Stephen Richards



Bespoke Website Templates

One thing that has really changed in the last year is the way I look at websites. Sure I will produce designs according to a clients specific requirements, when the site is going to be mainly static then I will create something that meets the client specifications and populate it with the relevant text. But more and more the option for the client to maintain the content and update it themselves has become a priority for the client.

As a result many more of my websites have required me to create a template for WordPress or Drupal, or Joomla, DotNuke or Blogger. It took me a couple of months to get my own head around how the templates were created but after that I was away.

Now I am pleased to offer sites for self management that use any one of these amazing systems. I know they have all been around a while but the amount of quality plug-ins that you can now add to them makes the appearance and feel of the website truely interactive.

As a result I have produced a number of these sorts of templates and continue to enjoy producing them and hosting them for clients.


System Audit


The lack of specific detail in this project outline is due to the nature of the results and to protect all parties involved.

Approached by a local establishment to perform an audit a confidential meeting was held to discuss the required level of investigation. At the meeting it was revealed that some members of staff were causing concern in particular the relationship of one manager, his wife and their relationship with the existing IT support organisation.

The concerns involved potentially unauthorised use of company IT systems for private work related to the managers wifes occupation and also some financial discrepancies concerning authorisation of purchases, upgrades and repairs to IT systems.

Because of the sensitive nature of the audit, the manager was informed that a company wide audit would be taking place of all IT systems. This provoked a suspicious response and the manager took an immediate leave of absence.

The company wide audit revealed that:

  • The server was not fit for purpose:
  • No RAID storage
  • Lack of memory
  • Inadequate backup procedures relying on human intervention
  • Missing local storage device used for backup
  • Pirated gaming software on one office PC
  • Managers PC showed items recently deleted and so a full data recovery was performed

The data recovered from the managers PC belonged to a local company and was highly confidential, contact with the DPA was initiated and the resulting investigation revealed the following:

The IT company contracted at the time had been tasked with updating the hard drive on the managers PC, they performed this task in their workshop and at that time were also dealing with the hard
drive of the local company, they used the managers new hard drive as a temporary backup store for the local firm as they were short of backup storage in the workshop. Completing the local companies task they then formatted the drive used for the backup and installed it in the managers computer, installed the OS and copied the managers files back onto the PC.

This is an example of inadequate procedures for an IT company, the data the thought was deleted (they should have know better) was mearly overwritten, simple forensic techniques using commercially available software costing less than £50 had revealed sensitive information that was highly confidential.

The IT Company was dismissed, the manager took early retirement and shortly afterwards the user of the PC with the illegal software (who was also responsible for the missing backup storage device) also left.

These situations are always difficult to manage, they are delicate operations that cause a great deal of worry for staff.

To complete the project new hardware and software were purchased and installed, an IT User Policy was created with the involvement of the staff (it always helps to educate them whilst making them feel part of the changes), and new contracts of employment were produced including the IT Usage Policy as part of the contract. Finally a message of agreement was included at each domain and local logon such that the user agreed to the terms and conditions of the companies IT User Policy.


Loyalty Card

The referral came from my good friend Mike Denison who explained that a local Garden Centre had the need for assistance regarding a loyalty card scheme they had started.

Robert at Jacksons Boutique Garden Centre had thought about a loyalty scheme similar to those run by local coffee shops, but he wanted to take it further and collect data for direct marketing.

The first meeting was interesting, Robert explained what he wanted to achieve and I listened, took notes and formed questions. My first question concerned the sort of numbers involved and I was a little taken aback to find that as people passed the tills they had been asked if they would be interested in a loyalty scheme, those that said yes had already filled out an A5 size pro forma. I asked how many he had collected and nearly fell off my seat when I found out that in less than 3 weeks they had collected 2581 sets of client data!

Within a week I had identified and demonstrated a software solution that provided:

  • Email Marketing
  • Postal Marketing
  • Tracking of card issues
  • Automated sign -up from a website
  • Allowed access from anywhere with an internet connection
  • Well within budget
  • A full operators manual
  • Ease of use
  • Oh and someone to enter the data

So does the system work? Well as an example a hurried email went out recently about tickets to a charity ball that Jacksons were supporting, within an hour the phones were ringing.


Annual Holiday

Personally I’m not sure what holiday is! It seems that employees like to have time off and one of my existing clients approached me asking for a software solution, on a very limited budget.

The first two solutions I looked at were not suitable, the third however seemed to tick all of the boxes and more:

  • Deal with holiday entitlement
  • Staff can see entitlement and submit holiday requests
  • Requests require approval from a nominated administrator
  • Deal with multiple office locations
  • Deal with public holiday
  • User designated start of year date

but it also:

  • Provided time sheets
  • Staff training details
  • Staff reviews
  • Staff contracts
  • Recruitment
  • and a lot more

Needless to say that was one very happy client and all within 3 days