Lycos UK

7th Dec 2006 stk


The Problem: Lycos U.K., a subdivision of Lycos Europe, wanted to convert their directory pages to be XHTML, CSS and WAI compliant - at a reasonable cost.

The Solution: Hire AstonishMe! to convert over 100,000 statically-created, individually-maintained and XHTML/CSS/WAI-invalid pages into a single, web-standards template. This allows sweeping, site-wide changes to be as easy as modifying a single template! In addition, we converted static pages to be dynamically served, utilizing an innovative cache system which optimizes speed and guarantees successful page retrieval. A low deposit, plus ongoing payments (based on directory sales and page views) saves Lycos money over their previous solution. Better, faster, cheaper - Lycos is impressed!

The Challenge: Building an enterprise-level, XML-based query system database from scratch. Configuring a dedicated web-server (and backup server) to withstand a high volume of traffic. Designing and coding a single, PHP-based, XHTML/CSS-valid, WAI-508-compliant template which handles every possible directory listing configuration. (Added challenge: 24-hours before the project deadline, completely re-design the layout and graphics, in order to match a just-released, Lycos site design!)

Follow up:

Read More about Lycos U.K. ...


One of the hallmarks of AstonishMe! is that we hand-craft XHTML/CSS-valid and WAI-complaint web pages. We believe that authoring clean, elegantly-coded web pages, written to web standards, offer the best value. They are cross-browser friendly, which means that the visitor experience is the same, regardless of which browser they might be using. Our pages generally contain less HTML and CSS code, which means they load faster and are easier to maintain. We never require JavaScript and when we use JavaScript, it is only to enhance the viewer experience. Web standard pages are also future-proof, as the Internet is steadfastly moving towards standardized HTML. WAI accessibility means that our pages are easier to read, are viewable from hand-held devices, text-readers, cell phones and other non-traditional means.

For Lycos, this meant that the directory template we built uses approximately 60%-70% less HTML and CSS than any of their original pages. This means faster page-loads and reduced server load. We converted all JavaScript to CSS/WAI-complaint code. We removed JavaScript rollovers for menus, which can be done faster with CSS and is more accessible. Their old pages required JavaScript , just to open some linked pages. We removed that requirement (the links no longer fail if JavaScript is disabled) but left the enhanced functionality (the links do open in new windows, for visitors with JavaScript enabled).

Compare the validation results for two pages:

Static to Dynamic

Building a directory database from scratch, converting static pages to dynamic pages, was a huge undertaking. We believe that the hard work paid off. Now, only one template needs to be modified to change EVERY ONE of the more than 100,000 directory pages! This will be a huge man-power savings for Lycos, moving forward.

One concern about dynamically delivering the content: What happens when the database breaks or is overloaded?

We developed a unique caching system which solves this problem and which also optimizes page delivery, further reducing server load and guaranteeing page delivery. The solution to deliver "dynamically static" content! (Huh?)

It works by maintaining an up-to-date cache of directory pages. Each time a visitor requests a certain directory page, the cache is consulted, to see if it's up-to-date with the database. If it is (or the database cannot be reached, for whatever reason), the cached page is delivered. If it's not up-to-date, then the database serves the [new] page to both the visitor and the cache. It's a unique way of reducing database load and ensuring page delivery, in the unlikely event of a database problem.

Multi-disciplinary Approach

AstonishMe! brings more to the table than web design. With expertise in programming, web-hosting, custom scripting, blogging applications and other web tools, we can deploy a broad spectrum of knowledge for your web project. The Lycos directory project is an example of such a multi-disciplined solution.

AstonishMe! also has strong affiliations other web-companies, such as Happily Hosted (web hosting) and Link Centre ® (search engine and directory pages).

For Lycos U.K. directory pages, they are currently hosted on a dedicated server (and backup server), managed by Happily Hosted. The starting point for the Lycos directory database retrieval code, was code used by Link Centre. It was extensively reworked, to satisfy Lycos' specific needs, but our alliance with Link Centre provided a big strategic advantage. The coding expertise, web-design and web-standards skills were all provided in-house, by AstonishMe! Together, we dramatically improved the Lycos U.K. directory pages: made them easier to maintain; delivered them in a hybrid dynamic-static way, utilizing a unique caching system; made them WAI accessible; reduced page overhead by 60-75% for fast loading, made their delivery reliable and made them XHTML/CSS-valid. We did all this and STILL saved Lycos money!

We're betting that Lycos will come knocking again, requesting that we convert the remainder of their site, to XHTML/CSS-valid, WAI-compliant pages. ;)



Comment from: ballpeen
"24-hours before the project deadline, completely re-design the layout and graphics"

I love the way you called that a Challenge, instead of WTF?? heheh Good business diplomacy. ;)
06/05/07 @ 14:29

06/05/07 @ 19:05

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