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E-commerce Project Misses Launch Deadline

Aug 27 2003 13:13
Nia Stevens
Yesterday saw another deadline for soft launch of the Union Shop's new website pass by. Sources in the Union say however that the website will be up and running this afternoon.
The new website - now featuring the Union shop logo!

Having missed its original launch deadline on 1st July, the website?s launch has been delayed several times following numerous setbacks including conflicts with the contracted web developers, UK Presence, and the hiring of the wrong type of server for the website. The site, which will eventually be accessible through, will finally be lauched just under 2 months late, narrowly missing this most recent deadline.

Since there was no available server to host the website, a problem created since the server initially hired to host the site ran a Microsoft Windows operating system, incompatible with the Unix based website, the website is currently running on the Union web server. Increased capacity to cope with the additional burden the website would create has been created through exchanging the Union web server?s CPU with that of the Union file server (which is faster) and up-grading the hard drive. This was a planned change that had previously been budgeted for under general Union computer maintenance but has been brought forward to help run the shop website.

The problems with UK Presence have been less easy to resolve. Union President, Mustafa Arif has declined to make further payments to the company pending a written contract for the project. Following this decision, UK Presence ceased work on the project with much of the work left uncompleted. It seems that last minute work has been carried out, bringing the website to a state of apparent completion for its launch this afternoon.

Other controversies associated with this project include the omission of the Union name or logo from early versions of the website. The website does now include the Union shop logo.

The project, initially budgeted to cost £15k, is now feared to have a final cost of £22k. It is hoped that through selling high quality merchandise varying from a Sterling Silver Signet ring to an Imperial College Bear, the website, which is aimed mainly at College alumni, will make a profit for the Union.

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Discussion about “E-commerce Project Misses Launch Deadline”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Aug 27 2003 14:44

22k? Someone's taking the piss right?

Aug 27 2003 14:58

Yeah. I never knew pizza was so expensive!

Aug 27 2003 16:30

Especially with El Presidente's frugal purchasing strategy...

Aug 27 2003 16:44

Oliver, which El Presidentes frugal spending? surely not the current inciumbant... I think you mean the imediatly-past-el-presidante.... ,-)

Aug 27 2003 17:06

22 grand is taking the piss.

they should have just got a load of students to do it.

it would have cost ?5, taken half a day and been 10 times better.....

i bet its written in ASP isn't it?

Aug 27 2003 19:26

Sadly no, I was referring to the current incumbent's money saving technique of acquiring a single pizza for 4 people...

As for why students weren't used, this has been covered before - basically because of the timing (though this is now completely irrelevant because the whole thing is so late). Students have been busy finishing it off...

Aug 27 2003 22:04

Getting Windows server when you need UNIX - how dumb can you get? Seriously, who was responsible? I would hope it's nobody within the union itself - but then I would also hope UK Presence know a thing or two about running a website.

Ah, what a thoughtful gift for your loved one - a "Heart Atomiser". ?13.95 and turn your internal organs into vapour.

8. Sam   
Aug 27 2003 22:27

"a bunch of lamers":

Interestingly, as the article said (i presume you actually read it right? rather than just commenting on a spurious headline) a Windows Server was NOT SUFFICIENT, whereas a Unix based server was. As all those of us who are aware of the technology and don't simply quote buzzwords they've heard in techno-journals without actually reading the substance of the article know, ASP (Active Server Pages) is a Microsoft Windows technology. If the site doesn't run on Windows Servers, how likely is it that it's written in ASP? It's a rhetorical question - unless someone wrote a page in perl specifically for the Apache::ASP module, disregarding the fact that such a page wouldn't run on Windows Servers, and completely forgetting that mod_perl is sooo much better, it just wouldn't happen.

I'd really love it if people like "a bunch of lamers" confined themselves to commenting on subjects of which they know. Which should lead to much much less commenting by people like that.

Think before you post people, and i won't have to get sarcastic again.

9. kevin   
Aug 28 2003 00:17

Some thoughts:

22K is silly money.

  • If you click through to the checkout, the following entertainment is provided:

"Checkout Closed

Because of the high volume of orders we are currently experiencing, it has been necessary for us to temporarily close the checkout area of the website.

This is only a temporary measure to allow us to catch up on orders and to ensure that the time it takes your order to reach you it kept to a minimum.

Please bear with us, and check back soon!

Imperial College Union Shop"

  • How does it compare with:

  • Is " The silk used in the waistcoat and cummerbund is woven exclusively for us in England." remotely credible?
10. amti   
Aug 28 2003 08:41


Which bit of 'the website has not been launched' do you not understand. Surely as the thing is not complete you can't be surprised that it won't let you place your order yet?

11. n/a   
Aug 28 2003 10:46

So, how much does the ICU stationary Shop on the walkway make on the very same items & product lines? Is the revenue anywhere near big enough to justify spending ?15,000 (let alone ?22,000) on an online presence?

To be honest, I suspect that most of the purchases are made in on the days around the graduation ceremonies (when parents are there, proudly spending ?90 for a dinner, ?50 for photos and other ridiculous prices for useless stuff) and when the shop offers things at half price (i.e. for IC to Imperial rebranding purposes).

I doubt alumni who have left IC long ago will spend so generously... and, in graduation week, everyone is <i>there</i> to buy the stuff over the counter, in person, anyway, so no need for online shops...

Aug 28 2003 11:20

Ak. This has nothing to do with money, only internal politics between Sherfield and Beit. The spending of silly money today is to secure shop revenue for the future.

13. simon   
Aug 28 2003 12:43

Is that an Imperial College Crest I see on that fleece???

14. Sam   
Aug 28 2003 16:59


The "Quality" lines have the crest - the old tat for tourists has the logo.

Aug 29 2003 16:26

It actaully looks surprisingly tasteful, design and navaigation very easy and nice to use. (especially as its written in php - yuk).

Certainly much better than the main college website which runs about as fast as a knackered tortoise.

However, not worth ?22k.

I reckon DoC students would have doen the tecnical job right, but it would have had the look and feel of pile of horses**t. DoC students aren't taught interface design (not well anyway) - I remember them trying to redesign the DoC web site and it looked rubbish.

Shame the content is a bit overpriced (the scarf is ?25 when i bought mine 2 years ago for ?15).

Hopefully this will be the last time the union have to deal with one of Sen's stupid ideas.

16. sporty   
Aug 29 2003 18:32

One good thing to do with the side is that it does valdiate to what it claims to be, and it avoids tables. I like. The site is fine. But it's not exactly inspiring to hear that it cost 22k to develop.

Why wasn't an off the shelf open source shopping basket system used? There are lots of them.

A Worldpay account to handle the monies costs ?399, and if you felt lazy you can use their award winning store builder software, or any of the modules for popular commercial eCommerce systems.

Total cost - ?399. F**k it, I'll chuck a consultancy fee of ?2000 on for stating the bleedin obvious, and be generous and allow another ?2000 for someone to throw some nice graphics (or preferably, some nice XHTML / CSS design) onto the site. Both those figures are ridiculous, and yet we've still saved ?17601. How about a pint of lager (XXXX rather than berg) for every full time student? We've still got a few quid left over, but we'll stick that in a pot and quadruple the non-medic RAG total.

People may point to previous incumbent presidents to blame for this absolutely shocking state of affairs, but we should really have assurance that things like this simply won't be permitted to happen in future. IT consultancies are renowned for being a) overpriced b) underskilled and c) lazy.

As for DoC students not knowing design - it's a bit off to expect the lecturers to talk knowledgeably about design when they are expected to introduce important concepts like basic HTML to the 2nd year students. Design is best learnt through example, experimentation and experience, and I can't see this being squeezed into the a**e half of the 'ecommerce' course as is currently present in DoC. What would be good would be one lecture on elementary colour theory.


17. sporty   
Aug 29 2003 18:33

Oh, the irony. Any helpful ed's feel like making me look less of a tit? ta.

Aug 29 2003 19:14

I think you will find the pictures cost about ?4.5k so ?22k wasn't all on software costs.

Aug 29 2003 20:31


Tidied your post up a bit. As for site validation, your very own El Presidente had to sort that out with his own bare hands!

"UKPresence can deliver on cost and on time"

Aug 30 2003 21:13

Whilst the ongoing debate about the calibre of the coding of the site, and whether the site is worth the money spent is worthy of debate (although I can shorten it: it's a waste of money), surely the bigger issue here is the complete bastardisation of a Union service by the College? When the College administration first neutered the Bookshop in favour of Waterstones in 1996 (and wasn't that a success...?) a guarantee was given that the Union would have free reign to relaunch the shop as a stationery/regalia shop, and within a few years we were turning the profit over again.

Now, thanks to the lastest piece of Rector-rectum-searching by the not-lamented President Ganesh we appear to be marketing the shop on behalf of the College. How much longer before they insist on equal, or majority management decisions? This is, as the old cliche goes, the thin edge of the wedge.

Indeed, were I still to be a student at our once-fine establishment I might even bring a short motion to Council in order to give the College a reminder that we're here for the interest of our members, not their branding. And that motion might simply go along the following lines:

  • This Union notes student opposition to the recently-implemented College brand
  • This Union further notes the side-lining of Union identity on the new Union Shop website, in favour of the new Imperial College brand
  • This Union resolves to discard, and not replace, all stock in the Union shop bearing the new College brand

I'm sure it would carry the support of the student body, and would send a clear message to the Rector that the Union isn't just another department he can manipulate to his whim, but the representative body of the 10,000+ students that make it possible for his institution to exist.

21. tom t   
Aug 31 2003 12:41

Hear hear heepsie,

But couldn't we sell that awful new brand stuff to alumni americans instead of discarding it? It's more eco-friendly, and removes the problem of waste disposal to the other side of the pond.

Aug 31 2003 13:12

Andy: "give the College a reminder that we're here for the interest of our members, not their branding"

But surely as far as the shop is concerned, it's the other way round? Imperial College's branding is for the benefit of the shop. And it is up to Imperial College how the union can use their brand isn't it? If college didn't let the union use any of its branding (whether the new logo or the crest), the merchandise in the shop would even more closely resemble overpriced c**p.

And somehow I don't see "Imperial College Union" branded items selling to alumni at all.

Aug 31 2003 17:22

Not quite, the Union has blanket authority under the Memorandum of Understanding with the College to use the crest, so long as we are generally respectful of College's illustrious status, or something along those lines.

24. sporty   
Sep 02 2003 11:38

It seems this project is far from being complete. All DoC students have just received an email, forwarded to us from Mustafa. It seems that

"The site is due to launch at the end of August yet work beyond the initial launch is expected to last into November."

Given that one of the key roles described in the email is testing, is it the case that UKPresence have thrown together some untested, unproven code, and tried to foist it off on us? One would hope that part of our contract with UKPresence would be a guarentee of security and reliability within the constraints of the shop - this is hardly rocket science.

While it may be flogging a dead horse to continue to whinge about the project, it is somewhat sad that still more money has to be paid from union coffers to finish this project off.

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