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Case Studies

Over the past quarter century we’ve helped hundreds of clients fix problems large and small.  Below are several examples to give you an idea of our range and scope.  Your problem will be different, that’s great we relish new  challenges!

An “open studios” event

This group of artists had a web site for their annual event, there was a major update very year as the list of artists and photos of their artworks changed each year. One year they found the designer responsible had emigrated and was no longer interested. It then turned out that he hadn’t implemented any kind of update mechanisms but rebuilt much of the content by hand each year.
We created an update interface to automate generation of the individual artist’s pages, manipulating the photos to the right sizes, updating site indexes and adding studio locations to an interactive map.

A currency conversion utility

Commercial services that provide the ability to incorporate currency conversion in your own web site can cost hundreds of dollars a year, if you want historic conversion rates too the price jumps to thousands. We wrote a program that provides current and historic rates on our customer’s web site with no need for an expensive ongoing subscription.  Having developed that code there’s no problem implementing the same on other web sites.

Recover a lost database

The website was still running but the designer couldn’t be contacted.  The client could not gain access to the webserver or the domain name as both were licensed to the missing original designer and the client had no log-in credentials. The domain name and hosting were due to expire and critical data that had taken ten years to accumulate would be lost. We used a program to fire thousands of enquiries at the database via the public facing web site (that took a while!). We were then able to extract the data from the web page responses and recreate the database. Next we built functional equivalents of the database look up programs but incorporating the customer’s “wish list” of enhancements. We also implemented a backup process such that the customer could take a complete copy of the live database to one of their own PCs and provided copies of all the web pages and program files such that they could be certain that the same situation should not arise in future.
This took weeks of effort and the cost was substantial but there was no other way to recover the data before the deletion deadline.

A £20 quick fix

Some of the examples listed here cost hundreds or thousands. That’s not always the case. This customer had bought a domain name and used an online website building service to create a website. The problem was that they were unable to get the domain name to “point at” the web site. Normally this is a trivial task but the particular choice of service providers called for some non-standard configuration changes. Once we had understood the problem and got the necessary login credentials the fix was a few minutes work.

A very simple fix

This client had created their own very small web site using a packaged one-stop web site build and hosting service (widely advertised on TV). It was a bad decision, the small monthly fee added up to an amount greater than better alternatives however… Time had passed, they now needed to change the phone number and had forgotten how!  Although the software was new to us the task was completed within an hour of first contact.

Web site full of errors, another £20 quick fix

A one-man business found that suddenly his home page was full of error messages. This was his livelihood and anyone going to the site and faced with just a load of error messages would probably just go somewhere else.
We were able to offer an immediate diagnosis and solution where others had failed.  The underlying cause was simple but the effect cascaded throughout the web site.  A small tweak was all it needed.
Just read what this happy guy wrote:

“Hi Rob, thanks for your advice, my web designer is pretty useless he couldn’t tell me any of this so it apparent you know more than him!! My hosting provider was no better. I emailed the designer with your solution & hey presto!! we are all fixed, no-one else could solve the problem!  I can’t thank you enough, also if you want I would like to post something on either facebook or twitter recommending your excellent service & basicly say how good you are as I had 4 other people try with no success, many thanks again. Kind regards, Andy”

A small exclusive boutique hotel

This company approached us in desperation, they had made an investment in a website. They were fairly happy with the result and didn’t want to write off their expenditure. However they found they were losing potential customers who were completing the on-line reservation request but the requests were not reaching the proprietor.

The original designer had since lost interest in web-site design and had found new employment, he was not willing or able to fix the problem.  They had asked other designers for help but found they were only willing to propose a complete rebuild costing £thousands.

Their urgent requirement was to make the reservation system work. They had secondary needs to get the site indexed by the search engines and to eliminate the use of an obsolete technology called “frames”.

We were able to fix the reservation system within 4 hours of their first approach to us. The other defects were fixed the following day. The hotel now gets 3 or 4 reservations a week through the website and it can be found in Google.

Sometimes it’s the smallest details…

Are you seeing strange characters like a small empty squre box or a question mark in a black diamond (this examples should work on your computer this �)?
This is a “Replacement Character” used to indicate that the software is having difficulty showing the symbol the author intended.  It might be a currency symbol, accented character or even an apostrophe. It’s simple to fix – if you know how… 

A Sheffield steel tool manufacturer

The main problems were:

  • Email sent from the address on the website were not reaching the client.
  • The website was not indexed on any search engines.
  • The web-designer had disappeared and the client had no access to the webserver and no way of correcting the email problem.
  • The designer had registered the domain in their own name.
  • They were concerned that at some future date the website hosting would cease and the site would disappear.

In addition:

  • All the pages looked so similar it was hard to tell them apart with the same single product image. The only difference between pages was a paragraph of descriptive text.
  • The site was built using frames (an obsolete technology).

While the client understood that the overall site design was not great, they had had their fingers burnt and didn’t want to make the same mistake again. They were willing to keep the current design but with some changes to fix the immediate problems and review their options once we had demonstrated our ability.

  • We took a complete copy of the website.
  • We contacted the registrars and recovered their right to their website domain name address. We were able to move the domain within 48 hours (it’s not always possible to resolve an issue like this that quickly).
  • We had the registration changed into the name of the client.
  • We relocated the site to a new webserver under our control.
  • We fixed the Email problem.

Subsequently we corrected the other problems by improving the navigation, getting rid of the “frames”, adding a “mail us” form and adding more and improved product images.

The site now works, looks better, can be found on Google and the emails reach the client.

A travel site

A family business appreciated the potential value of a website but didn’t have the budget to match their aspirations. A family member created a website for them. They recognised that it didn’t have the quality of a professional site but were keen to keep within their limited means. However they did realise that they needed help with an interactive form and with raising their search engine visibility.

We were able to provide the form and implement a strategy to raise their search engine visibility. We identified some shortcomings of their site and suggested how the family member could fix them.

A country inn

The Inn had been purchased by our client and the purchase included the website. The website was visually pleasing but it had been implemented entirely using Adobe Flash (an obsolete technology most web browsers no longer support). This resulted in a site that was difficult to modify, poorly indexed by Google and slow to operate as the visitor has to await completion of the animated effects.
Our client wished the website of the new inn to be more conformant with their corporate style and to include their standard booking form, links to other properties in the group and changed email addresses.

By re-using text and images from the old site, we were able to create a replacement in a couple of days while at the same time co-locating the web-domain and hosting alongside the group’s other properties.
As is usual in cases like this we also implemented redirection such that anyone attempting to access the old site would instead be taken to the new one.

Interpreting log files

A South Yorkshire based company, operating all over UK had recently invested in a website and wanted to gain a better understanding of what aspects were proving most popular with visitors. They had access to graphical log files which contained useful information but they were not sure how to interpret it.

We spent half a day going through the logs then wrote a report explaining which features of the logs had led to which conclusions. This helped the company focus their marketing efforts and enabled them to make more sense of subsequent monthly logs without further help – although we remained available to answer any queries arising.

[Note that we no longer undertake detail log file and analytics reporting although we may examine log files for diagnostic reasons]. 

Let down by BT

A small manufacturing company had simply changed from a dial-up modem internet connection onto BT Broadband. As a result their email ceased to function. They told us the solution proposed by BT was that they buy a new internet domain from BT and move their website to BT (at an inflated price). They said this would take up to thirty days.
Not surprisingly this was totally unacceptable not least because their existing web and email addresses were printed on thousands of existing stationery items and were well known to their regular customers. The business could not afford to be without access to email for that length of time and were afraid of losing messages and business.
We were able to reassure the customer that this was all completely unnecessary. We were able to route their existing email addresses to a new mailserver and reconfigure their office PC to use the new addresses. All was well within 4 working hours of their first call to us.

Interestingly another customer reported exactly the same experience with BT two weeks later.

This example and our own experience suggests that large organisations tend to use low-grade (inexpensive) “help-desk” staff working from scripts. Their task is to close as many calls as possible as quickly as possible, the quality of the response is immaterial.  It doesn’t matter to them if a few customers “vote with their wallets” and go elsewhere because these are in any case the more demanding ones who cost more to support. It makes good business sense to shift the burden of these higher-maintenance cost customers to a competitor. If you want a quality personal service, use a provider to whom your custom matters.

Trade mark infringement

An electronics company found that a competitor was getting high search engine positioning when a user searched for the trade marked name of our customer’s product.
They required an urgent assessment of the reasons for this. They required the information to be collected in such a way as to be able to be used in evidence in court and that we liaise with their solicitors.

We were able to identify the underlying cause (use of the trade mark in “hidden” text only visible to search engines like Google).  We captured data from the internet to demonstrate the illegal action to the court in evidence.
Subsequent to a successful court action for trade mark infringement we were able to help our clients solicitor in drafting the conditions to be met by the competitor to ensure all trace of the trade mark had been removed from their website, from the search engines and from internet archives.

A saving of almost £70,000!

At a household-name international bank I had a role which involved assessing proposed IT expenditure.  One example was a proposal to engage a major US based computer corporation to write a program to achive the required goal, they had quoted an estimated cost of £70,000.  The project had the backing of the chairman and they thought putting it past me was only a formality.  I asked a few pertinent questions and my alternative proposal costing £200 was swiftly accepted.

My aim was to save £1,000 of ill-considered or misdirected spend a day without compromising operations.  That extra £70,000 took the cost savings I generated for the bank that year to about a third or a million pounds, still small change in terms of their overall IT spend…

Help with updating a website

An association of medical professionals had made a significant investment in a website driven by a content management system (CMS). The CMS enabled the association to update elements of the website themselves. Unfortunately this had led to a diversity of styles, confusing navigation links and some excessively large pages. The client was struggling with the updates and didn’t understand the “user friendly” interface to the CMS.
In particular they had an upcoming annual conference to be attended by thousands of delegates and hundreds of medical suppliers and advertisers. It was critical that the website carried readily accessible information about the conference in sufficient time to be of value to the organisation, its members and exhibitors.

We were able to update the conference section to address their urgent needs within two days of the initial approach.
We were able to trawl through the site and correct the navigation, resize the excessively large pages and gain a good understanding of the CMS so as to be able to provide the client with the training and support their original supplier had failed to offer.

The client is now more confident with making updates in a controlled and consistent manner and is able to call on us to address specific difficulties or to make urgent updates on their behalf when they are working under pressure.

Hacked museum web site

We don’t normally work on hacked web sites there are experts who specialise in that task, however in this instance there were other problems with the hosting package and the CMS (Content Management System).  Having had the site hacked was the final straw and the client was looking for a fresh start.  They had managed to get some repairs implemented but problems remained.  Despite implementing very strong password protection with two factor security the site was hacked again.
They did like the visual presentation of the site, the layout, content and images were fine but they needed some additional functionality and easier update mechanisms. We were able to recreate the site (moving from Joomla to WordPress) and move it to a better web host.  The client can now make updates and especially welcomes the ability to change ticket prices and opening hours easily.

Web and email suddenly stopped working

There can be other causes but in this instance problem arose because their domain name had not been renewed.  It was a name they’d bought and registered themselves a few years earlier.  It didn’t take long to establish that they no longer used the email address they used to make the registration.  That meant they’d missed the annual renewal reminder.  Once we’d identified the registrar they’d used they just needed to pay the bill!
We prefer to hold our client’s domain name registrations.  That way renewals never get missed, they are automatically renewed, if any were to be missed we’d be alerted before the name was suspended.  This also reduces the risk of our clients falling for a couple of common scams.  Fake renewal notices (so you end up paying twice) and proposals to sell the client “a similar name to avoid a third party getting it” typically the owner of joes-second-hand-motors.co.uk will be pressured to buy joes-second-hand-motors.cn  as someone in China is trying to buy it.