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Drone Bee
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Jan 14, 2010
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Almost a year ago, I complained to a number of 'bigwigs' at the BBKA that the website was not fit for purpose. I had lost patience with what I saw as a cosmetically-driven waste of money, but as well as strong critique I provided clear advice on how to resolve the problems.

My biggest concern was that there was a configuration issue which had been outstanding since the introduction of the online shop. The issue in itself was not disastrous - indeed it allowed me to download past papers for free - but the fact that it had gone unnoticed for so long rang worrying alarm bells: clearly there had been no security audit or testing of the site otherwise the blatant error would have been picked up.

My initial email was blunt in order to provoke a response; I sent it to various persons within the BBKA whom I knew and who knew my direct approach. It quickly became a semi-public conversation with Doug Brown, BBKA Chairman and apparent owner of the website.

My observations and advice were not wanted. I was told, in effect, to stop emailing people about the problems. I was told that my comments would be referred to the BBKA Exec for consideration. Four quarterly Exec meetings later and I understand that issues with the website have never made it onto the agenda. I'm fairly certain that the underlying problems haven't been fixed, bar a couple more sticking plasters here and there.

Most worryingly, I feel that certain individuals won't allow criticism to be aired lest it reflect badly on them. Their approach appears to be to ignore the criticism and just keep applying sticking plasters when problems are found. It is a shame that they put their embarrassment above the risk to the BBKA of having a difficult, error-strewn and potentially insecure website. I am still seeing simple errors such as outdated content on the site which show that even my most basic recommendations regarding quality control and checking have gone unheeded.

By the way, I am reliably informed that almost £40,000 has been spent on the new website since it was launched. If you are a BBKA member, perhaps you would like to consider if the website is fit for purpose, satisfies your needs for information, represents a good investment, and so on. For the record, I will publish below my correspondence and the reception that it received.

Dan Basterfield - 6/11/2013 said:
Subject: That £^€%ing BBKA website


I am writing to you in desperation and dismay. Can you please do something about the BBKA website? Yet again, having to use it for simple tasks I am left fuming at its crapness, that it is a triumph of design and appearance over content or communication, and that it is fundamentally untested and lacks apparent quality control. It has been a cosmetically-driven waste of BBKA money from its inception, and it obfuscates BBKA communications, information, and resources. Sorry to be so blunt but this is a significant public presence and membership resource, and it is embarrassing and unprofessional.

1) It is still trivially possible to download all of the Module past papers without paying. This has been possible since the online shop was put in place, and I am reminded of it as each Module exam date approaches. Thousands of companies sell their software via online shops as digital downloads, if they allowed such laxness with their income stream they would go bust. I will not tell you how this is done - the process is trivial; simple vulnerability testing of the website would reveal it. It highlights a design/security flaw that should be revisited, and suggests that certain procedures need to change. What other vulnerabilities exist if this has gone unnoticed for so long? It is the appetite for testing & quality control that is needed, not a sticking plaster for this particular example, hence my reticence to divulge specifics.

2) The recent 'News' items are broken. Click on Latest News, click on the 5th Nov article, arrive at the News & Events page (not the news item you wanted), click on Latest News (again), click on the 7th October article, arrive at the News & Events page, etc. Earlier items are linked correctly so there has simply been a lack of testing that published items are working as intended. Simple mistake, big implication in terms of image & professionalism. How has this not been noticed in a month?

3) On my iPhone using iOS 7 & Safari, the BBKA website navigation menu (the three bars, top left) is not working. This renders the site largely inaccessible. I understood the recent cosmetic make-over of the site to have been a refresh in order to make the site phone/tablet friendly. Can anyone immediately tell me if it's just my phone, or if it worked yesterday, or last week, or on iOS 6 before I upgraded, or how many iPhone users might be affected if there is a problem... or is it just assumed that all is well...?

I know that the website is operated by BBKA staff and trustees, some of them on a voluntary basis. This is not intended as a criticism of them as individuals, but at the way the BBKA as an organisation approaches its website. These willing amateurs need support and guidance. Perhaps it is time now to invest money in professional technical advice rather than in further design & graphics?

I believe that the content of the website needs to be reviewed, as do the procedures for testing & quality control, as does the testing of the security and technical configuration of the site. There is also the issue of general sprawl and nesting of pages of links to further pages and whether this helps or hinders site visitors.

I would recommend that site content is broken into logical areas, and that each area has a single owner who is trained & enabled to upload, edit, delete, and test pages, and who is responsible for what is communicated (and how) in their area.

There needs to be an emphasis on simplifying navigation paths through the site by collapsing the nesting of linked pages. To assist with this, you should invest time in learning to use Google Analytics; it is free to use and with the addition of a simple tracking code you can follow site visitors' progress through the site. This will tell you which pages are heavily used, which are not, and how many pages/links they traverse before they find what they are looking for. If significant users are always starting at a particular sub-page (presumably bookmarked or typed-in directly) this suggests that this is content of primary importance and should be more readily accessible to all visitors: lift it upwards. Where many layers of linked pages are present, ask how this helps users, and justify why one or two layers fewer would not be beneficial. Where pages are rarely visited, justify why they shouldn't simply be deleted.

There must be an instinctive 'live' test of any change to any content immediately after it is published, otherwise the public, the press, and the membership will see any issues that arise. Is there a staging area so that significant changes can be tested before they go live? There also needs to be regular 'joe public' spot-checks of popular pages and resources, to ensure that all is well. That a new items has been broken, without realisation, for a month is not professional; that the website may be unusable from an iPhone is not professional. Would we distribute printed leaflets or posters with glaring spelling mistakes or technical inaccuracies on them?

Google Analytics will also reveal the devices and browsers that visitors are using. I would expect (from using Analytics on other sites) that at least 20% of visitors are coming in on iPhone/iPad/Android - do they all see a broken navigation menu? Is there a testing strategy (and suitable devices) in place to verify correct function and usability if these platforms are significantly used? The technical capability to address such devices should lie largely with the website hosting company/platform and with the designers, but if we (as their customer and this site owner) are not doing the most basic checks to verify correct function, then who will? The public, the press, our membership...

I have been away from this sort of work for ten years, professionally, but still can see obvious problems and possible solutions. I do not want the job of resolving this, but I do want to see the BBKA take its website in hand and ensure that it ceases to be a pretty embarrassment.


Sally said:

I think your outburst about the quality of the BBKA web site is out of order and churlish ... [snip] ... who do you think it is going to help and why do you think it is anything to do with you.

it continues...

Dan Basterfield said:

I have been openly criticising the BBKA website since the 'relaunch'. I fundamentally believe that the BBKA are struggling with a website that is not completely fit for purpose, and that if nobody points out the problems it will continue to embarrass us. But simple problems like a month-old broken link on a 'News' item are nothing to do with inappropriate design. Both sets of problems need to be resolved.

The reason it is "something to do with me" is that I use the website regularly to find BBKA information & publications. I need to know that I have the current version of things like Module syllabuses (sp?), various advice leaflets, exam costs & application details. Each time I find the website exasperating and obstructive. Too many layers, too many odd places to look for things, too many pages of links to pages of links to things you might be looking for. Too many generic photo banners to scroll past to see the page content.

Did you know that until recently, the only reliable place you could find the BBKA recommended book list was by looking for information on the Basic Certificate? It had just become "lost in the system". This is why I suggested that the various content areas need champions to ensure 'their' content is correct and suitably organised; they have a vested interest in making sure it is right, and it spreads the workload beyond the overburdened few. The website appears to be too big and too complex now to be managed top-down.

Take a look at the National Trust website by way of a comparison - far more information contained therein, but it is easy to use and quick to find what you are looking for. Pages are full of content, rather than "design". Many of the differences are subtle, but add up to a far better experience. I don't think it's any accident that the top of the home page has a "find a place to visit" search box, plus four further big buttons - they have analysed what their visitors look for on the site, and have placed links to it right there in front of them. I'm sure the NT has the funds for a vast army of website editors and copy writers, but I'd be extremely surprised if they did not have content-area owners and strict processes in place for QA of changes before and after they are published, nor indeed for monitoring that the site is working as intended. Same principles, different scale, required here.

The BBKA site's branding-heavy design and pop-up menus were tempered recently - thankfully - which allowed more space for information on the screen. The result was a significant improvement in usability, particularly for mobile users, at the sacrifice of "design" elements. Good, brave decision - there is clearly some appetite for positive change based upon usability. More please!

In the review of the IBRA website - you are quite right to criticise the existing one as flat and bland - I cited the BBKA website as an example of how it should not be done. "Take the BBKA website, and make the opposite choices" was my general guidance - meaning, beware designers bearing excessive branding. I provided a list of about a dozen significant and explicit criticisms of the current IBRA site. If you talk to Norman and William, their primary requirement for the new IBRA website was to make information readily accessible. I will be equally critical of the new IBRA site if it fails to match our requirements, otherwise those failings will never be fixed.


Dan Basterfield said:
(To all original recipients, including a copy of the above reply)

I have considered my response to Sally [above] overnight, and I expect that some of you will have reacted to my earlier note in much the same way. I have to be provocative because any change requires an acceptance that there are problems; too long we have stumbled along with this style-led website. The priorities should be function, usability, and communication, with sufficient style merely to provide unobtrusive consistency.

The fundamental problem with the BBKA website is the idea that "it looks nice enough, so what's wrong with it?" I want to challenge that thinking, without making it a personal argument. Yes, I am critical, but of the product and of the status quo, not of the individuals involved. I want those who are closest to the website to take a step back and ask "Is this really what we need?"

I would ask that you discuss openly (and without any sacred cows) what the purpose of the website is, whether the website is fit for purpose, why such problems as I am seeing arise, and how these can be rectified. I have suggested simple steps that might help resolve some of the issues and better understand what site visitors come looking for.


Doug Brown said:
(copied to all original recipients)

Good morning Dan,
I was forwarded a copy of your letter and here is my response which I prepared late last night.


My first reaction on receiving one of your tedious emails is to print it out, screw it up in a ball and throw it in the wastepaper bin. If you can't be bothered to let me know in a timely and civilised manner when you find a problem or have an issue which you consider should be fixed instead of saving it all up for a long winded, ill tempered, bad mannered rant when you've had a particularly bad day, then why should I be bothered to take you seriously.

I don't pretend that the website is perfect and we are always looking for ways to improve it but many people do find it helpful and we have much, much more praise than criticism. In the last year we have had 515,448 visits, 1,849,946 page views and even last week we received nearly 6,000 visits. I challenge you to find another beekeeping website with anything like this coverage. I was recently contacted by the webmaster of a German beekeeping website asking for permission to use some of the components of “your creative and innovative website “. I do have some concerns about the online shop which was developed separately and had already spoken to the developers about simplifying and making the buying process more logical and they are currently working on solutions.

We have referred your comments to our developers and I will let you know in due course their response.

There followed a side-thread amongst some recipients and Jane Moseley, BBKA General Secretary, regarding the specifics. Having read Doug's above reply I declined to perform their testing for them

Dan Basterfield said:

Following Doug's earlier abusive and highly personal response to me on a different thread on this topic, I am no longer interested in assisting. Apologies if this puts you in an awkward position personally; I'm hope somebody else will have an iPhone and could test this for you.


Doug Brown said:
I’m sorry you seem to be able to give abuse but not accept it. To me your original email was personal and abusive (and public) and as we are both fully paid up members of BBKA I see no reason not to give as good as I get. I have spent much of my life over the past few years continually improving the website and responding to specific problems. If I am informed of a specific problem, your picking up of a problem with the News Event would be a good example, it would be sorted within hours if not minutes. It was a simple matter of some “illegal” characters finding their way into the url during the initial editing of the entry. Likewise your iOS7 issue. The site has been tested against iOS7 on several occasions and no problem found. It has been tested again this morning with no problem found suggesting it is a problem with the set up on your phone. Jane has offered to try and resolve it for you. There is no reason for you not to deal with Jane just because I have upset you by responding like for like.

And I meant to say before that I was amazed that you would think it the correct action of a concerned member, having found a possible security issue on the site, to refuse to tell us what it is so that we can resolve it. I expected more of you.


Dan Basterfield said:

If you cannot see the difference between personal criticism and the flagging of a product/project that is going very wrong, then nobody will make any headway in this matter. I wonder if that is why problems still persist so far into this project?

That you simply wish to apply sticking plaster after sticking plaster is just not good enough.

I do not care what caused the news headline link to be broken. The point here is that the October one had gone unnoticed for a month. Where was the process that says "When you change it, you test it" ? That is what is at fault and of concern here, not whether some "illegal character" popped up. There will always be typos - where is the process to catch them before they become a problem or an embarrassment?

The issue of downloading papers from the shop could be fixed - another sticking plaster - or we could ask why it has not been found in two years and what other flaws exist unnoticed. Is it a lone, trivial, oversight? Are members' (or customers') details vulnerable? Is there a potential reputational risk here? If you don't look you won't find. Go and look. If you don't have the skills to look, hire them in. I'm sure the BBKA has spent enough on this website already that a little bit of due diligence would be neither here nor there. Yet again the issue is not that a problem exists, but that nobody has looked for problems in general.

Enough of this petty to-and-fro. I shall continue to push publicly for a review of the website and the strategy for the website. If you feel that this is an assault on you, or on your precious toy, then that is not my problem.


Doug Brown said:
I have to come back again. We don’t apply sticking plasters. We find the problem and repair it or rewrite it. The particular issue with the News entry is the first time this has happened to my knowledge and could have been fixed in minutes if you had contacted me on the [email protected] address which is found under Contacts / Contacts for BBKA Website. This comes to my mobile device and in most cases I can deal with problems on the move. In an ideal world I could get everybody who has editing privileges on parts of the site to check everything they enter. Most do but occasionally somebody forgets. I do a periodic broken link search but haven’t had time to do one for the last few weeks so didn’t pick it up myself. I will put out a reminder to those with editing rights to remind them to always test. The point I am trying to make is that we could have sorted this without any delay or acrimony by a simple email or phone call.

And now who’s being personal and abusive? This is all so unnecessary. Tell me what is wrong without all the noise and we will fix it if it is agreed proper to do so. Yours is only one voice. You may be totally right and everybody else totally wrong but currently we seem to be satisfying more people than not. I think I did ask you some time ago for a proper detailed list of all your complaints so that we could add them into the review process which is undertaken periodically. I don’t recall having received it.

I opened up my response from the small group that Doug had been addressing at this stage to the larger group that I originally emailed:

Dan Basterfield said:

I am greatly saddened that you wish to make this a personal issue. If you cannot see the difference between personal criticism and the flagging of a product/project that is going wrong, then nobody will make any headway in this matter.

As a member of the BBKA and a regular user of the website I feel I have every right to make my criticisms known, as publicly as I like. Previous attempts to highlight serious issues have been explained away, or apparently diplomatically parked. Hence the appeal to a broader group. Sorry, but my loyalty is to the BBKA and not to somebody's ego or pet project; this website has been an expensive embarrassment since it was developed at great cost. That we can't even spot broken links on a month-old news headline is a separate issue but just adds to my despair.

You may not be aware, but I have prior professional experience in this area. My frustration with the BBKA website stems from watching a poorly-specified solution be shoehorned in, presumably at a cost of several tens of thousands of pounds, with key decisions being made apparently upon aesthetics rather than functionality. Need I mention the BBKA forum, or the graphics-heavy initial layout, or the navigation menus that used to overflow off-screen? Thankfully some of these issues have been addressed, but neither swiftly nor, it appears, graciously.

The three issues I quoted were not saved up, they were issues that I saw yesterday morning, prompted by a website visit following a discussion elsewhere about past paper questions. The free availability of shop content is not a new issue, but neither is this the first time it has been raised. At this stage now I don't care about individual fixes, I see broader issues that need to be addressed.

You have since explained to me that the News item error was due to "an illegal character", and that had I have told you directly then it would probably have been fixed in a matter of minutes. I do not care what caused the news headline link to be broken. The point here is that the October one had gone unnoticed for a month. Where was the process that says "When you change it, you test it" ? That is what is at fault and of concern here, not whether some "illegal character" popped up. There will always be typos - but where is the process to catch them before they become a problem or an embarrassment? This is part of our public face.

My concern with the navigation of the site is that useful information is excessively buried - too many links before you find it. How different would it look if organised based on real usage data? Do we know anything about who visits the site, what they are looking for when they visit, and where they go on the site? Do we know which pages, links, or banners prompt visitors to go to the shop, or to donate? If not, can we be sure that the site is arranged according to their needs, and in an easy-to-find fashion, and that we are making the most of the opportunity to sell? Do we have the courage to re-organise the content to make it easier to find if usage data indicates this?

You mention site visitor statistics. Before we grade the essay by weighing the pages, what do we know about those visitors? If we know nothing about those visitors and how they use the site then is it still reasonable to assume that all those visitors found what they wanted and went away happy?

You have also expressed great dismay that I would withhold details of a problem. I would re-iterate that the issue here is not that exam papers can be freely downloaded, but that apparently nobody has checked to see what weaknesses there are with the webshop. This could be a trivial one-off, or there could be other problems unseen and unknown. Considering that the shop processes customer transactions and payments, what are the implications if there were to be other problems? What I have found would be revealed by the most trivial of audits; that it is unknown does not fill me with confidence. Thus with the best interests of the BBKA in mind, I tell you that there is a problem and you need to go and look more carefully at the shop.

The questions for the BBKA as an organisation should be:

What is the purpose of the BBKA website?
How do site users/visitors use the website?
Does the current website meet both sets of needs?
Can improvements be made?
What procedures are in place for checking the website?
What procedures are in place for auditing the website?

Perhaps you are right and I am the only one interested in such "tedious" questions.


(I appear to have lost Doug's reply to the above, I believe from the context however that they further exercised his dismay at me not giving the specifics of the mis-configuration of the website)

Dan Basterfield said:
(again to the broader circulation list)

Doug - back off. You are taking this personally. You are too close to this website and cannot see the wood for the trees. You may wish to "print it out, screw it up in a ball and throw it in the wastepaper bin", as you said before, but then that is your choice and your loss.

I will re-iterate that I do not care what the individual errors are, nor how quickly they might be fixed. The problems I see are much more significant - governance and strategy, in short. I would not care if we were discussing problems with the office photocopier, but this website is a costly and very public face of the BBKA.

I will not continue this petty tangential sniping match with you. The principles here are more important and need to be discussed in the round, openly, robustly, and for the benefit of the BBKA. No sacred cows.

All -

Some of you may not be aware that I have prior professional experience in this area, as a technology architect and infrastructure designer within large UK financial institutions.


My fundamental concern is that there is no apparent strategy or governance for this website. I judge this on the public results: the website. I have had no involvement with its inception or operation, but as an outsider looking in there are serious questions to ask. No personal comment or criticism is intended. I do not expect perfection.

There needs to be a clear strategy and a level of oversight which is divorced from day-to-day matters, and asks such questions as:

What is the purpose to the BBKA of the website?
How do users/visitors make use of the website?
Does it currently satisfy both sets of requirements?
Where can it be improved?
How/when is it tested?
How/when is it audited?

I do not know the exact dates, but I believe it has been at least two years since the website was developed. Therefore there are further questions:

What was the budget?
What have been the ongoing costs?
What were the requirements and/or success criteria?
Has it delivered against these requirements or criteria?

If we do not know the answers to these questions, we cannot say that it has not been a waste of time, effort, and money. I am aware that much personal effort and time will have been invested in this project, but I must ask some blunt questions with the interests of the BBKA in mind.

White knight

I am not convinced, on the evidence of the website as delivered and its ongoing 'fixing', that Whiteroom produced the product that was required. A clear example was the BBKA Forum, which did not provide basic functions for a discussion forum, and essentially killed off that avenue of engagement with members and/or public. It was done so badly that it appeared to be an intentional pulling of the plug. Another was the example of the early 'big menus', which frequently overflowed off the bottom or right of the screen, rendering navigation difficult and frustrating. Why were such poor solutions ever incorporated, and who has paid to rectify them?

To facilitate this governance and strategy, the BBKA need a 'white knight' who understands website technology and who can robustly assess and challenge both BBKA requirements and Whiteroom's proposals. I do not want this job. There may be a number of suitable candidates within the BBKA's membership, but they must have relevant professional experience, certainly not a well-intentioned amateur; otherwise, pay for the skills externally. Without this guidance the BBKA is necessarily an innocent abroad, reliant upon the guidance of a single supplier with a vested commercial interest.

Procedures & oversight

There needs to be disinterested review of the following, on an ongoing basis, comprising BBKA staff & trustees with the guidance of the 'white knight':

1) Testing. Where is the change testing and ad-hoc testing that should prevent, e.g. broken links from being spotted for a month? Why isn't every change tested immediately after it is made? What are the processes for testing and sign-off of more significant changes than day-to-day editing?

2) Audit. Where is the auditing of the website so that we know it is secure? Due diligence would suggest that we should check that our members' and customers' data is secure, rather than waiting for somebody to tell us if there is a problem; they may tell the media first. What is the reputational risk if there is a problem?

3) Usage data. What do we know about our 6,000 vists a week? If nothing, or next to nothing, then we are grading the essay by weighing the pages. There are umpteen questions about what visitors are looking for, how readily they find it, where they leave the site, whether visitors are converted into shoppers (and how/where). Unless we know something about our users, how do we know how many of those 6,000 leave satisfied or dissatisfied? Google Analytics is one route to this, and it is free.

4) Commercial. If the intention is for the website to make money, or at least cover its operating costs, what do we know about the commercial aspects? Which Google searches bring most users to the site? Which Google searches bring most shoppers or donors to the site? Where does the site appear in search engine rankings? Is paid-for advertising suitable for increasing shop visits/income? How would commercial success be measured and reviewed? Google Analytics is again one route to data to support this.

5) Usability. Use the usage data to map out a functional view of the website, place commonly accessed material at the forefront. Internet users have short attention spans. Give them what they want, quickly and easily, and they will have a positive experience and association with the BBKA. Review usage on an ongoing basis and ask "Can we organise content better?". Justify why a rearrangement based upon usage patterns wouldn't work. Justify why rarely-visited pages should not be deleted, combined, or otherwise parked out of the way. Are any unnecessary obstacles placed in the way of navigation?

6) Social media. We have the buttons on the website - Facebook and Twitter - but how do we measure what it achieves? How much time is invested in managing social media, how much is it a reputational benefit vs. reputational risk? Opening up two-way social media channels with the public requires an ongoing commitment.

7) Platform & design. Is the website constructed using off-the-shelf components, or bespoke? Bespoke ties you to one hosting/design partner, off-the-shelf gives you (the customer!) the option to change hosting/design partner without reinventing the wheel (at cost). What are the requisite client device (visitor) technologies & capabilities (e.g. input methods, screen sizes, etc.) and how can client device (visitor) incompatibilities be handled gracefully, or can the site be rendered in a reduced, compatible, form? What do we know about our visitor's client devices, and how is this changing over time?

Specific problems

Having said that I do not care what the specifics raised are, or how they are fixed, you need to understand why they caused me such frustration, regardless of technical details:

1) Free downloading of Module past papers. See the principles of auditing (2) above. Furthermore, I am greatly worried that if I give details, then yet another sticking plaster will be applied, instead of any testing or auditing. The problem may well be a trivial one-off, but there may be others, potentially more significant. Even the most basic of site audits would have thrown my problem up, therefore I conclude that the website & shop has never been audited. I will maintain my position with a clear conscience: there is a problem with the website & shop, you need to look more carefully at it.

2) Broken News links. See the principles of testing (1) above.

3) iPhone. The site was failing because Javascript was turned off; this is always "turn off- and on-able" in all browsers for technical and security reasons; I cannot remember if/when/why I last turned it on or off, but failure should not have been catastrophic. The website navigation menu relies upon Javascript being on, so did not appear, rendering the site inaccessible. Instead of failing gracefully with a message, as so many websites do, of "Please turn on Javascript", I instead got half the graphics and a big white box in the middle of the screen. Was it me? Was it the website? Why should I have to fiddle opportunistically with settings, or phone/email the office to find out? Would most site visitors bother? This is a design failing. See platform/design (7) above.

Branding vs. Content

A website has many requirements, two of which are to project an organisation's image, and to service visitors/customers. Branding is important in this, but should not be overbearing. The original site delivery from Whiteroom was a chaos of branding and images that occupied the majority of screen space. Much of this has been removed or toned down - thankfully - in the recent refresh. Quite whether this was driven by an awareness of usability issues, or by a desire to be "tablet ready" is unclear. However, it showed an appetite for change where change could be constructively justified. This is the right attitude and needs to continue, within a framework of governance and strategy.

There are many areas where comprehensive branding is valuable, such as a homepage, information about the organisation and its campaigns, indeed any pages designed to encourage donations, memberships or other forms of support for, or identification with, the organisation. There are other areas where branding is intrusive and unnecessary, usually where the function of that area of the website is concerned with providing information.

Why, when I want to download a Module syllabus, do I have to click through three pages beyond the homepage, each with a two-inch high photo that I have to scroll past to find the next links or the content I am after? There is already a BBKA banner at the top; I know that I am still on the BBKA website and that (if I find what I want) it is the BBKA that has satisfied me. How does it help me to see a picture of beehives or textbooks when I am probably already familiar with both?

If you think this is a petty concern, consider the average laptop. With a typical screen height still of 768 pixels, this combined branding/photo/navigation bar occupies 430 of those pixels, almost half of which (200) are this unnecessary photo embellishment. You are dooming site users to scroll and scroll to find the information they are looking for, exacerbating any irritation at how many pages need to be clicked through. Use branding where it is appropriate, reduce or remove it where it is not.

Content Champions

At various points, I have found simple things difficult to find. Until recently, the only sure-fire way to find the BBKA Recommended Reading List was to look at the Basic Certificate page - it was absent within the Module or Examinations pages. Clearly a simple oversight and easily rectified, but it raises questions both about the complexity of the site, and of the ownership and understanding of the content being presented.

I propose that the website is too complex, and the content too diverse, for any one person to be expected to have complete understanding. Devolving editing of areas of the site content to interested committees or individuals, with certain freedom to present or re-organise as they see fit (within the governance and strategy frameworks) may prove to be a simple way of improving the presentation, relevance, and accuracy of content, and hence maintaining a positive user experience.

In summary

The website started poorly and has teetered along for two (?) years, apparently without clear strategy or governance, with a focus on reactive fixing. It is a significant and very visible public face of the organisation. I strongly suggest that the BBKA needs to take it in hand, apply governance to the project & product, and use independent technical expertise to advise and mediate on both BBKA requirements & supplier proposals/deliverables.



At this point I felt that, even being some years away from doing this work professionally, I had volunteered a significant amount of advice on how to address the problems. I do not like raising problems without suggesting solutions. Plenty of pointers, I thought, if they were interested in fixing the problems with the website...

Doug Brown said:
(to the broader circulation list)

To save everybody’s time and energy I will refer this email to the EC.

Jane Moseley said:
Hi Dan

I am just writing to advise you that your website considerations are in hand and a report is currently in progress. Unfortunately due to the nature of the next EC we are unable to table the item for this meeting. However, I expect the item to be tabled at the following meeting in March.

I will keep you informed.

Kind Regards


... and that's the last I heard about it.
Flip Dan you got more time on your hands than I have to write all that, you need to get some more bees ;)
Interestingly, I needed to look up the names of the Trustees about a month ago, and the list was out of date, still showing the 2013 Trustees. Nothing has changed.

Still, can't say as I didn't try :)
Flip Dan you got more time on your hands than I have to write all that, you need to get some more bees ;)

I know, I know... but in my defence it was outside of the beekeeping season.

But the motivator was that I could see problems, the website is a public thing, and my approach is not to sit on the outside grumbling, but to try to get things to change for the better.

Looking at the exchange almost a year on, I cannot help but be disappointed that nothing has changed.
I know where you are coming from, I told WBKA what I thought of there website having a picture that looks like the Clifton Suspension Bridge lol
I am a committee member on a federation of BKAs and i was asked by the federation committee to contact the BBKA about setting up a web page for the federation with links to all BKAs in the federation,a simple web page

A web page is needed because although all our individual BKAs have there own web sites (all non BBKA sites ) there is no web page for the federation that links these web pages

so I phoned stoneleigh and they told me to contact the web master via the web page as we are not acounty but a federation (There is no county BKA just the federation)

so do you think i have had a reply to the six remail equests i have sent over thepast 6 months NO

like wise the shop,before the module 6 papers were free i tried to buy a few newer ones, only to be confronted with a problem that it wanted to send them digitally to my home address not to me digitally by email, that error persited for three months before it was fixed, it only got changed when i moaned about it on the BBKAdisucssion forum by which time i had taken the module
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so do you think i have had a reply to the six remail equests i have sent over thepast 6 months NO

MM - is your federation a member association of the BBKA? My assumption would be that the BBKA website hosting is offered only to its members, fair enough perhaps since they pay for it ultimately but a timely reply would have put you out of your misery!
MM - is your federation a member association of the BBKA? My assumption would be that the BBKA website hosting is offered only to its members, fair enough perhaps since they pay for it ultimately but a timely reply would have put you out of your misery!

yes,the federation collects BBKA capitation from BKAs, goes to ADM and is in the year book just as if it were a county but greater london has no over seeing County

other BKAs in greater london are either total independant or still remain in their pre 1964 County BKA structure, The federation covers the area of middlesex which was a county BKA but the BBKA said we could not be a BBKA County BKA after 1964 because the county hadbeen abolished so it was set up as a federation of BkAs based loosley on London Boroughs
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yes,the federation collects BBKA capitation from BKAs, goes to ADM and is in the year book just as if it were a county but greater london has no over seeing County

other BKAs in greater london are either total independant or still remain in their pre 1964 County BKA structure, The federation covers the area of middlesex which was a county BKA but the BBKA said we could not be a BBKA County BKA after 1964 because the county had been abolished so it was set up as a federation of BkAs based loosley on London Boroughs

Although we are just one BKA, it would appear that Gwent,which does not exist, has slipped through their non existent counties net.
Dan, it's quite hard to win an argument about whether the glass is half empty or half full. I find myself agreeing with much of what both you and Doug have said. Very pretty website though, but for £40k it should also mow the lawn and cook the dinner.

Interestingly I received an email this morning from a commercial organisation, which I've cut and pasted below. Having seen first hand the massive burden put on individuals just to keep basic membership functions ticking over, I wonder if BBKA would have been better investing in this sort of functionality?

"We have created an online system specifically designed for clubs, societies and associations to help make life easier. It is called XXXXXX, and allows you to:
• Manage all your membership data securely
• Handle subscriptions, including joint memberships
• Run your bookings for events, conferences or courses
• Collect payments from members by Direct Debit, Paypal, bank transfer and cards
• Create email or text messaging lists and communicate easily with your members
• Reduce admin costs
• Increase membership and member participation rates
The service has been priced from £60p.a, is quick to set up and easy to use. It is currently being used by clubs, societies and associations with between 50 and 5000 members. Please click here to view a selection of featured societies. We are running a no-obligation, free trial. This allows you to use the system freely for 3 months to see if it could help you."
Dan, it's quite hard to win an argument about whether the glass is half empty or half full. I find myself agreeing with much of what both you and Doug have said. Very pretty website though, but for £40k it should also mow the lawn and cook the dinner.

Hi Chris - I understand your point. What concerns me about the website security is that any vulnerabilities are invisible until you set out explicitly to find them, but at the same time they are exposed worldwide 24 hours a day.

It's not like a car, where you'd readily spot a flat tyre, or a drip of oil, or hear a new noise to alert you to a problem. Worse than that, vulnerabilities change over time as patches are released, new exploits discovered, new patches released etc.

What concerned me most was that after 2+ years of the new site, the shop had obvious errors that any level of security audit would have unearthed. That meant that no security audit had taken place. The website stores logon details for members and processes financial transactions for the shop. What was the risk, then, of continuing with no checking?

This was why I was insistent not to reveal the details of the problem, because of the danger that it would be fixed as a symptom rather than having the root cause addressed.
yes,the federation collects BBKA capitation from BKAs, goes to ADM and is in the year book just as if it were a county but greater london has no over seeing County

In BBKA Constitution-speak your federation is an 'Area Association' and thus it does not matter if it maps to a specific county or not. The key test is that you collect & pay capitation to the BBKA.

You should get the service that you are entitled to, and that you are still waiting after six months is very poor. Perhaps tell them that you will withhold next year's capitation payment until you receive a satisfactory response?!

If you look on the BBKA contacts page you'll find David Teasdale listed as 'webmaster' with contact details. Alternatively phone Jane Moseley at the office. Emphasise your 'Area Association' status and ask why it has taken so long to get this set up.

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