Technical case study: Bike To Work

Back in 2011, the organizers of Bike To Work Switzerland approached my employer !frappant Webfactory to re-develop their website and the participants’ admin system. I worked with a third-party usability consultant to re-think and re-design the project, before I carried out the design work in Photoshop and the team and I subsequently produced the website on the base of the TYPO3 content management system.

The first hurdle for the re-design was that the website and admin tool should be useable on various devices, from smartphone-sized screens to usual desktop computers. The end user was to be able to simply access the website, log in, and maintain the company or team information as required, without being limited to a desktop computer.

That meant the implementation of an adaptive, “mobile first” approach to coding; the implementation of HTML5 was a given, having become more widely supported during 2010 in all but the oldest web browsers. Once the initial template and various content elements had been designed and programmed, I was pleased to find that my semantic coding style led to only a modicum of tweaks for outdated versions 7 and 8 of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which is sadly still in use in many offices.

The biggest challenge for the website was always going to be the number of visitors it was likely to receive and we made sure that the technical infrastructure was solid. In particular, the server is up-rated during the peak period and a Varnish server takes the heavy load of the static content pages, whilst all of the participants are updating their information and marking their participation in the custom calendar interface pictured in this blog post.

As the project has been steadily more and more successful as it becomes more widely-known in Switzerland, it’s satisfying to know that so many of the participants are using the system we built on a daily basis. When the subject of work projects comes up in discussion, it’s not often that Bike To Work hasn’t been heard of, so the website is one that I’m proud to count amongst my portfolio projects and amongst the portfolio of our agency projects.

The 2013 month-long event has just come to a close and the figures are quite something: around 50,000 participants in 12,718 teams from 1,602 companies pedaled 7.2 million kilometres in June. The number of participating companies has increased by 10% in the two years since we took over the project and although we can’t claim any credit for the amount of effort put in by the participants, they cycled 6% further for the project in 2013 than in 2012.

Long may the project continue: not just for the environmental advantages of participants leaving their cars at home, but also because of the interesting continual development of the online system which we maintain.

(Note: design, concept and technical work for the website was taken on by third-party agencies in 2013 and 2015.)

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