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About the client

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) independently assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of police forces and fire & rescue services – in the public interest. The website hosts all the reports and inspection findings, press releases, organisational documents and information about the organisation and what they do.

About the project

We needed to migrate the HMICFRS WordPress website to a new hosting environment. Because it is an active, public-facing website, it was really important to ensure a smooth transition with minimum disruption – for both the website admins and the website visitors.

Project goals

  • Meet the client’s technical requirements: migrate their website to a new hosting environment.
  • Seamless transition: there must be no downtime and the migrated site must look and work identically.
  • Supporting the client: guide the HMICFRS digital communications team on how to work with their website while the migration takes place.
  • Skilled project management: meeting client’s needs, and working with the incumbent agency for a smooth transition.

Migrating to the new hosting environment

We moved the HMICFRS website to AWS scalable hosting which provides a more secure and higher-performance cloud environment and will help the client manage spikes in traffic when needed.

Migrating a website is a bit like reverse engineering: you take all the existing code and rebuild the website in the new hosting environment. However, once we started the project we realised that there wasn’t a lot of documentation available on how the site had been built originally, so our developers set to work to analyse the website code and write new documentation from scratch. This documentation is so important as it affects how the website is maintained in the future.

Documentation is so important in website builds. Getting it all in place from the start saves a lot of work in the future. I know my future self will be much happier when I’m doing some maintenance on this website in six months time.

Gareth Trinkwon
Gareth Trinkwon, Studio 24

Seamless transition

The client didn’t want the migration to affect the look of the website in any way – it had to remain identical.

For this project, it seems appropriate to use the swan analogy – all you see is the beautiful swan gliding along the water serenely when all the power and drive are happening under the surface.

Claire is seated at her desk with a laptop, Alan looks over her shoulder.
Alan and Claire catch up on the project progress

I think the biggest achievement of this project is that no one could see it happening. There was no disruption of service for the website visitors and the website admins were able to continue working on adding content. All while the Studio 24 team were making these quite fundamental changes.

Alan Isaacson
Alan Isaacson, Studio 24

We also took the opportunity to do a bit of housekeeping. We had an in-depth review of the plugins that had been installed previously and we were able to tidy up the plugins to increase performance and reduce bloat.

Supporting the client

It is important that the HMICFRS team keep to their publishing schedule for the reports. This was one of the challenges we faced during the migration: we were migrating a site that is being constantly updated. This introduces a risk that some content might be missed.

To start with it was necessary for the client to add content to the two websites – the original website and the rebuilt site. We were able to make this process more efficient by working closely with the incumbent agency: they gave us access to their GitHub repo and we used this to copy the content from their database to ours when we were notified of each update. We really appreciate the incumbent agency being so open and accommodating with our requests.

We also discovered that the client couldn’t always see that their new or updated content had been added because of the powerful caching on the site. So we added a cache-clearing function that the client could deploy via a simple button in the WordPress editor. This gives them the power to clear the cache and the confidence to know that their content updates have been successful.

Skilled project management

We were migrating the hosting of this website from another digital agency so we needed to quickly establish open communication and a relationship where we could collaborate effectively.

We also needed to build a productive working relationship with the client to make sure the migration went smoothly and provide confidence in the process.

We had weekly stand-ups to ensure we knew what each other was planning, as well as day-to-day communication via Basecamp.

It’s a measure of success that the website users don’t know what’s been going on behind the scenes. The client didn’t have to change any of their processes during the migration. They now have a securely hosted, lighter, and clearly documented website.

Claire McDermott
Claire McDermott, Studio 24
Homepage from HMICFRS website.