tMP Exclusive Interview with Freckleton Band webmaster - Phil Symonds Phil Symonds is the talented designer of the most recent tMP Website of the Month contest winner - Freckelton Band. tMP recently caught up with Phil at home to find out what makes him tick, and why he enjoys building websites. Here’s what Phil had to say for himself. So Phil, by way of an introduction, could you please tell us a little about yourself Sure, my name is Phil Symonds, I am the web designer for Freckleton Bands www site, and I am aged 46. I am originally from Burton on Trent in the Midlands, and moved to the North West in 1997 to study for my teaching degree at The Manchester Metropolitan University. I am currently employed by the Manchester City Council as a teacher of ICT (computing). I am single with no children. Are you actively involved in playing a brass instrument with any band, or do you simply undertake the web design on behalf of a band? Yes, I am very much involved in brass playing. I started to play the soprano cornet after my teen years around the age of 22 and have been on it ever since. I experienced an unfortunate illness recently and was forced to have a very short spell not playing, but am now fully recovered and have since resumed my place on Soprano with Freckleton Band where I still make somewhat interesting attempts at popping out those top notes! How long have you been involved in web design how did you first get involved in it? I’ve not been involved in web design very long really, just a short time. As I play soprano with the Freckleton Band and, as one of the software subjects I teach in my profession is indeed Web Design, I decided it was time to put the two together and to design a new site for our band. [imgleft]http://www.themouthpiece.com/images/phil.jpg[/imgleft] Do you manage/run any other web sites, if so, which ones? Freckleton Bands www site is the only site I run at the moment. I don’t have any other sites. What applications did you use to build your site and why did you choose these? The software I used to build the site is Dream Weaver MX. I find it very user friendly and as I also use this application in school with the children, I decided also to use it to develop Freckleton Bands site. Please can you explain for us how you prepared and planned for the development of the site when asked to implement this for Freckleton Band? Well, I thought it would be sensible to do a fair amount of research and to take a look at how other band-related sites presented themselves on the web. I noticed that there are not that many good ‘music’ relates templates available and thought I should prepare my own. I also decided on what content to include from viewing what other bands did. I am very aware that a lot of sites are difficult to navigate around and as a result, people will not re-visit them. So, my aim was to make our site appealing to our visitors. I was also aware that to keep a site interesting and to attract repeat visitors, the site needs to be updated frequently; I have ensured that this is done. What content do you feel should be included on a brass band www site? Well, I believe that presenting and promoting one’s band in a relaxed but professional manner is vitally important. I am not that fond of sites that use lots of animations using ‘Flash Techniques’ or old fashioned ‘animated gifs’. The occasional use of these are OK maybe, but some sites really do go ‘over the top’. Do you use innovative ideas on your www site? Not really… I am not a coder you see and so I wanted to try to keep things simple in the first instance. I would hope that as people visit our site they will see it is updated almost every day. I am always looking for ways to improve the site and so as I think of new ideas, I will try to implement them into the site. As an amateur web designer, one should always be willing to listen to and act on constructive feedback. Why should people visit Freckleton Bands www site? I would like to think that people visit our site to keep in touch with the progress that the band is making. There is also a ‘News Page’ that is updated very frequently, a ‘Forum Page’ and, something that does not appear to be on the sites that were researched during the design of our site, that is a ‘Toddlers Page’. I feel that this is a ‘nice touch’ to the site. Also, I try to update the site the same day that we perform at contests or concerts and always have pictures to support my report. What do you feel is important when designing and implementing www sites…? The important things to consider when designing and implementing a web site are to ensure that the rules of H.C.I. (Human Computer Interaction) are met. This is simply ensuring that the site is pleasant to look at, and is easy for the human eye and brain to see and process the information on it. If the site is difficult to understand/read, people will tend not to use it. How long did this site actually take you to build? The site took me a total of 2 months from start to finish: to design, develop and upload. This was my very first site so I was possibly a little slow and if I take on any further web design projects in the future they may take less time depending on the content required. How do you manage the content on your web site and do you have a publishing policy? I manage all the content myself, write-ups and pictures etc. I seem to have to take all the pics myself! Other people are very welcome to supply me with pics/information if they wish though. As for a publishing policy, I just guide myself by publishing nice, clear and professional content. What would you recommend as the best way to start to learn about designing and building www sites? The best way to learn about web design is to sit with someone who is proficient at it. This way one can gain a lot of knowledge in a short space of time – then I guess I’d have said this, as I am a teacher! In my opinion, reading manuals in an attempt to learn how to use, say DreamWeaver for example, is a very slow way to learn, and progress/learning will not be fast. Do you have a favourite technical reference book for budding web designers? Sorry, no. I tend not to read them!! What are your other hobbies? My other hobby apart from banding of course is scuba diving. What do you drive? I drive a Mazda MX-5 - is that good? In most visited order, what are your 5 most frequently used www sites? www.msn.co.uk www.google.co.uk http://zoomquilt.machwerk.ws/zoom.htm (which is an excellent example of Flash Work) www.freckletonband.co.uk www.brasscast.com/main.htm Can you let our members know of any other www sites you feel are interesting to visit but are not in your top 5, and why this is so. I still tend to visit http://painkiller.ganeamp.com as this is a game that I still like to chill out with. It is an old game now but still very bloodthirsty and sounds great with the full works and surround sound on! Do you use online community forums, if so, which ones do you use? I use the forum software phpBB (creating opportunities) on our band site. However, I have only just uploaded this and am in the process of tailoring it to suit the rest of the pages on the site. How do you see the influence of the internet assisting the banding movement over the next 5 to 10 years? The Internet is influencing the banding movement by allowing bands to communicate worldwide. The Internet is a very powerful tool and used correctly it can promote a band in many ways. In my opinion the internet (and the use of our new site) will promote the band further than the village of Freckleton and its surrounding areas. Freckleton Band is very proud of the local village support that they receive. The band has very strong links within a close-knit community. Obviously the band wants to keep these links but at the same time believe that the internet will allow them to promote themselves to a wider field of audience. Could you please name your all time favourite www site, and why so? www.freckletonband.co.uk….of course! What do you do to relax and unwind? I relax by having BBQ’s, all year round if needed! Tell us something about yourself that we don't already know. Hmmm... this is a tricky one…. Well, I reckon that I would like one day to work from home (in computing), beats having to get up on a Monday morning!