Well, it certainly has been another interesting year with a sting in the tail with Omicron just to finish off the year nicely.
Yes, we have had some Covid
Unfortunately, even with daily lateral flow testing one of the BarkWeb crew developed Covid and passed it on. Fortunately, very fortunately, no one got that ill. We should be exceedingly thankful for that!
General platform work
For those of you who know us, you know we have always built our own platforms, our own CMS systems. We both develop new websites on this platform and invest huge chunks of energy and time on the evolution of the platform.
Over the year we have been concentrating on evolving the way we write, check and deploy code. We are now starting to introduce Test Driven Development (TDD), this means when we build Jolojo with additional features and client work the build engine will run the tests. If they don’t pass, the solution is not built, and we don’t (and can’t) deploy what will be broken code onto our servers.
Additionally, we have introduced a Stage server. Our deployment is now firstly to a Development server, which is for our use for testing, then to a Stage server, where our clients can test their websites and then finally onto one of our Live servers for public deployment.
Previously we went from Development straight to Live, the introduction of a Stage environment allows us more freedom on our Development server which gives us the benefit of being able to break it without upsetting anyone!
Lots of really funky stuff going on with Jolojo.
Jolojo conversion to Svelte
We feel as if we are nearing the end of our Svelte conversion period and are now looking at re-optimising our API’s to allow them to talk to each other better without the need to authorise every time.
We also have the early stages of a stand-alone login engine in-build. We have used logic in websites for many years and decided that writing code with logic embedded is not the best idea and can cause lots of issues when multiple websites use the same code, and the logic is then modified.
Having a logic engine with a ‘language’ that can be passed to it will allow for much better logic handling for many areas of our clients’ businesses, for instance VAT calculations (which sound easy but can be frighteningly difficult), shipping matrices, scoping (user permissions) discount vouchers, product filtering and dynamic contact forms will all be much easier for our clients to modify and much easier for us to both program and maintain.
We have developed some really interesting data display dashboards connecting to Azure SQL databases from within Jolojo and utilising the scoping engine of the Jolojo platform. This replaces the need to use Microsoft BI and side-steps licencing costs associated with this platform.
Online document signing
Adobe Sign and DocuSign have also been integrated for a client introducing digital signing and document management into a branch of Jolojo. Both platforms have been pretty tricky to deal with to be honest, they have slight differences in the way they implement OAuth and the general workflow has some ‘interesting’ differences.
Next steps are to tie together a (new) quoting and contract system, the data display and document signing into one all-encompassing system which will make the right functionality and data available to the right people and make it easy to manage.
Difficult to say exactly where we are on our ecommerce road map as we have some rather complex websites that have been commissioned to be converted. About halfway would be about right.
As above, the platform will give huge benefits and our experience with a multitude of client requitements means that this build is by its very Jolojo nature very flexible in its’ approach to ‘products’, product filtering, shipping etc.
We no longer rely on a ‘one page design’ for all products. Jolojo has at its core the ability for products (as an example) to be on a system generated page, be re-placed on a bespoke page using a different design (whilst using existing and replacing the system URL) or just adding part or some of the product to any page. Very useful.
Website Optimisation (SEO) and Paid Search
We continue to be in demand for our experience and no-nonsense evidence-based approach to both SEO and Paid search.
Whilst business certainly took a tumble when Covid came a knocking as most of our clients are B2B, business has really picked up since late Spring and we continue to work with long-term clients, small quick optimisation projects for third part providers and new businesses to us looking to make the most out of their digital investment.
A rather large annoyance and trademarking BarkWeb
A while ago we noticed that we were not the only BarkWeb on planet earth. Indeed, we had almost be cloned by another company who had set-up a website hosting business. They were using BarkWeb just as we do with the same capitalisation and had even copied our logo almost exactly. Whilst we spotted this, we didn’t realise soon enough (as we have been a bit busy…) that it would start to cause confusion and a few issues.
In fact, the first time we took it seriously was when we started to receive complaint emails about our service and bad Google reviews. After we quickly figured out what was going on (the disgruntled clients had done a brand search, may not have had success and had come to us to complain) we took some advice and commissioned a rather excellent solicitor (Claire of be-legal.com) to register BarkWeb as a trademark and write to the clone company.
Our letter was received, communication was entered into and the offending website is no longer operational.
For me personally the choice of name, BarkWeb, was not a deliberate and long considered decision. More it was taken as an evolution of a project I was undertaking before I started building websites and has a lighting manufacturing project by the name of Bark Lighting. Being honest, I have never been stupendously delighted by the name, but since we have been trading as a Limited Company since 2003 as BarkWeb we have become inadvertently and accidentally our own little brand.
There is a lesson here and I think it starts with thinking about how valuable your ‘brand’ is. And if you value your brand even a little bit then I strongly suggest that you investigate trade marking it. Doing this sooner rather than later (especially if you expand) could stop a whole heap of issues as having a trademark gives you quite a lot of power over the clone.
In the pipeline
We rarely shout about completed projects, a lot of what we do these days is covered by NDAs, but we have the following projects going live over the next couple of months:
- Cinema management system for a small chain of independent cinemas.
- Online auction platform with live bidding, timed auctions, Dutch auctions and sealed bids.
- Two recruitment websites with LinkedIn feeds.
- A new BarkWeb site (believe it when you see it
Jake continues to be our development genius working for us in Japan.
Alex joined the team a few months ago as a front-end developer and is doing some most excellent work on our large projects and polishing the heck out of the front end of Jolojo. Alex is also a drummer in a band, and hopefully we will gate crash a gig of his in 2022…
Sam will be leaving us at the beginning of February. We will miss him and his skills he has learnt and developed during his time with us. We are recruiting if you are interested!
Harry has become the OP Manager in charge of all things SEO and PPC. He is exceedingly effective, believes in the BarkWeb mantra of ‘evidence based’ and is ambitious to grow this part of the business over the next 12 months.
Maddie recently joined us as a Digital Marketing apprentice and helps Harry with his workload as well as creating content for us and clients. She is proving adept quickly and we are delighted to have her as part of our team.
Robbie has been promoted to Business Assistant and is now in charge of all external systems we use and their utilisation. He is also first line support, chief tester and proving he is worth his weight in gold.
All in all we finish 2021 slightly frustrated that we haven’t finished Jolojo, but delighted with it as a platform and we approach 2022 with a high degree of excitement and optimism for the opportunities we will have over the next 12 months.