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11 December 2015

Adrian Fowler

Adrian Fowler

Nothing is a problem for us here at the Web Lab Co. We find solutions to every problem.

Case study – A broken website

We’ve come across this before, a website goes off line for whatever reason, and the only way to get it back up and running is to either plead with the previous hosting company for all the website files and data, or to adopt a different approach as explained in this post.

Now, before we get into this, I must say the previous hosting company was kind enough to furnish us with the appropriate files and data, however, for some strange reason, the data didn’t seem to match up with the data as shown on the site before it went down. It looked old for want of a better expression. Not wanting to start making assumptions or accusations, the more productive and diplomatic approach was to take what we were given and become resourceful with what we were not given.

In situations like this, you have to love the internet archive project – WayBack Machine. Every website since the dawn of time is archived, a complete snapshot for you to examine. Sometimes I find myself browsing the internet archives as a nostalgic trip down memory lane, just to see how the websites of today have developed over the years. When you do that, you realise how much the whole industry has moved with the times in terms of design, function and so on.

Thankfully, the website we needed was archived right up until a few weeks before it went down.

Bespoke CMS – Why bother?

The original site was written in ASP with a custom Content Management System (CMS) developed by the company who wrote the website. Upon examining the CMS system, it didn’t seem to have any real impact on the website when making changes to the content. It wasn’t very intuitive. I do wonder why companies bother to write their own CMS systems as there are already some really good open source CMS systems out there that have been developed over the years by communities of thousands of people. How can you compete with that? How can you possibly write a better one as a company with half a dozen members of staff in a timeframe of just a few months?

Why waste your time reinventing the wheel when it’s already done?

I can understand it if your sole purpose is to develop an affordable CMS system but solutions like WordPress are already free, open source and community driven.

So that’s what we did. We ditched the ASP written CMS system as developed by ‘a very well-known website development company’ and installed WordPress. The second stage was to import the CSS, design a template which was then uploaded onto the WordPress platform and activated.

WayBack Machine – An Internet Archive

Over to the WayBack Machine internet archive for the data which was a simple case of copying and pasting into pages and posts in the WordPress CMS, uploading the images, a bit of testing and it was done.

wayback machine

Because we are using WordPress, all of a sudden the possibilities were endless. With over 20,000 plugins available, and most free, we could not only recover the site but add some bonus bits to the end project. We added WP Super Cache, which is a great plugin to optimise the performance of Websites by creating cached HTML files, therefore cutting back on MySQL queries and PHP tasks, an HTML Sitemap generator so users can explore the site navigation and all pages from one web page, YOAST SEO plugin to optimise the site for search engines and some Social Media Sharing icons.

That’s all the plugin’s for now taken care of. As time progresses we may need one or two more, but now we have the website set up on WordPress, it’s really easy and cheap to add more functionality.


It’s not often I share the costs of projects on line but on this occasion I am going to as I’ve been cautious not to mention any names. We charged £390 plus Vat to resurrect the website plus an annual hosting charge of £60 plus Vat to host the site.

How good was that?

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This entry was posted in Case Studies, Content Management System
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