UKTI's TechCityUK site: 100 WordPress pages, £53k is a website produced by UK Trade & Investment to promote the ‘entrepreneurial cluster’ of technology startups in the Shoreditch / Old Street area of east London. Judging by its blog, it launched on 19 July this year. Google currently reckons it has 89 pages. And according to an FOI response published this morning, it has already cost £53,351.
The FOI enquiry, by Milo Yiannopoulos, revealed the following breakdown:

  • £37,000 for website development and hosting
  • £9,595 for content and
  • £6,756 for security and penetration testing

The site is built on WordPress, and runs as a child theme of Twenty Eleven. On the face of it, it’s a very high figure for a fairly straightforward WordPress build – but it’s a pity the costs haven’t been broken down a bit further. Without a better breakdown, I’m reluctant to join the wailing and gnashing of teeth at the headline figure; although you’ll find plenty of that on Twitter. But I will say it poses some interesting questions, at the very least.
The stylesheet reveals that it was built by a company called Creativeworks, who list a couple of previous UKTI projects in their portfolio – but conspicuously little online work. (Good spot, Harry.) A traceroute shows it’s currently hosted at Zen Internet, seemingly on a dedicated box (according to a myipneighbors check).
Interestingly, the domain name was registered in March 2011, but was not listed among the three new websites approved by the Cabinet Office in the past year. Presumably because it uses a .com domain name. See, there it is again: the mismatch between ‘new website’ and ‘new domain’. The Cabinet Office press release of last June was quite clear:

As part of the Government’s efficiency drive, all of the existing 820 government funded websites will be subject to a review looking at cost, usage and whether they could share resources better.  No new websites will be permitted except for those that pass through a stringent exceptions process for special cases, and are cleared by the Efficiency board which is co-chaired by Mr Maude and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

Note: ‘no new websites’. Not ‘no new domain names’. So did the Cabinet Office approve it, and forget to mention it? Or did UKTI not seek permission? Or does that ministerial commitment not actually go any further than new domain names? – and if not, perhaps the press release could be corrected?
The one cost which is broken down sufficiently is the £6,756 spent on security and penetration testing. Or to put it another way, two weeks’ full-time work by a specialist consultant. It’s possible, I suppose, although a bit over-the-top for a fairly basic site containing (as far as I can tell) no personal or confidential information.
I wonder what they did, apart from remove the ‘generator’ line from the page header, and activate SSL on wp-admin? Would it be useful to other departments running their own WordPress installs?
Or is it – finally – time for government to step up, and provide a centrally-managed (and centrally-secured) WordPress multisite installation for such small-scale uses? The £6k security spend wouldn’t have been necessary; and I wonder how much of the £37k could have been saved, too. It’s not that government can’t afford to do this; it can’t afford not to.

Our modest microsite for UKTI

Monday saw a gathering of 250 leading figures from the world of business at London’s Saatchi Gallery; and organisers UK Trade & Investment asked Puffbox to put together a microsite for the event. With minimal advance publicity, few official post-conference outputs, and no particular involvement for the general public, we felt the best approach was to work up a relatively modest ‘one page site’ idea, ‘mashing up’ material from numerous external sources.
For the past few months I’ve been falling in love with javascript library jQuery; and I wanted to make use of what I’d learned – partly to enrich the user experience above that of a fairly static page, but also to simplify its management. So there’s a nice little sideways-scrolling video playlist – which uses jQuery not only for the animation effect, but also to wrap the content in the necessary HTML markup. Each set of three videos needs to be contained in an LI tag; but doing that manually would have been a nightmare, especially when it came to adding new videos midway down the list – so jQuery does it on my behalf.
When you click to play a video, it loads in the page’s main panel – and generates a few extras too. We’re offering YouTube’s little-known short URL format for easier sharing; social buttons for Twitter, Facebook and Delicious; plus a (somewhat experimental) click-to-copy button, which triggers a rather cute colour trick when you press it. None of it rocket science, but it all helps make things a little more user-friendly, and hopefully a bit more memorable.
(If you’re keen to know how any of it was done, a peek at the source code should reveal all.)
It was a little strange to find myself right back at the coalface, hand-coding HTML pages in real-time: it’s been a good few years, probably dating back to my time at the Foreign Office or Sky News since I’ve had to do that. (Yes folks, that’s right – no WordPress this time.) And inevitably, with various people producing various things in various places – all also in real time, a significant proportion of the effort went on coordination rather than pure web development.
This wasn’t a website on the scale of, say, FCO’s efforts for the London Summit last year. But given what we had, in terms of both time and material available, I’m definitely pleased with it. Looks pretty, thanks to designer Matt; with some cute interactions, thanks to jQuery; and relatively easy to maintain on the day. I’m particularly grateful to UKTI, who were an ideal client in many respects – telling us the end result they wanted, and allowing us to work out how best to do it.