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A lot of work never makes it into our portfolio. Although we’d like it to, it simply isn’t visual enough to warrant a place – much of our work is purely development and so no design is produced at all. One project we were particularly proud of however, was this one.

One of our clients, Context One Archaeological Services Ltd., recently approached us for advice regarding a problem they had: the difficulty in managing their various active projects and keeping the team informed about any updates. After a few meetings and a hands-on brainstorming session, we collaboratively agreed on Voltronik designing and building a bespoke project management system for them. The aim was to make it simple enough for their team to use, be expandable in the future and receive notifications on a range of devices.

Choosing the Right Software for the Job

Many options were investigated during our meetings. These ranged from readily available open source software that we could mould to our requirements all the way to building something very bespoke using Ruby on Rails. In the end, we opted for our go-to system that we use for most of our websites: WordPress.

WordPress is a fantastic, lean, optimised content management system that can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Features can be easily integrated using a variety of free or premium plug-ins or by building them using PHP, javascript, CSS and a little know-how.

How We Went About it

With the understanding that archaeologists are historically, firmly based in the world of using paper for their administrative needs, we had to make the project management system very easy to use. We chose to move some core management features of WordPress such as creating posts, categories and managing comments from the back-end of WordPress to the front-end. This enabled the team to create new projects (WordPress categories) and add new messages (WordPress posts) to the system, quickly and easily via a highly dynamic form – conditionally adding or removing form fields depending on the level of detail required when adding information to the system.

We also integrated a site-wide search facility, an activity feed showing recent messages and their accompanying comments and made it easy to access lists of all messages and all projects from any given screen in the system.

Notifications on new projects, messages and comments are delivered through Boxcar for iOS devices and email to the team allowing everyone to always be kept in the loop for projects and their current status.

All the CSS is written in LESS (a much faster and more modern way of writing CSS code) and along with the javascript is loaded into the website in an optimised order and minified (compressed) for even faster page loading.

Making it Accessible

Like all projects, each one is different and so ensuring that the system was easily accessible to all team members at all stages of their process was essential. The project management system (referred to internally as the PMS) was built using a ‘mobile-first’ approach. This means that it was built from the ground up on mobile devices first, then for tablets and then for desktops. Building a website (or in this case, a project management system) this way allows the user on a mobile device to benefit from huge speed increases due to decreased load time than if they were accessing a desktop-first website that has then been scaled down to fit on a mobile as an after-thought.

The PMS has been tested and is successfully used in the field (literally) on a daily basis and can transmit data on even a very week internet connection thanks to it’s optimised, mobile-first design.

The Future

WordPress was a great system choice for this project should we wish to expand on it’s core functionality. Plenty of additional features have already been added to the PMS and although it was rolled out only 2 months ago at time of writing, ideas for future expandability are already being discussed in some detail, further adapting it to the needs of Context One. We can’t wait until we get to build on it again!