30th and 31st I have a two day training session which will teach me how to do those things and tell me more about the PAL Mentor role and what it involves. The training will also involve mental health awareness training which I will get a nationally recognised certificate or qualification in, which will be worth having.

I wanted to a PAL Mentor because I’ve always been really passionate about the course that I am doing in education. When I was doing A levels at Wymomdham High I was really passionate about that school and the courses I was doing and put a lot of effort into promoting the courses I did at the school on open evenings. If I knew students who were doing the courses I did in the years below me I was always interested about what they were doing and keen to help them. I still go back to open days occasionally to talk about A levels there and still have some friends who are doing the courses that I did and I still like to offer them help and advice when they ask for it. Now I am passionate about NUA and the course I study here, but also have a keen interest in the other courses too and would love the opportunity to help newcomers to the university and Norwich feel settled in, give them a friendly face to talk to about any worries they might have. My role as a Student Ambassador already involves doing some of this, but I feel that this would be a great addition and would enable me to help the new intake directly to make not just their early days, but their whole experience over the first year or so (or longer) more enjoyable and less-daunting.

Hopefully I will make a friendly PAL Mentor and be a friendly face in Year 2 that Year 1 students can reach out if they need help and support.

Promoting NUA… again

Recently I have done several events to promote NUA and its BSc courses (read about them here, here and here) and we are approaching that time of year again when UCAS are touring the country and inviting universities to various venues across the country to run stands at UCAS fairs to provide prospective students (usually in Year 12 or equivalent) with information about their university and the courses there. On May 17th I am going to a UCAS fair at Chelmsford College to run a stand there. This event will be interesting for me because I will be the only one there and will have to talk to students and their parents about all of the courses at NUA, not just the BSc ones. Asides from the campus tours I have run, this is really the first event where I’ve needed to have knowledge of all of the courses. I’m in the fortunate situation where I have plenty of friends or people that I know who do a range of courses from Graphic Design and Graphic Communications to Textiles to Fashion Communication and Promotion to Film and Moving Image to Games Art and Design. Being friends with a wide range of people of course means that at some point during conversation university work comes up so I have a rough idea of what they are doing and a lot of them actually keep a blog a bit like I do about the work they do. I also have a copy of the prospectus that I can refer to.

Then in June I am away for two days doing another UCAS fair in Birmingham (I think). This time I likely won’t be on my own though. I think that the UCAS fair in Chelmsford will be a good pre-cursor to this.

In addition to the two UCAS fairs, I am also due to run another campus tour in June for a student who is going to be on my course next year which I am looking forward to as well. I’m sure other opportunities for promotion work will pop up over the summer again.

There will be plenty of opportunities to promote NUA over the summer.

Develop Elebase 5 and get Nellie’s Nursery’s new website online

With the end of Year 1 also comes the end of university support for the Nellie’s Nursery website. On April 25th Nellie’s Nursery confirmed that they’d like to use my work as their new website when it has been developed. Thanks to a lot of user testing and feedback, I have a very good idea about the final tweaks that need to be made to the site in order for it to be a final product, I’m just waiting for the nursery to send me the images that they want to feature on the site and the content they want in the copy so that Rosie Bibby (my copywriter) can get on and write the copy.

After 4 or 5 months of construction, 3 sets of user testing and a lot of work and hours, I will be a very proud man the moment that site goes live.

Elebase 4 will turn into Elebase 5 which will turn into the final product. It won’t be long before the website is completed and Nellie’s Nursery will have a brand new website!

Develop Storehouse Online and the Article Creator

As mentioned in this reflective journal, Storehouse is back with new blood and so the online team will now be bigger and better than ever before… hopefully! WebVR is going to be a possibility for Storebase 17 and of course there will be design changes to the site to implement as the product improves and matures, but the biggest change for Issue 17 is going to be the introduction of Article Creator. Article Creator is a program that allows anybody to write articles for Storehouse Online in plain text and then press ‘save’ and all of the appropriate HTML, CSS and JavaScript is generated. I started writing the Article Creator at the end of March in C# and the beta version of it was demonstrated to a group of stunned individuals at the Storehouse Issue 17 meeting on May 2nd. The software works well however at the moment it produces code and articles for the Issue 16 format which of course will be deprecated soon and it only works on Windows. With most of the people who will be using Article Creator using Macs, compatibility with macOS is going to be an absolute must. This means that the Article Creator needs to be written using something like Xamarin that allows you to write cross-compatible code or it needs to be translated into a JavaScript web app so that it can be accessed on any browser. At the moment I am leaning towards the web app idea but I will research both.

Using Wine, it was possible to get the Windows Forms version of Article Creator running on macOS 10.13 High Sierra, but it was not as usable as the Windows version. Article Creator needs to be able to run natively on macOS without the need for Wine or a virtual machine of Windows.

Code apps again

I want to get back into coding apps again and now that I have an Android phone I can begin to code apps for a mobile platform that is actually used by millions – unlike Windows Phone. Sorry Microsoft! I did enjoy coding C# Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 apps back in the day but now the world has moved on and the most popular platforms to code for now are Android and iOS. What’s quite nice is that Xamarin can be used to make Android and iOS apps compatible with one another, so I may be able to write an Android app and then port it over to iOS which would be cool. I don’t rally know what app I’d make but my friend Emma McIlwaine recently submitted some high-fidelity prototype mockups of a community-based app that she made for her work on her course and has suggested to me that I could code this app over the summer. It would be a fun project to do so I might do that.

It is essential that I keep my coding skills up to scratch over the summer holidays and even develop them further.

Network

I attended the NUA Networking Hour on May 3rd which as a successful evening. I am also attending another networking evening on May 31st which is hosted by The User Story and features board games too! The idea is that you play a board game and network whilst playing the game – it’s to make networking seems more relaxed and friendly. Apparently it was a really good event last year, so it’ll be interesting to see what it is like. Adding more professional connections to your network is never a bad thing! You can’t know too many people because in his world you get to where you want to go by knowing the right people and very rarely the right stuff.

Get an internship

I’ve decided that I really want to do an internship at a local UX company like The User Story or Foolproof this summer and then next summer intern at a larger corporation like Microsoft to be able to compare the difference. This means that when I leave university I’ll have much more of an idea about the kind of company I prefer working at. I went to the NUA Networking Hour on Thursday 3rd May and Tom Haczewski from The User Story was there. Having worked with him and his colleagues on several occasions over the past two months or so I have gotten to know him quite well. I mentioned that the end of the year is fast-approaching and that I want to ‘keep my UX skills up’ during the summer and he said that provided he can get an office move, he may have an opportunity to do a 2 month or so internship over the summer at The User Story. He said that if the opportunity arises I will be the first to know, to which I responded ‘if you send an email offering anything I will reply within a minute with a big yes!’ Hopefully something arises, but if not then I will likely reach out to Foolproof and see if they have anything available.

I’d love to get an internship this summer. Pictured are my friends and I returning from a visit to software developers Redgate in February.

Update my personal portfolio and create the ‘common framework’

A personal goal for me with Storehouse Issue 17 is to integrate Storebase and Elebase to make a new ‘common framework’, probably called ‘Dragonbase’. My university interview portfolio that was compiled in February 2017 is available to view to this day at pendragon.online. However as I am now approaching the end of Year 1 and looking to create a portfolio featuring work from my studies to send to industry instead of focusing on projects that I completed during my A level days, my portfolio will be updated over the summer. It needs updating anyway because it is not mobile compatible and was made using Adobe Muse which is being deprecated by Adobe soon. This was the final website that I made in Muse and these days I feel that I am more than capable of writing a portfolio site from scratch using code. Using elements of the Storebase and Elebase frameworks, I will create a new framework for my updated portfolio called ‘Dragonbase’ and this will become ‘the common framework’. Storebase 5.5 and Elebase 3 and 4 share so many common elements anyway that integrating the two frameworks shouldn’t be too difficult.

‘Dragonbase’ would likely be the name of my common framework. The logo is the same one that I designed for the Pendragon.Online website (my personal portfolio) but features a green dragon instead of a red one.

Continue to write tech and opinion pieces on this blog

There obviously won’t be any reflective journals over the summer, but since April I have begun to start treating this blog as my space to write tech and opinion articles such as writing about why I moved to Android from Windows Phone, what I think about T levels replacing A levels and how to attempt to write cross-compatible .NET code as well as discuss the implications of supporting dated software. There are several articles that I would have liked to have written on here by now that I haven’t gotten round to, so will likely write over the summer – these include:

  • My thoughts on using Android having come from Windows Phone (spoiler alert: everything just works!)
  • The future of smartphone design – there is a concept smartphone that has extremely thin bezels and yet has no ‘notch’ like the iPhone X does for the various cameras and proximity sensors that I want to write about.
  • Whether or not the FBI should be used to allowed to use ‘NITs’ (Network Investigative Technologies) to catch cyber-criminals. With the recent closure of some large child abuse websites hosted in the dark web there has been a lot of discussion about the ethics of this, despite the crimes that were being committed. The US courts have allowed the use of NITs to catch cyber-criminals, but it is an ongoing debate.
  • The UX of hardware – I want to write some pieces about pieces of hardware that provide a particularly good user experience, whether that be that they look beautiful or are ergonomic to use or work incredibly well with the software that they were designed to work with and put together the two provide a great experience. I am thinking that the original iPhone would be worth mentioning as well as the Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers.
  • Periodic posts about the things that I am doing over the summer holiday which relate to my course, much like the article I wrote about the C# program I wrote on the first week of the Easter holiday.
  • If I do an internship, an article about that and what I have learned.
  • Articles on my opinions of any new technology that comes out.

I’ll likely be sharing these articles on LinkedIn so that the people who follow me on there can see that I am still keeping this blog active and updated.

Writing an article about my move from Windows Phone to Android is definitely on my ‘to-do’ list.

Have some fun!

Go partying, see friends (hopefully they don’t stay at home all the time, but most of them are only a few hour’s drive away so I could go and see them) and just generally chill a bit! I like to be kept busy though, so doing an internship or doing a lot of coding would still be my idea of ‘fun’ but the long summer break would also be a good time to do the things that I also enjoy doing but don’t do a lot, such as photography and video editing. However as I’m sure that the ‘gist’ of this post shows, I will be trying to keep as busy as possible over the long break.

The ‘Not So Sweet 16’ party really marked the launch of Storehouse Issue 16 and Storehouse Online and the end of a good day of UX testing in a night I will never forget!