About the client
Original Software are a global software company with offices in the UK and Chicago. The company specialise in Application Quality Management across a wide range of applications and environments. More than 400 organisations operating in over 30 countries use Original Software solutions.
The project brief
The Original Software project has been an ongoing work, lasting around 18 months. It’s one of the largest websites I’ve worked on and has used just about every skillset I have. The project was broken into two phases;
Phase 1 was essentially a re-skin of the existing website. We were aiming for a short term solution whilst more in depth development took place in the mid to long term future. As a result, new designs would be created and the final design would be coded and integrated with the existing website.
Two designs were produced, one by myself (which you will find above) and one from a graphic design that Original Software also employ. After some discussion a design was chosen and I created the code to make everything fit together. Most of this was CSS work, with the exception of the new home page which was gutted and made from scratch.
The second part of the project was considerably larger. Original Software were already running three WordPress installations for three separate blogs, along with 170+/- static PHP pages, all of which were to be consolidated into one single WordPress installation. The restructure was partly for security and partly for time management, as creating new pages, blog posts and content was arduous and very time consuming.
The new work started with a large spreadsheet being created, holding information on all static pages which would need moving into WordPress. The aim was to keep all titles, URLs and meta data the same to avoid upsetting Google. Using this spreadsheet we kept track of everything in details, which was important as several people were working on this project at once!
The design from phase 1 was recreated in WordPress whilst Susanne took care of moving page content. Once the basics were complete I had several new features to code, including a login system for private content and downloads, a shortcode generator, a widget to pull in tweets from Twitter, a menu in the sidebar which automatically sorted pages into the correct parent/child relationships, a flexible sidebar which allowed 3rd party contact forms to be integrated and a whole stack of code besides. The animated slider on the home page also has a bespoke interface which allows the site admin to choose the type of animation, the speed and delay.
How I met the brief
The main bulk of development work was in the second phase, for which I worked around 9 weeks full time for Original Software. Pulling all the content from a 10+ year old website into one place was no small task, but the results make it all worthwhile. A new blog post can be created in a third of the time it used to take, and automatically displays across various areas of the website. Client testimonials now display on the home page with no extra work. Pages are simple to create and place themselves in the sidebar menu in the correct place with no additional work. A great deal of the site is autonomous, which is a huge change to the previous system where a page had to be coded with HTML, and very few people at Original Software could contribute to the website because of this.
To aid the site admin in creating pages, I built a plugin which allows various layouts to be used. This “shortcode generator” provides assistance in creating columns, embedding videos, using pre-defined styles for text to keep everything consistent, tabbed layouts, show and hide sections, and more.
The sidebar is used to provide various pieces of useful and relevant information to those browsing the website. Consequently it had to be enormously flexible, making it challenging to code. Rather than having several separate sidebars configured in the admin area, there are only two, and the widgets inside these sidebars know what and when to display.
The log in system was also written as a plugin. There’s a custom user role which allows a registered user to view protected areas of the website, and is easy for the site admin to set up. For extra security I was asked to code the password system so all registered users (even the site admin) have their passwords reset to a complex random string at a set interval. When this happens the website sends out an email to each user with their new password, as well as one “master” email containing all data which is sent to the main site administrators. There’s a custom page in the admin area which tells the admin when the next password update is due, and which pages are protected. I chose to code this myself rather than use a plugin because I do not like using 3rd party plugins unless absolutely necessary, as everything external can pose a security risk.
There’s several custom post types on the website, custom URL structures, social media integration and a lot more besides, but rather than write an essay I’ll stop here!
- Bespoke log in system with automatic password reset feature.
- A plugin which makes creating advanced layouts very simple.
- A heavily customised admin area which makes the website accessible to staff who do not know any code, but wish to make modifications to the website.
- Full responsive code, including a nifty navigation for smartphone devices.
- A largely autonomous WordPress theme, specifically made to cut down on maintenance time, leaving staff to concentrate on other tasks.
- Vastly improved structure for SEO.
Words from the client
At this stage, I would like to acknowledge how great the website is looking on mobile now. I love the navigation and you have done a terrific job Dan.
You have helped pull Original Software into the digital race!
Maria Martin, Marketing Manager
Super job, Dan. It is now simpler, with better use of space, and the wrinkles ironed out. Great to get that done, thank you.
James Bryce Smith, Marketing Director