Clinical excellence applied online

Gordon Buxton wanted the NHS clinical excellence Web site to be one-click simple. The result is a winner

Gordon Buxton wanted the NHS clinical excellence Web site to be one-click simple. The result is a winner

When Gordon Buxton, senior developer at software consultancy Oxford Computer Consultants (OCC) developed the National Institute of Clinical Excellence's (Nice) Web site, he tried to make it so that users would only ever be one click away from the information, writes Roisin Woolnough.

His efforts paid off because uk won the best Web publication category last year in the Nexus Annual Report awards, a healthcare industry awards event.

"The most important features of a Web-based publication are ease of access, ease of navigation and simplicity of design," explains Tim Kelsey, one of the competition's judges and former news editor of the Sunday Times. "The Nice publication was outstanding in all of these areas."

The site is designed to enable Nice staff with limited HTML skills to manage and update the site. Working with its sister company, Oxford Internet Consultants (Oxinet), OCC used a Web-based content management system and a browser interface so that anyone with access rights could post up news items from anywhere.

Buxton says the BBC's Web site was a source of inspiration throughout the design and development process. "We wrote our site to cope with most of the things that the BBC news Web site does," he explains.

Launched in June 2000, the first version of the site took three months to build, with Buxton concentrating on basic management functionality. After a few months, the site was upgraded with an enhanced user interface. As soon as this went live last December the number of daily hits increased by 10%.

"This proves that users were moving around the site more because we'd improved the navigation," says Buxton.

The core of the site consists of a C++ module talking to Microsoft's SQL Server 7, controlled by various ASP (Active Server Pages) page templates. As OCC and Oxinet had already developed the C++ code and SQL database, most of the work required ASP and Javascript skills.

Buxton was mostly concerned with system installation and ASP development, writing the glue which transformed OCC's technology to suit the site's requirements.
A full mirror of the site and database is maintained on separate servers in case of a fail-over and the files and database are replicated live so that no data will be lost.

Curriculum vitae
  • Name: Gordon Buxton
  • Age: 33
  • Job title: senior developer
  • Qualifications: BA in engineering and computer science
  • IT skills: NT server management, IIS, Linux, SQL Server, ASP, Javascript, C++, VB, Java
  • Hobbies: coaching the Oxford University rowing crew, running, gadgets
  • Favourite pub: The Victoria Arms, Old Marston, Oxford
  • Favourite book: Complicity by Iain Banks
  • Buxton on Buxton: opinionated, quick, short.

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