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Personally maintained web sites


zurichdivers.com screenshotProvides information for divers in Switzerland

zurichdivers.com was registered in May 2002 but like some of my other sites, also had a hideous set of pages built with Netobjects Fusion. It had some content, but the presentation was awful. In the summer of 2004 I made a concerted effort to improve the site. I completely removed the old site and installed Mambo, a CMS (Content Management System) I had just discovered. I was immediately impressed with it, and began the process over several weeks of filling it with content. In fact, the more content I wrote, the more I felt compelled to write. In the end I had written close to a hundred articles including training information, local dive site guides and many other pieces of generally useful information about diving in and around Zurich.

The writing of the content, as well as tweaking and installing all the various modifications I had made cost me dearly in terms of time - almost three weeks of solid full-time work. I had previously bemoaned the fact that Zurich's dive community was huge, yet the quality of information available online was pitiful. I had hoped that other divers would contribute content in the form of dive site guides, translations or other information. Over one year later the traffic had been considerable and the complements well received, but not a single person had contributed a single thing to the site. The exception was David Schurter who very kindly took on the bulk of the translation work to German. I guess I should have really learned this lesson before, but I continue to make contributions to the community, even when nobody else is interested in joining me.

I had planned to also use enquiries from the site to find new diving students, especially those who wanted courses in English, and channel them towards the dive store where I was working as a "hobby" instructor. Just two weeks after I'd finished the site I parted ways with this dive store due to a disagreement with the owner. The timing was excellent - if I wanted to continue teaching diving as my hobby, I'd need students. Since I wouldn't be running courses for that dive store any longer I had two choices - find another store, or continue as an independent instructor. I chose the latter and never looked back. During the 2005 season I completed over 50 certifications, using the web site and an email newsletter I sent to people who visited the site to spearhead my marketing efforts. With time word of mouth spread, and the site's ranking in Google rose to a very decent PageRank 5. Almost all my new enquiries for diving activities now come in via the web site.

Future plans

Since the site's move to Mambo I have been unable to upgrade it to subsequent versions of Mambo. This is due to all sorts of technical interdependencies which are a little tricky to explain. The Mambo development team all left Mambo and continued developing the product under the name of Joomla! and I plan to eventually migrate the entire site to Joomla! However this will be a project for sometime in 2006, as I plan to build the site from scratch, and then manually move the old content into the new site. As there is a lot of content (in two languages) this won't be a simple task!

Technical details

Site type: Dynamic - uses PHP/mysql
Design: Uses standard peeklime template. Information on graphics
Software used: Mambo 4.5
Hardware used: Hosted on an Asus RS120-E3, housed in a professional data centre


Traffic figures as of October 2005 (average daily figures):

50 visits, 500 pages, 2,500 hits

Also interesting to note: over 30% of all visitors stay longer than 2 minutes indicating that the content is obviously interesting enough to hold their attention. This is a very high proportion compared to other sites.



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