Category Archives for "Case Study"

Case Study 3: Sheffield Interfaith

Sheffield Interfaith approached me with the question: how do you set up a viable site with a limited budget?

How We Designed the Site

Three members of the group were willing to work on the site. So we set up a WordPress site, using the Genesis Streamline Pro theme.  Genesis designed this theme for mobile phones and tablets and this imposes constraints on the header.  Streamline Pro enables Sheffield Interfaith display information about its three constituent groups on the home page.

We were able to include the image intended for the header in the sidebar, so it is visible alongside every post and page.

The site is very simple although it has potential to expand as the group develops.  The two main  features are the blog and email list.

The home page is the main blog archive page on this site.  If you scroll down past the three information pages, the latest post is visible with earlier posts beneath it.  The Sheffield Interfaith site is mainly concerned with publicity for events and so this is a helpful way to showcase future events.  The primary navigation allows visitors to view posts about current or archived events.  Currently anything that is not an event is news but more categories can be added in the future.

Communication Through the Site

Members of the email list receive notice of new posts the day following their appearance.  They also receive occasional newsletters.  Existing members were added to the list and anyone who visits the site can subscribe.  This means anyone interested can keep in touch.  The group relies mainly on word of mouth and printed publicity to spread the word and so does not have to worry about search engines.

The organisation’s name is likely to be Googled and when it is their site is at the top.  It has a domain authority of 10 and a page authority 23.  This is not bad for a new site.  It is impressive for a site that has only one inbound link!

Feedback from Sheffield Interfaith

So far I have had a little feedback from the group.  One of them wrote:

I will prepare a testimonial but there was something that I wanted to say to you about the need to go at the pace of the customer. It has felt to me that the pace has been too fast and that there was not adequate space to ask questions and go back on things just to make sure that I understood how the website works, and how to maintain it. For me it is not just about design but about learning a new process.

I have felt that I have always been behind the curve and have been trying to catch up. Part of it no doubt is a matter of language – it has been complex for me to learn and I have been taken completely out of my comfort zone (beyond my knowledge base) and have had to grapple with something new. All this may be a result of the quote and the level of service that we agreed. I am having to do a lot of back filling just to make it easier for me to understand the whole thing. There is not a great deal of relevant IT literacy in the group.

Maybe as well as designing the website there was a hands on session on how to make posts, upload, maintain and deal with the likely issues that were to arise. This could be a need for others and I am not sure where we can go to in order to keep on top of things. This aspect is not part of the design process but it is something that needs to complement it. Maybe it is not something that is required to design a website but it is a need, especially as personnel change within organizations.

We do however have a clear and attractive website that is up and running and one that we can add to. It will be useful tool for SIF to use and to publicize.


I’ve shared this because it illustrates some of the issues working on this approach to websites.  I offer a time limited service (3 – 6 months) where my clients can contact me by email, phone or Skype, to discuss issues.  They also have a few short workshops, about 4 hours.  One thing I shall do, as a result of this feedback, is to be clearer to future clients how they can use this service.  Let’s be clear.  No website can work properly if those responsible for it are unable to maintain it.  The people development is as important, perhaps more important than the technology.

I’m also hoping to develop more material on this website to help past clients and any group working on their website.  I’m hoping Sheffield Interfaith will tell me what information would help them and the same applies to anybody.

What do you need to know?  If you would like to see specific “how to” posts on this blog, comment below and sign up to my list so that you can see when I respond!

Case Study 2: Search Engine Optimisation

Last Friday, I described case study 2, my work with the Bristol European Jazz Ensemble website.  My client asked me about search engine optimisation (seo) and I thought it would be worth sharing my reply.  The interesting thing about this site is it uses and so seo is not so straightforward as it would be with or any other independently hosted site.  Another issue is my client is trying to promote the name BEJE and not the full name of the band.  This raises some issues.  Here is my response to his question, as I sent it.

“Here’s my response to your question:

Of more immediate concern is, the web site itself comes low down on a Google search of ‘Bristol European Jazz Club’, marginally better with ‘BEJE jazz’ and not at all just with BEJE. How can any of these combos get in the first 3/4 places with Google?”

Read this through to the end before you act on it!

Search Engine Optimisation is a rapidly changing area and in some ways it’s a lot easier than it was.  Let me summarise current search results [NB Blog readers: these results will change]:

  • Bristol European Jazz Club – your YouTube video comes in at number 4, which is very good.  The website comes in at 7 and your Linked-In account at 8.
  • BEJE jazz – your YouTube video comes top!  Linked-In at 5.  Website at 8.
  • BEJE – does not appear
  • Bristol European Jazz Ensemble – YouTube comes first then Linked-In comes third.

That’s interesting!

A couple of observations.

  1. Check your Linked-In and YouTube accounts and make sure they have clear links to the website on them.  Not just the link but also copy encouraging people to follow the link.  Why should they go there?  The description below the video on YouTube does not include your web address.  If you do include it, it will be added as a special kind of link, called a nofollow link.  Nofollow links are not followed by Google bots, so it won’t effect the website ranking in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).  However, people can follow it and so where the video is ahead of the website on the SERP, there will be a chance they’ll find their way to the website.  You need to place the link at the very start of the description: – to look just like this.  The reason is that when the video is described on other pages, it usually only reproduces the first few lines of the description, so for example, the url would appear on the SERP under the video.
  2. In all searches but “BEJE” there are some sites mentioning the band.  Check they have links to the website.  If you know the site owners, ask them to add a link.  Eg features the video only. has a link to the site but it is on their site as a naked url.  They need to use the anchor text “Bristol European Jazz Ensemble”.  Google doesn’t know what the url on its own signifies (the rules for YouTube are different and there you must use the url).  You could ask them to use BEJE but I would advise not to because at present BEJE on its own is not ranking.  (It appears to be Lithuanian for “the way”.)

You could visit all the sites that mention Bristol European Jazz Ensemble and check how they are referencing you.  You ideally want a link to your site with anchor text that says something positive, the name of the group is fine or something like “for brilliant jazz listen to B… E…” although that might be too long.  The name includes the words Bristol and Jazz which is a good foundation.

But Google “Bristol Jazz” and you don’t feature at all!  Is this a target search for you?

One thing to consider is having your own domain name.  I’m afraid I have to introduce the concept of “link juice”.  If you have a link from a website with lots of authority, then this link will be especially juicy (I think this is what passes for American geek humour).  The problem is your site is on, which operates a bit like Facebook.  People can link to your Facebook page directly but it is part of a much bigger site.  Your website is part of the bigger site.  This means the link juice is shared with the entire site.  You don’t get the benefit.  (Your site has a domain authority of 100% and a page authority of 1%.  This means all the juice goes to the WordPress domain and virtually none to your site.)The remedy is to get your own domain name.

You can do this by going into wp-admin and accessing the shop, where you’ll find you can purchase a domain name.  You need to think through the domain name – it should reflect the content of the site, eg – you’ll be offered a choice of endings.  The fee is something like £5.99 per year.  There is no limit to the length of urls and the advantage of this one is it tells Google what’s inside the site (I think you can use hyphens to separate the words if you wish).  I wouldn’t use BEJE because it isn’t ranking and it doesn’t inform the search engines.

You need to decide whether you want your own domain name before you implement the other recommendations above because you don’t want to go round a second time asking them to change your url.  But a change in url is a good reason to contact your current back-links.

So, in summary

  1. Invest in a domain name that reflects the content of the site.
  2. Make sure the new domain name is on YouTube and Linked-In.
  3. Contact sites you know have back-links to change the url and use more relevant anchor text.
  4. Contact other likely sites and ask them to include a link.
I haven’t mentioned social media but this is probably enough for now.  If anything isn’t clear, ask me more questions.”

Case Study 2: Bristol European Jazz Ensemble

Screenshot of Bristol European Jazz Ensemble website home page

Screenshot of Bristol European Jazz Ensemble website. Click on image for bigger version.

This is my second case study; the first was about Hope for the Future.  The Bristol European Jazz Ensemble was a coaching project mainly.  I should have taken a screen shot of the site before we started work on it.  The one on the right is how is appears at the time of writing.  The project was to equip David, the client, with the skills to maintain the site.  I also carried out some changes to the site.

Bristol European Jazz Ensemble is a site. is really an enormous website hosting thousands of websites and blogs.  The analogy is perhaps Facebook where, instead of hosting profiles, hosts websites and blogs.  The alternative is, where WordPress has an independent host and so each website/blog stands alone.

One big difference is .com does not have plug-ins.  This makes it less flexible than .org.  It is possible to extend functionality of .com but at a price.

The main market for the client’s site is promoters and venue organisers.  The by-line in the header makes this clear.  Also the home page includes a contact form and invitation to the market to make contact.  The public may also be interested in the site and so the site publicises events featuring the band through the blog.  Promotion of events is usually carried out by other means and so is not a priority for this website.

What We Did

I worked on the site with David, using Skype and email.  It is possible for two people to be logged into the WordPress wp-admin panel simultaneously, although only one can work on the site at a time.  We are a few hundred miles apart and this is just as good as meeting in a room with a digital projector!  I also did some work on the site:

  • The original site had the blog as the home page.  There were no blog posts and so this was messy.  I created a page to use as a home page and the blog, on its own page, is now populated.
  • The logo existed but it was not installed in the header.  I installed the header with the logo and tagline.
  • The video was present as a bare url on the page.  I installed the video properly, so that it can be viewed on the site without going to YouTube.
  • I sorted out some issues with the navigation, so that events on the blog have their own page.


Here are David’s comments on my coaching work with him:

Chris is a meticulous mentor who helped me define what I wanted from him and from the web site. Just articulating the questions and goals was helpful. Even more, it helped motivate me to actually get on and do it in my busy schedule. Chris’s style is unflappable, approachable, analytical, non-judgemental, clear – and clear about what he doesn’t know but can find out. It’s a co-learning exercise as Chris himself improves on his already well-developed skills and I learn to use the website. I recommend Chris to anyone in the creative or voluntary sectors.

Do you like the site?  What additional information would you like to see on it?

Case Study 1: Hope for the Future

This is the first of a series of posts about my work for clients.  Several of my first projects are coming to an end and so I shall be posting about them and what I have achieved.


This project was an assessment as promoted on my site.  Hope for the Future planned a campaign within the churches throughout the UK in the run up to the General Election in May 2015.  The plan is to persuade churches to write to the candidates in all the parliamentary constituencies about their climate change policies.  They want climate change to be a major issue during the General Election campaign.

I intend to follow their progress to see how they implement my strategy.  Circumstances will change as they respond to a developing campaign but hopefully it will be possible to see how the assessment has been helpful.

I am going to say very little at this stage about my recommendations.  The campaign has its plans and it is not for me to reveal them.  I shall say more as the campaign goes public and plan to develop further and publish some of the tools I’ve developed for their use.

This client was remarkable as I had almost nothing to do with their website.  I never had access to it.  I have made recommendations for changes to the site and at the time of writing these have not been implemented.


In common with many similar small groups and campaigns, Hope for the Future is very short of resources.  They number 4 or 5 volunteers working in two Anglican Dioceses.  They have 11 hours of paid administration and very little more.  One of the things the Internet can do is amplify the voices of a few people, so long as they use their resources effectively.  There are plenty of stories of one-person businesses that have accessed a massive market, for example.  Is it possible to launch a nationwide campaign from such a small base?  Yes, it is!  Will Hope for the Future do it?  We shall see!  If they are successful it will be through many hours of hard work carried out by a few dedicated people.

Today I shall outline the assessment’s content and in future posts, as the campaign develops, I shall explain some of the elements in the assessment in more detail.


The assessment is a report with six appendices. The report suggested a new approach to their campaign.  One problem was getting feedback from my clients.  I started with a questionnaire and then drafted a few documents.  Getting feedback for these first drafts was difficult and this is something I need to think about in the future.  Towards the end I had a very productive one to one meeting, that actually transformed the assessment.  It was an example of a generative conversation.


The six appendices were tools to enable Hope for the Future to carry out the report.  I drew not only on my understanding of online marketing but also my experience as a community development worker and working nationally with mainstream churches.  The appendices included:

  1. A template for assessing potential partners.  A campaign like this, with very few active volunteers needs to build networks of partners.  So they needed a ready method to find and assess partners.  This template will help them select the most productive potential partnerships and name key contributions they might make to the campaign.
  2. Guidelines for rolling out the campaign nationally.  Sheffield Anglican Diocese is the pilot for the campaign but it needs a strategy to cover four nations and all Christian traditions.
  3. A review of the website and recommendations for changes.  This included some wireframes, new and rewritten copy and an outline script for a video.
  4. Recommendations for the campaign in local churches.  The campaign was already accumulating experience in local churches and so there was not so much to do here.
  5. A campaign schedule, particularly for the website.  It is crucial to be ready to add new material to the website as the campaign develops.  By planning ahead it is possible to ask partners to prepare website content as the campaign develops.  The schedule shows the campaign how to plan ahead; they will need to fill in the detail as the campaign develops.
  6. A task list enables the planning team to identify the work that can be completed in-house and the tasks for partners.

The report showed how these various documents can be used together to support the campaign.


Finally, here is a testimonial from Revd Michael Bayley, who was my main contact with Hope for the Future:

Chris’ great gift in helping us work out how the website could work for our campaign most effectively was to ask the really searching questions about what we wanted to get out of it. He questioned us persistently and skilfully until we had really sorted out in our own minds what we wanted and was then able to suggest ways in which we might do this most effectively.

He used the technical questions of website design to make us think about the fundamental questions and he was also good at asking questions from “outside the box”. In one instance this led to a radical and extremely fruitful alteration to the way in which we organised the campaign.

We valued Chris’ careful and thoughtful approach; the way he listened carefully to what we wanted; the way in which he pressed us to make ourselves clear about what we wanted. We were grateful for his help which enabled us to develop the website much more quickly and effectively than would otherwise have been possible.

If you are running an online (or offline!) campaign, would this approach help you?  I’d like to hear from anyone who thinks I may be able to help.