Web Technik is no longer operating, however past customers now have essentially the same services provided by LaserTechnik Ltd who can also build new web sites.
We also provide ad-hoc services through Website Rescue to anyone in need of internet support and maintenance regardless of who built your site.
Our aim is to fix the problem promptly and inexpensively, we’ll not try to sell you a new website (unless that’s what you want).
Why was Web Technik closed?
The history of Web Technik goes back a little before its formation in 1994 and is something of a history of the WWW.
For many years I was an IT manager at Midland Bank (now HSBC). I was involved in communications technology there and in a private capacity, being a home user of the now long defunct Prestel. When the internet became available outside the original academic and military userbase I was an early adopter. At that time internet filled a similar role to Prestel but far more versatile.
Our start in creating web sites
I was experimenting with internet technologies before the WWW was “invented” as a result of Tim Berners-Lee’s creation of the web page building language HTML. Before that there were a raft of tools like ARCHIE, IRC, email, GOPHER, VERONICA, UseNet, FTP. Those still exist but several have almost fallen into disuse.
Things improved immensely once the first credible web-browser Mosaic Netscape (later renamed Netscape Navigator), became available. Initially it was text-only, to view images the PC would need to open a separate image program but it was being rapidly enhanced with frequent new improved versions.
I created a simple web site for my wife’s then employer just as an exercise, they paid a small amount which we used to buy a domain name and some web-space.
My work at the bank was in related programming and communication technologies and we set up a working party of myself and representatives of the Bank’s data networks and IT security teams as we found we were all being asked about the internet and were keen to present a consistent set of responses.
Microsoft had seen the opportunities the internet was opening and initially attempted to respond with a proprietary competitor (code name Blackbird). That fell flat but their launch of IE (Internet Explorer) “legitimised” the internet in the eyes of business leaders although IE was also intended to destroy the competition. It was free (Netscape Navigator V2 cost about $50 per PC) and included additional proprietary features. As web developers Microsoft offered us free software to build web sites as long as they made use of the proprietary features and included the wording “Best viewed with Internet Explorer” (we declined). However Microsoft was seen as having endorsed the technology and businesses were now more inclined to take a positive view.
The Bank had initially dismissed the internet as a fad for nerds and geeks. That changed when a student pressure group set up a web site critical of the banks for providing financial services to organisations the students disapproved of. The marketing department was concerned and felt a response was needed. Rather than discuss with IT they chose to use an external agency to create the Bank’s first web-site. They charged an enormous figure for a small and unimpressive web site. My response was that I could have done the job in an afternoon but without the coding errors. I was challenged to prove that so I did.
When I told Wendy, my wife, always rather more entrepreneurial than me, she said “If you can make that much for a half-day’s work we need to be doing the same” and promptly set up a business.
There were few organisations ready and able to spend £thousands on something they didn’t use or understand but still, in the early 1990s even charging £100 for a half-day’s effort was more than an experienced programmer would earn.
To use the internet back then you needed a PC, at a typical cost of around £1000, a modem (£200) and a software bundle (£100). The modem plugged into a phone socket, but many phones were hard-wired so you’d need BT to change to a socket. Dial-up modems that had been 9600 bits per second were being replaced by progressively faster technologies reaching 56kb by the end of the ’90s, even then a photo could take several seconds to download. My current broadband connection is 100,000 times faster than my 1993 modem and I can live-stream high definition video. Back then the number of websites globally was only in the low tens of thousands (now there are over a billion) and few businesses or consumers had the necessary equipment to view web sites.
Another cost-barrier was domain names for the web-address. When .co.uk names became commercially available it was at a high one off cost for life rather than at present an annual fee. If I recall correctly that fee was £200 making the cost of a website significantly more, the total being prohibitively high for businesses taking a risk for a still unproven benefit. Instead we purchased sheffield.co.uk and initially we could provide businessess in and around Sheffield with an address like sheffield.co.uk/business-name for a nominal fee. Later Nominet reneged on the “name for life” deal and require an annual fee. (By the way we still own sheffield.co.uk but make little use of it, it is a highly desirable and sought-after name and is for sale – offers over £50,000 will be considered.)
It was very difficult to make a sales-pitch when few businesses had heard of the internet, far fewer had access or even a PC. We decided that the best approach was to work on the basis of making small affordable web sites with a view to growing with those customers as awareness of the advantages and opportunities evolved. We could demonstrate web sites in a potential customer’s offices on a laptop without the need for an internet connection. We addressed the full scope of requirements including helping to set up PCs and modems, tutorials, securing domain names and providing hosting and email. As a result some of those bold “first movers” had some fantastic successes, many found unexpected new export markets for their products one landing a £6m contract as a consequence! Another has grown from a small Sheffield shop to become the UK’s main retail supplier of their category of retail goods seeing off some well-known competitors who were slower to act.
We quickly found that my wife, with my technical assistance when not at my day job, and working from a spare bedroom was not enough. In 1996 we registered Web Technik Ltd having recruited Pauline then Sue to help. We’d moved into commercial office space and added more staff. As I was only involved occasionally for the more complex technical issues it was effectively an all-woman business, that was undeniably an advantage when trying to sell the concept to skeptical businessmen.
Web Technik grew bigger. The business was progressing well, adding more staff and moving to a larger offices.
What went wrong
In 1998 Wendy became unwell and after months of ill health she died in early 1999. Without the driving force behind the business, we were haemorrhaging money. With my day-job two young kids and an elderly mother needing my support I was operating at full-stretch. I decided to scale back, having to make the difficult decision to make some staff unemployed and move to more affordable office space.
We kept going for a further 15 years but never recovered our market-leading position. We were no longer one of a few in the country but one of many in Sheffield alone. In 2014 a combination of Pauline wanting to retire, Sue having had an accident leading to very lengthy treatment and recovery time I decided it was time to pull down the shutters.
We had responsibility dozens of client’s web sites. I ensured continuity of service for them by paying all my suppliers for up to a year ahead and there was cash in the bank in case of need. I had expected everyone to move away. Only 3 did in the first few months and I was continuing to provide ad-hoc support for the rest. I decided the best option was to put them them onto a more secure footing. I created another business to provide continuity of service and a basis on which I could charge for ongoing tasks. After a year nobody else had moved away. I was concerned about those with ecommerce sites, with daily turnover into the £thousands. I felt it was unwise for them to be reliant on a one-person business so I helped them move to alternative providers.
I continue to provide support, web hosting and domain name services under the auspices of lasertechnik.co.uk and still have customers dating back to the mid 1990s. I still get business referrals and continue to build web sites. My motivation is that I have a unique skill set based on a long career in IT and with the internet since the earliest days. For me, IT isn’t a job but a vocation. I get satisfaction from using my knowledge and experience. My customers benefit from my, perhaps unequalled, knowledge base and also with no employees or office space overheads, my charges are hard to beat.
There have always been problems with web site designers. The “cost of entry” to becoming a web designer is virtually nothing, there are no meaningful qualifications, there’s free software and inexpensive hosting, you can run a business from a spare room. As a consequence there are now tens of thousands of individuals and businesses offering web services. Most have a very limited skill set and many quickly discover it’s too difficult and not very lucrative so they move on. Those who stay are seldom interested in the small-budget ongoing maintenance and support tasks just wanting the more lucrative new builds and redesigns. The result is many businesses at least disappointed with their designers at worst left completely in the lurch. I doubt there’s anyone else around in the UK who’s been creating and maintaining commercial web sites since the early 1990s but still actively involved. Several times in the past I’ve helped people who have found their website disappeared overnight, the designer cannot be contacted and he had both domain name and hosting in his own name.
I can look after the ongoing needs of your web site so you can focus on your business
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