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Web / Rails Developer

Focus, one of Bristol’s longest established digital agencies, are looking to recruit an experienced web developer to join their team based in Temple Quay, Bristol. We’ve been providing web sites and web applications since 1996 and today we’re working with the likes of Bristol City Council, Scottish and Southern Energy, the Department of Health, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland and London Borough of Camden.

This is a varied role with a primary focus on the ‘back end’ development of web sites and web applications in Ruby on Rails, you’ll also be involved in product research and design, database implementation and ‘front end’ development. We’re looking for someone with solid experience in development with Ruby on Rails and front-end technologies such as JQuery, HTML5 and CSS3.

This role is part of our expansion plans; we have a number of products and services which we are launching into specific markets and sectors, so you’ll be joining an ambitious, friendly team and a growing business. You’ll bring lots of enthusiasm and passion for digital and creating effective and engaging web applications and you will also have genuine input into the technical direction of the business and will help choose / develop the tools we use.

Key tasks of this role include:

- Development work in on new and existing web sites and applications, starting projects from scratch or adding new major / minor features.
- Front-end build of sites and applications using responsive technologies.
- Working with business development staff in time estimation, project planning and preparing quotations and proposals.
- Some server maintenance / deployment.
- Writing and running automated tests and other functional / cross-browser testing.
- Mentoring junior technical staff.

We are looking for people with the following skills / experience:

- web site / application development in Ruby on Rails – some commercial experience would be an advantage. Being able to demonstrate a solid portfolio of Rails work.
- experience of Subversion / Git / similar for version control, and Capistrano / similar for automated deployment.
- strong front-end knowledge is required - HTML5, CSS3 and JQuery as a minimum, any exposure to CSS / JavaScript frameworks may be advantageous.
- knowledge and experience of MySQL / PostgreSQL / similar – must be familiar with database creation, SQL queries and indexing.
- good knowledge of W3C validation, browser and mobile testing.
- knowledge of Linux-like environments (we use RedHat / CentOS), be comfortable at the command line and confident editing server configuration files, installing software and similar tasks.  


Salary will be generous and based on experience including:
- relevance of existing skills.
- demonstrable commercial experience.

Discretionary bonus scheme based on company performance.
Modern office facilities next door to Temple Meads Railway Station, subsidised restaurant and other on-site facilities.
23 days holiday and Christmas / New Year shutdown.
We may consider some remote working for the right candidate.
Attendance at relevant conferences / exhibitions.
Latest Mac hardware including dual screen and choice of MacBook / iMac.

How to apply:

Please send your details including a summary of your experience, and links to any web sites you feel are appropriate, by email to:
Absolutely no agencies whatsoever please.

Neil Smith

Created on Friday October 10 2014 01:11 PM


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Shellshock Update

Shellshock is a vulnerability affecting the “Bash” shell which is installed by default on most Unix-based systems, such as Linux and Mac OSX. More details are available here:

To begin with the "executive summary" of the current situation: We don’t believe your This is Focus website would have been susceptible to Shellshock at any point, but all systems are now patched with the relevant security patches in any case.

To go into a little more detail; certain specific conditions need to apply in order to be able to trigger the Shellshock vulnerability, and the information currently available to us about the potential exploits suggest that This is Focus-created websites would not be a possible vector of attack. However, this is a moving target, and information will likely continue to come to light on the subject in more detail over the coming weeks, so it’s impossible to state this categorically.

Even though we suspect your website was safe all along, all servers that we maintain were (and continue to be) continually patched whenever the vendors release security updates for them; we specifically tested all our servers against Shellshock on Friday 26th September 2014.

We currently have no evidence to suggest that any servers we maintain (or any websites we host) have been compromised by the Shellshock vulnerability in any way.

If you have any specific concerns or questions, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.

Neil Smith

Created on Tuesday September 30 2014 11:12 AM

Tags: security

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Three simple ways to make more progress with Google Analytics

Do you spend hours poring over Google Analytics, fascinated by all those numbers and pages being viewed?

Does it excite you, and empower you to make changes to your site? But you're not quiiiite sure what those changes should be, and wait a minute you've just found a new bit about Demographics, but oh that needs a UA upgrade, how do I do that? And then you decide you'll go back to it next week and make a proper plan... and next week you forget where you got to...

Sound familiar? Our (new) friends at OneSpace were in just that place - in fact quite well informed about Google Analytics, but felt they needed a bit of direction and guidance to get more out of it. So I took a trip out of the office to meet them. We enjoyed a few hours talking about their website objectives, and how they could take some stats from Google Analytics and turn these into some meaningful, achievable tasks.

These, I think, are three of the most valuable tips:

1. Link your site up with Webmaster Tools. Doing this gives you an insight into those '(not provided)' keywords that Analytics teases you with. Can be really handy for improving your content or setting up an Adwords campaign.webmaster tools

2. My favourite - always use 'Secondary dimension'. For everything. It brings a whole new meaning to so many stats. For example, Your top 10 landing pages are reasonably interesting, but add in the 'Device' as a secondary dimension, and suddenly you find that the top three landing pages are actually being viewed on a mobile... and your site isn't optimised for mobile...Secordary dimension

3. Lastly, get to grips with Shortcuts. When you've got a really good secondary dimension view set up, save it as a shortcut. Makes it so much easier for next time.shortcut

Give these ideas a go, get stuck in and let us know how you get on!

Thank you to Paddy at OneSpace for his kind comments and biscuit supply:
"Thanks again for your time! We found that really helpful. [We've] talked to various SEO consultants in the past and not found it at all helpful, so we're very pleased with today's session."

So how do you work with Analytics? Do you get what you need out of it, and manage to make beneficial changes and developments to your website? Or do you dip in and out and not really have any direction?

We'd love to hear from you, whether you'd like to share some of your own tips, or you have questions you'd like answering: email us or send us a Tweet @focus_tweets #googletips

Annette Ryske

Created on Friday September 19 2014 02:34 PM

Tags: website charity google analytics

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Come and join team Focus

We're looking to increase the technical team at Focus with the addition of an experienced front-end web developer, who will work on projects and campaigns big and small across a range of sectors for the likes of Bristol City Council, The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland, Scottish and Southern Energy and the Department of Health.

As well as technical excellence we're looking for bags of enthusiasm and a genuine passion for digital and for creating usable and innovative web sites and applications. The right person will have real input into the technology we use and the solutions that we create.

Candidates should have a good few years commercial experience in building accessible and responsive web sites, with an impressive portfolio of work. This is a technical position rather than design-based, so skills and experience should include:

- solid HTML5 / CSS3.
- Bootstrap and full knowledge of building responsive web sites using semantic HTML and CSS.
- Javascript including JQuery.
- experience of integration with back-end code – ideally any MVC database backed framework (we use Ruby on Rails).
- full understanding of cross-browser and cross-device testing and fixes.
- excellent communication skills: you’ll be meeting clients and talking them through projects.

Nice to haves:
- SASS and SCSS.
- UX / wireframing experience and the ability to create a clean, functional interface.
- SVN / Git.
- knowledge of W3C-WAI Accessibility guidelines.

Salary will be between £24k and £30k dependent on experience and skills.
Other benefits include great location in modern office facilities, subsidised restaurant, flexible working including work from home, minimum 23 days holiday and Christmas shutdown.

Applications should be sent by email to include your background and lots of information about yourself! Any work you can point to as your own would be appreciated as well.

Strictly no agencies please - we operate a 'name and shame' policy on those agencies that can't take 'no' as an answer :-)

Closing date for applications: 26th Sept 2014.


Simon Newing

Created on Tuesday September 09 2014 01:13 PM

Tags: web-development ux rubyonrails

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It's play time!

It's play time!

The BIG launch! The new-look "Go Places to Play" is here - an online park finder that makes it easy for you and your family to enjoy fun and exciting play opportunities in and around Bristol.

We've recently redesigned for Bristol City Council so that it not only looks better than before but it works better. "Go Places to Play" is now even more intelligent so that you can find parks and play areas far more quickly and efficiently. We understand that you live busy lives and need information at your fingertips - wherever you may be. The site is now responsive so it is easy to use on smartphones, tablets and laptops. This means you can quickly  find your nearest park when you're out and about. You can click on map points to get further information about the park or site you are interested in, or you can use the postcode search to bring up sites in your area.

The online calendar means you can search for local events that suit your requirements and interests. You'll be provided with results if you search using a relevant keyword, or you can find something more specific using the handy advanced search which allows you to search by event type, location and distance from your chosen postcode.

There are also some great ideas for play featuring tips and suggestions from our Play friends and partners - a particularly good resource for the school holidays. Plus, our brand new FAQs section answers many of the common questions we get asked.

As before the option is there to register as an event organiser which means you can upload your own events to feature on the events calendar. Once approved you will see them published.

People like to feel as though they are a part of a website and the 'community' that use it. Interaction is key so if you find something you like on Go Places to Play you can "Share with a friend". Regular news updates also ensure that everybody is on top of all that's going on. It's a site that seems to have people talking, if you want to be a part of the excitement please like the Go Places to Play Facebook page here: or better still, go and check out the site to see for yourself!

Sneak preview just for you!

Sneak preview just for you!

We can't contain our excitement, we simply have to share with you what's bubbling away in the studio!

Improvements are being made to our current online park finder "Go Places To Play" - a website that forms a part of Bristol City Council's campaign to encourage children to play outdoors.

We don't want to give the game away but here are a few snippets of what to expect.

Mobile friendly - We've added more functionality that is based on your current location i.e. your closest park is. It is also a mobile first build; usually mobile sites are designed as a result of a desktop design that is scaled down. Not this site. We've started with the mobile design and scaled up! The build is responsive; meaning you get an optimised view on desktop, tablet and mobile.

User friendly - Much easier to navigate the site. You're guided through it and it is clear to see all it can do and how it can benefit you.

Age appeal - Adults often view the site with their children in mind. The site is much less childlike and now appeals to a wider age range so that it is great for parents to navigate, but still has a family, child-related feel.

Search to suit you - We want people to be able to find personalised information based on where they are and what they like to do rather than just general information.

We've put some serious effort in to not only making the site look good but in making it a useful tool that you feel you can go to and rely on. It's not yet a finished product but we can't wait until it is and you'll be the first to know about it!

If you would like to see the online park finder as it is now, please go to

Make a wish with MS Ireland

Make a wish with MS Ireland

Each year our friends at MS Ireland take part in World MS Day, an international event to raise awareness about Multiple Sclerosis.

We get excited about creating microsites or campaign pages for MSI - there are a few throughout the year, which are always something different and fun to develop! World MS Day this year is no exception and you can view the landing page here.

Making your wish sends MS Ireland a notification, where they can approve the wish for publish. All approved wishes are then published on the 'Wall of Wishes', complete with an automatic #OneDayMS hashtag.

Make a wish and get involved!

Annette Ryske

Created on Wednesday May 21 2014 03:20 PM

Tags: dublin ireland campaigns msireland

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Presenting focusgov.....

Presenting focusgov.....

For a good while now at Focus we've been talking around our need to shout more about the work we do for local authorities - as frankly, we do great work for them, and we have been since 2004.

Local authorities have said all sorts of nice things about our work: "revolutionary", "game-changing"; and in 2010 the then Department for Children, Schools and Families (now the Department for Education) said our Family Information solution should be considered 'best practice'. So in late 2013 a plan started to form in our collective minds for taking our solutions to local authorities, and giving them a damn good marketing thrashing.

The result of this is "focusgov" - our new sister brand, with a dedicated web site and new approach - but featuring long tested and tried solutions that have specifically found their place amongst Family Information and Adult Services teams. Our solutions have, and continue to, help local authorities communicate effectively with families and young people, they help meet government legislation, they save money, resource and they reduce administration. They are built on the latest web technologies and are driven by engaging and usable interfaces. We're very proud of them and we can't wait to get shouting about them.

We're starting that shouting at the NAFIS Conference in London on Friday 16th May, where we'll be bumping into some friends we've been working with for many years, and hopefully meeting some new friends. Our main focus will be an innovative and unique way to publish the Local Offer - we'll be on hand with demonstrations of our exciting software and applications that have already received really positive feedback from SEND reform groups and parent / carer forums that have been involved throughout the project. 

Coming very soon will be the launch of the focusgov web site, and of course we will let you all know how we got on shouting at everyone at the conference.

Simon Newing

Created on Wednesday May 14 2014 09:37 AM


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Focus are on the move...

Focus are on the move...

Team Focus are very excited to announce our imminent office move!

After three happy years on Clifton Triangle, we are relocating to Temple Quay - next to Bristol Temple Meads station - and will be moving in on Tuesday 6th May 2014. We aren't anticipating anything other than the minimum of disruption during that day, and will be available to answer emails and calls as usual - please note that our phone number is not changing.

We'll send formal details out to our customers and suppliers very soon. Meanwhile, you're welcome to have a peek at our building here.

We're up on the fifth floor so looking forward to some cracking views across the waterfront!

Annette Ryske

Created on Tuesday April 29 2014 03:44 PM

Tags: bristol focus

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Heartbleed OpenSSL Vulnerability

Heartbleed OpenSSL Vulnerability

By now, you may have heard of "Heartbleed", a security issue that was announced earlier this week in OpenSSL, which provides the https/SSL security to a significant percentage of the internet's websites (and email services etc.)

It's estimated that Heartbleed affected about 17% of all secure websites at the time of its announcement, and it's a bad issue - it theoretically means that someone can read secure SSL-protected data.

First of all, from a This Is Focus viewpoint, we can confirm that only a very small number of sites we host were ever affected, and those were upgraded within a few hours of the fix's availability - meaning that they're no longer vulnerable. Remember, this issue only affects you if you're running an https:// (SSL) website.

So what does Heartbleed mean? Without going into too much technical detail, it effectively means secure websites were potentially only as secure as non-secure websites - an attacker could see details passing between you and the website whilst they were "in transit" between them.

That's still fairly secure, to be honest - an attacker couldn't see your password unless they were either on the same network as you, your website, or somewhere in between. If you're on your own network (and not, say, on public WiFi), it's still difficult to achieve for a casual attacker - it's only practical for serious, large-scale attackers.

Having said that, the problem has affected a lot of very popular websites - including, but not limited to, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Dropbox and Pinterest - so it's theoretically possible that someone could have grabbed your passwords for those sites. All those sites have swiftly applied fixes, however. So it's not a bad idea (it's never a BAD idea!) to change your password on those sites, as well as any other sites where you use the same password. (Which ideally, you shouldn't!)

So in summary, everyone should have applied these fixes by now - we have, and all the sites mentioned above have - but it's worth asking/checking if you rely on the security of any other sites.

And this could be a good reminder to change your passwords!

Neil Smith

Created on Friday April 11 2014 10:10 AM

Tags: website ssl security

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