Building a site for a better society

Setting up a Web site in the banking world isn't easy, and to do it without a hitch deserves praise indeed

Setting up a Web site in the banking world isn't easy, and to do it without a hitch deserves praise indeed

Robert Blackmore must have given himself a pat on the back when he relaunched the Norwich & Peterborough Building Society's Internet banking service, writes Roisin Woolnough.

It happened without technical hitches and the IT team even brought the start date forward by two weeks because they finished early. No mean feat in this business.

Blackmore, Internet development manager at Norwich & Peterborough Building Society, says it took eight months from conception of to pilot relaunch.

The first step was mapping out exactly what was needed. "The development team brainstormed requirements and a blueprint of three distinct tiers, including interfaces and requirements. This was established before development commenced," says Blackmore. "It allowed the system to be developed quickly while ensuring a common approach was taken and future growth, such as an alternative client layer, will not impact the system."

A key issue was security. Both internal staff and external consultants did regular checks throughout the project. Support staff used SMS and Wap to monitor the system.

Blackmore says the skill needed most was a detailed understanding of component-based development using VB 6.0.

Extensive knowledge of Com/DCom was required as a Com component was used for all communication between the Web server and the Unisys mainframe system. Blackmore seconded a mainframe specialist to write data access screens.

The initial pages were created in Dreamweaver, then converted to .asp.

This meant the developers had to have a good understanding of HTML tags. Despite the fact that HTML is easier to work with than other languages, Blackmore says it was the one that created most problems. "The worst thing was creating a single HTML code base that runs on both PC and Mac platforms. HTML is far from standard."

The site runs on NT 4.0 servers, running Internet Information Server 4.0.

One thing Blackmore says he learned from the project was having all design work agreed from the onset.

"In retrospect, I would finalise branding before commencing on the client layer. A number of redesigns were taken which slowed down development," he says.

Curriculum Vitae

Name: Robert Blackmore

Job title: development manager

Qualifications: BTec and HNC in computer science, MCP

IT skills: XBase, .asp, VB, Javascript, HTML, SQL, UML, object orientated analysis and design

Hobbies: pets, programming

Favourite pub: The Bell, East Langton

Favourite film: How I Got Into College

Favourite book: Have A Nice Day byMick Foley

Blackmore on Blackmore: quiet but confident

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