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Mark Moxon, Web Developer

My Portfolio: Victoria and Albert Museum

The V&A home page
The V&A website is now accessible

During my two-and-a-half years at the Victoria and Albert Museum, I was promoted twice, first from Web Content Manager to Web Developer, and then up to Web Technical Manager, the most senior technical web position in the museum. As a result I gained a broad experience of managing a large corporate website, from content creation to the subtleties of XSL. Highlights include the following:

Accessibility

When I became Web Developer, the code used to produce the V&A's website was in a terrible state. Most pages had upwards of 150 errors that would cause W3C validation to fail, and the site failed to meet even the most basic accessibility requirements. I commissioned completely new HTML templates for the site, working closely with the designers to produce code that could be broken down into building blocks that would fit into the data model used in the museum's CMS, Rhythmyx.

Once the designers had finished building a compliant site, I recoded over 250 XSL templates in Rhythmyx to ensure that the code produced by the CMS was standards-compliant. Once that was done, I went through all Level A and AA accessibility requirements, and made sure that either the V&A website met them, or we had a plan in place to work towards meeting them.

Enterprise-level CMS

Part of an application resource in Rhythmyx
I went through every part of the V&A's content management system and tidied up code, data flows and templates, resulting in a more reliable system

Not only was the site's code a mess, but I also inherited a content management system that was in disarray, even though it had only been bought recently. The system – based on Rhythmyx from Percussion Software – had been customised to such an extent that nobody in the museum understood how it worked. The result was that when things went wrong, there were no in-house skills to call on, and attempts to fix things normally made it worse. This didn't prevent the site relaunching with a new design and CMS in , but it did mean the relaunch brought a whole host of new problems, not least the unreliability of the new CMS.

I went on a Rhythmyx training course and read all the documentation that came with the CMS, and then I went through every aspect of the system to ensure that not only did I understand how it worked, but that it was set up properly. I completely revamped the system's workflows, menu structures, user roles, naming conventions, content editors and page templates, and over the course of a year I transformed the system from problem child to functional system.

Web Programming

The V&A events calendar
I maintained and developed the V&A's events calendar, which combined Perl code with an Oracle database back-end

I developed and maintained a number of web applications at the V&A, particularly in Perl, PHP, and MySQL. Highlights include:

Web 2.0 Technologies

During the last six months of my employment, I introduced a number of Web 2.0 technologies to the website, including podcasts, RSS feeds and artist blogs.

As a freelancer, I implemented an Ajax-based slideshow for the museum's 150th anniversary, which thelondonpaper called 'rather fetching'. The slideshow is driven by a MySQL database that stores details of each of the 150 slides, and the JavaScript-powered slideshow queries the database asynchronously via Ajax, only fetching the details of the next slide when they are needed. Slides are fetched and displayed in a random order, and the information is buffered three slides ahead to ensure a regular slideshow speed, even over slow connections. Slides fade in and out smoothly and the speed of the slideshow can be altered using a slider, and there are also controls for pausing and resuming the slideshow, as well as stepping forwards and backwards through the presentation.

Server Administration

The V&A uses Linux/Apache serve the website, and Windows servers for running Rhythmyx. I trained in Apache administration and worked with the system administrator to maintain the performance of the servers while visitor traffic to the website trebled in just two years.

Web Project Management

I managed a number of web projects from inception to completion, including the production of the Christopher Dresser exhibition microsite and the Ceramic Points of View site. The latter involved 60 videos and transcripts, each of them streamed via QuickTime from an Akamai streaming server.

Web Analytics

When I became Web Technical Manager, I inherited a web stats package that was on its last legs; it could no longer cope with the size of log file being produced by the V&A web servers. To solve this problem, I bought a new server and installed WebTrends on it, pointing it to the log store on our Linux server, to which WebTrends connected via Samba. I set up profiles for each of the six web servers in the V&A server farm and collated the statistics monthly, ready to report to the DCMS every year.

I also set up a Google Analytics account for the museum and added Analytics JavaScript to the content management, thus allowing the main V&A and Museum of Childhood sites to be monitored by client-side tagging, alongside the log file analysis of WebTrends. This proved a useful comparison, particularly in the grey area of geographical location of visitors.

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