Chester.com

Web Strategy, Web development (Chester.com, )

I built and maintained this directory site for a startup.

Chester.com was a small startup with three staff members when I first encountered them.

They were attempting to build an advertising-funded directory for the city of Chester in the North West of England. Chester has a huge amount of tourist attractions, plus many bars, restaurants, clubs and so on. The town was built by Romans over 2,000 years ago and has artifacts, monuments and buildings which date from every period between then and now. Regular horse races take place at the race track and the influx of spenders from these activities ensures the town is always busy and money is always being spent.

The directory, it was hoped, would be the resource for both visitors and locals who wanted to know what was available and what was happening around town. The goal was to sell directory listings to Chester area businesses, and up-sell them to expanding listing pages, advertorial features, templated mini-sites or full, custom websites.

I initially came on board on a freelance basis. I built the new site over three months in HTML, CSS, PHP and MySQL. Sadly, the initial designs had been created by a graphic designer with no web experience, and had already been approved by a sales person with a similar level of expertise. Many poor choices were made regarding the way the site should work. Due to the fact that a launch date had already been decided, I had a limited amount of time in which to build the entire site (around my day job), and there was little room to adjust any of these problem areas.

After the launch, Chester.com hired me as their Web Manager. I was the fourth employee and the person responsible for deciding the web site strategy alongside the Sales Manager and the owners. Having agreed the strategy, I was responsible for the design and development.

I expanded and updated the site as required. I designed and built a PHP/MySQL Content Management System (CMS). I instigated changes to both visual design and functionality of the site, driving it to become more interactive and the information architecture (IA) to be more logical. Over twelve months I changed many of the initial poor design choices made at launch.

Sadly, in 2008 the company was facing financial trouble. As the highest-paid member of staff, I was the most obvious drain on resources. The site was complete and operational enough, and could continue to exist without my input.

I left Chester.com with an easy to maintain web site. It was a constant battle to keep the site focused and relevant, attempting to satisfy commercial needs, relevance to users and SEO, but I feel my efforts were successful considering the circumstances.

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