UKOS Plc are the UK’s fastest growing office stationery and business supplies company; it has been recognised as a Sunday Times Fast Track 100 and a Real Business Magazine Hot 100 company. Their success is due in part to some of the best IT support in their sector and a unique personal approach to their customers that means a sole trader gets the same consideration and service as some of their multi–national clients like Cathay Pacific and John Lewis.
We were commissioned to build a new public website for UKOS that would provide their customers with a useful resource and reflect their personal approach and professional ethics. UKOS follow policies that are close to our hearts here at Grow Collective – commitment to corporate social responsibility, inclusiveness and strong environmental policies. They are currently implementing an Environmental Management System compliant to BS EN ISO 14001 and have already been awarded the ISO 9001 standard for quality management. In line with these policies, accessibility and usability were high priorities for the new site. This is what their Project Manager, Ivor Conway had to say on behalf of UKOS Plc:
The input of Jon Gibbins and Jon Tan from Grow Collective were instrumental to the success of the project. Grow Collective brought highly advanced technical skills to the project and merged them with patience, insight and at times, much needed humour. I thank them for their efforts and recommend them without reservation.
A custom installation of our own accessible blog application allows UKOS to publish fresh content with ease and at will; all from a single integrated dashboard. Although heavily customised, the application now acts as a part–CMS (content management system) and part–blog, with the best features of both worlds including the flexibility to manage many types of content and an RSS feed.
A core requirement of the design was to bring the UKOS brand to the Web and reflect their existing print material. We did so, using a muted monotonal palette that used a Web equivalent of the brand Pantone colour as much as possible. A subtle green accent was used where permitted to add a dash of colour.
The combination of blue and green was continued through to stock images that were sourced for the project. The full–width header image in each section provides another ambient signifier in the interface to orientate users. Consistent contextual links and imagery enables users to know where they are in the site at any given moment.
The interface is fully elastic, including the images. The entire interface stretches with users’ font size. After a little audience research, and not without some hand–wringing on our part, we decided to design for a 1024 pixel wide viewport to give UKOS as much visible content above the fold as they required.
We developed an elastic pseudo–background image technique that allows the header image to stretch with font size. Although the main header of each page is rendered over the image as if it were a background, the image is actually present in the HTML, with CSS used to size the image and position the text over it.
The site was audited for conformance to the WCAG 1.0 priority two checkpoints. In addition, we strived wherever possible to use the latest best practice to enable accessibility across a broad spectrum of disability. We recognise, however, that access is a subjective experience, therefore feedback is welcome from any users who experience problems.
Our thanks go to Ivor Conway of UKOS and Neuchi for his project management skills. Special credit to photographer Mateusz Żdanko for the use of his excellent photo in the services section of the site. Last but not least, our thanks go to the UKOS staff themselves, in particular IT director, Peter Gowing, who oversaw the project to its completion.
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