Startups.co.uk is the UKs number one resource for starting a business and has been online since the late 1990s. The business was founded by David Lester, a successful computer games developer who launched the website with the aim of helping entrepreneurs and startups build successful businesses. The Startups website was dated and tied to a proprietary platform that was no longer supported. Startups required a new, modern approach to online publishing and hired me to lead the migration and development of their portfolio of websites.
Startups had six websites with unique domains that spanned similar topics and categories. The websites were originally developed on an ASP.NET platform that proved hard to customise meaning they were always playing catch up to competitors who had more nimble online operations. The product had also reached its end of life and was therefore an operational risk so action needed to be taken to address the situation. Attracting over 500k visitors per month, the website needed to be scalable and have enough flexibility to adjust to a changing technological landscape.
The project encompassed the migration of six separate websites integrated into a single WordPress code-base with a shared user database to allow for single sign-on and commenting across the main site, forum and various sub-sites.
What I did
I am experienced in migrating content between content management systems and have vast WordPress knowledge so I was made the technical lead for the project. Initial scoping revealed the project had a complex set of requirements where every business function would need to be recreated and enhanced in the new CMS. With the initial migration process underway, I set about creating the core functionality that would allow site administrators to easily manage and publish content across the network of sites.
Over the course of many years developing high-end websites that are deployed across multiple domains, I came to understand the operational value of write once print many times and used this notion throughout the relaunch of startups.co.uk. In practice this meant creating a parent theme using Twitter Bootstrap that contained core functionality found in each of the six sites with a child theme used to provide more site specific visual styling and functionality.
The site also features integration with various CRM and advertising services such as Double Click, InfusionSoft, Amazon Cloudfront, Taboola, etc.
Startups.co.uk is an established site with a large user base so it was vitally important to craft the functionality for site administrators to have full control over editorial workflow, advertising and site administration. Bringing a modern front-end framework into the mix has also helped open up new advertising opportunities whilst providing an enhanced viewing experience for users. The parent / child theme combination has also led to increased efficiencies when rolling out new products, services and sponsored mini-sites due to code can be written once and deployed to a number of sites with limited effort.