5 ways we've used the web to combat the challenges of 2020

lisa Lisa, 24th September 2020

2020 has certainly been a very different sort of year. We've been thankful that for us - despite the team all working from home - it's been business as usual. But it hasn't been for our clients - so we've been helping them in various ways to navigate through the craziness of lockdown.

1. Scale

Hands up who else sat in a virtual supermarket queue waiting to get into the shop to place an order? Well, actually, I didn't - I just saw the message about a 40 minute wait and clicked away. Although I did struggle to get a delivery or pick up slot. The latter is fair enough - there's only so much food in stock, only so much they can get, and only so many people to facilitate all that. Queing to even get into the website though, that seemed a little under prepared.

Our client OilPrice.com went from about 2,000 visitors at any one time to over 70,000 at some points of lockdown - that was over 2,000,000 people a DAY - and we worked hard to make sure the ship stayed afloat. Our brief, when we set up their hosting infrastructure, was to be prepared to handle up to 10,000 people at any one time, so we were very happy when the site sailed past that. However, things did get a little creaky when it was hitting the high points so we quickly jumped into action, analysing any bottle necks or queries that could be sped up. When you're experiencing that kind of traffic, everything is magnified, so a sensible way of doing things for 2,000 people a second may not be the same way you'd do it for 70,000 people. That amount of people has all kinds of implications and whilst the site can auto scale (meaning the hosting can grow automatically when it needs to), we actually hit the limit at one point of how much AWS  (Amazon web services, the cloud infrastructure where it's hosted) could let it grow! So, we carried on into the evening of the first day of crazy traffic, when oil prices hit an all time low, to introduce read-write replicas meaning the database could scale to unlimited proportions - and so far so good! 

2. Pivot!

I've been really impressed by the way our client CSSC have changed their offering - which usually includes a lot of offers for days out and cinema tickets for their members. Instead they switched to things like video streaming services and at home cookery subscriptions, and the CMS we built them lets them keep their website fresh to promote those changes. They also wanted to keep their members - a lot of whom would typically work in offices or around lots of other people - feeling connected and so we added some features to our content collection tool Iszy.ai to let it become a community builder for them. With commenting and liking functions, as well as more options around how they can keep in touch with users, they've used Iszy for various competitions and can use it for general discussion - basically a simple, visual forum.

3. Keep it fresh

It almost goes without saying, our clients have had a lot to convey to their customers. Brands like Lounges and Cosy Club have had lots to tell their visitors, and we've helped with various pop ups and content blocks so that whether it's information about temporary closures, or details about EOHO, important information is impossible to miss. And with some Government guidance coming into force as soon as it's announced, we've needed to be quick with updates, or needed to make sure our clients had an easy way to update new messaging themselves.

4. New features to suit new user needs

HallsHire.com is our website of venues for hire all over the world - which means it has a Google Maps integration and post code search options. When the country first went into lockdown, our son started showing systems of COVID-19 and we were therefore housebound for 14 days, unable to get a supermarket delivery slot in all the chaos. Faced with a problem personally, we added a feature to HallsHire to let people find food deliveries from less obvious sources - such as trade suppliers who started doing door to door, or local bakeries who were trying to reach out locally in their community. The feature is still live - as of course, we're not out of the woods yet - and any company who can deliver food or drink can get a free listing

Meanwhile, when things opened up slightly in July we made sure event spaces listed on HallsHire could update their listings with important information such as what their capacity is once social distancing is adhererd to, and whether their outside space is suitable for whole events to be held out doors. We also gave them help and advice on how they could let people view their venues remotely, writing about top tips for how to show someone around a space via a video call.

5. Online training

I've given SEO training for over 10 years now, and I've always done it face to face. During lockdown this moved to Zoom, and it worked really well - so an idea I'd been toying with for a couple of years came closer to fruition. We've launched our online platform - TalkingWeb - to helping you with all your web woes, whether you run your own website, work in marketing or work in an agency and help field technical queries from clients. We're going to move my SEO training online, along with other digital training courses - just leave your email address to be notified of when they launch. For daily help and advice, be sure to follow TalkingWeb on Instagram.

A busy summer

So that's just some of what's been happening at 18a over the last few months. As the country wakes up lots of interesting new projects are surfacing, and September feels like a time for fresh starts so we're helping start ups with their new ideas which have been nurtured over lockdown. If you've got any projects you've been thinking about please do get in touch if you need a hand.

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