How we work on Little Warden during the Lockdowns

As we enter week 3 of Lockdown Number 3 in the UK I wanted to give you a bit of an update as to how we are dealing with it and still working on new updates at Little Warden!

Due to the schools closing, we’ve had to open the Hodgson Family Academy once more and lessons run throughout the weekday. It’s a job share with two teachers Mum and Dad and some substitute teachers of Cosmic Kids Yoga, Muzzy and the wonderful team at BBC Bitesize.

Heather and I alternate between one spending an hour or two in teacher mode and one will go to another room and focus on work.

Whilst it isn’t easy, we only get to work on things together when Scarlett is in bed.

We know we are so lucky to have the ability to both work at home and two people to swap with to focus on work, but we know that with the vaccine on the horizon, we have hope that things will return to normal soon!

…and that’s how this thing is supposed to go, some qusai-bullshit-overly-happy everything is going great, buy our product marketing post. 

But that wouldn’t be the truth, the truth is that both Little Warden and I are just starting to get back on track after a terrible terrible year.

Truthfully, when COVID hit and the country descended into lockdown (the first time) we lost a significant % of our customers in the first two weeks,  that was a difficult thing to accept as one of the main design principles of LW was to ‘keep an eye on things when staff aren’t around’, all of our growth, projections and development skidded to a halt and we focused on saving what we could.

Whilst eventually, after the initial panic, a lot of customers came back, new ones started to find us and on this third lockdown we are pretty much stable, this has set us back months if not longer. 

From a personal standpoint, I’ve not handled the last few months well at all. LW is my baby, I get excited about every signup, upset at every cancellation and panic everytime there is a bug (it’s true, just ask Heather), when we lost that many customers in a few weeks, I was heartbroken, I felt like we’d failed and some part of me still does.

Whilst LW was starting to recover, I was struggling with some UX tasks on my todo list, certain functionality that I just couldn’t get right, a task that should have taken a week was taking months.

Add that to the fact that most of my marketing plans for 2020 were shelved and I just didn’t have the energy to work on any more especially as by the end of the year we were heading for another lockdown and at one point. We even had discussions at some points with parties about selling Little Warden.

But then something happened that tipped me over the edge; I got banned from Twitter for a week, initially I didn’t realise how much that would affect me.

In ‘normal times’ I’m a pretty social person, I love conferences, meetups and as a family we eat out with friends and family a few times a week.

During COVID, Twitter has been my main source of social interaction with people, it’s my main communiction platform for friends I’ve known for years (some of whom, I’ve never met), losing that connection to the outside world made it all seem much more real and lonely. 

Obviously this couldn’t continue, with the help of my incredible wife and a few other friends, I started to focus on a daily checklist of achievable goals and outsourcing some of the stuff that I’m struggling with.

Then I had an Icelandic Pizza Moment* A breakthrough with one of the UX issues, this opened the floodgates to creativity.

I created a 6 month marketing plan for Little Warden and we reorganised the feature list responding some loud user feedback and Heather has being doing amazing work on features, tests and updates that our users are already loving (i.e. did you notice we launched teams this week)

Though things still are not ‘great’ the fact I started writing this at 2:30am because once again I’m unable to sleep due to the groundhog day style environment we are living in means I still have things to work on but I KNOW how lucky I am to be in this situation with my amazing wife and daughter who have been so supportive.

Last year I promised to write more posts and send more newsletters, this year I might not write more, but I’m gonna be a little more honest about what’s going on inside the mind of actual Real Dom. 

Well, this got a lot more disheartening than I thought it would and it sort of feels like I need to end it on a happier note and push some marketing stuff for Little Warden?

Our product roadmap and marketing plan have never looked better! Productivity whilst dimished due to the Hodgson Academy is still better than where we were as we have clear and achievable goals.

We’ve just launched TEAMS (finally) and have some more announcements this and next week of exciting updates (or at least as exciting as they can be when you are talking about website monitoring!)

On that note, I can hear the school bell (siri alarm) ringing and it’s time for Teacher Mr Hodgson to clock on and talk about the Number 7 in all it’s forms.

Thank you 

* I’ll explain that in another blog post

Do you have a process for your client domain names?

Recently Google made headlines for not renewing blogspot.in; not only does this break thousands of links across the internet, it’s also pretty embarrassing for the company!

Now losing this domain isn’t the end of the world for Google – blogspot.in is just one of the many GEO domains they use for Blogspot and if they want it back they have deep pockets to buy it.

However, they don’t have a trademark for the term Blogspot (that we could find in the UK or US database) so they have no automatic rights to the domain name, making the process of acquiring the domain back a one-to-one transaction.

And this is big business! There are companies setup to mass monitor expiring domain names and ‘dropcatch’ them for buyers based on ‘how good the name is’ or ‘how many inbound links it has’

It isn’t just Google that has been caught with it’s site down:

  • A few weeks ago, the UK Government forgot to renew a Help to Buy domain name which was mentioned hundreds of times across documentation, this was instantly snapped-up and sold at auction for £40,000 
  • In 2018, Clydesdale Bank had to go to court against a cybersquatter to get control of an expired domain. Although they won the domain back, it cost months of time and hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees
  • In 2017, Marketo, a company worth over a billion dollars made headlines by forgetting to renew it’s domain name

We could go on with examples from Microsoft, Foursquare, Microsoft (again?), The Dallas Cowboys and Microsoft (and again) but we won’t.

The point is, if it can happen to these big brands with hundreds of employees, a massive tech budget and internal system, it can happen to anyone, let’s be honest, domain names are boring and tedious, nobody WANTS to be responsible for them so usually it’s passed to a reluctant team to manage who already have a LOT on. 

Sometimes when we speak to agencies about this, they will respond with ‘we are not responsible for the client domain name’ and that is completely true in a lot of cases. You might be in charge of content or PPC or technical SEO… but how are you going to do that if the domain has expired?

But forget about the client for a second, what’s in it for you? Imagine how valuable you’ll look to the client if you catch these things before they do.

(here is the sales plug warning folks) 


For the sake of just 10 minutes set-up and £30 a month, you can turn a potentially disastrous news story about your client’s domain expiring on your watch into a ‘heads-up, just checking you’re aware’ email that makes you look like a proactive agency that goes beyond your remit.

Disneyland Paris advice for attendees of Search Y

There is an SEO conference in Disneyland Paris this weekend and I’ve not been invited to speak… Almost all of my search presentations involve Disney and this would be the one ligitimate conference where it’s relevant!

I am gutted.

But that’s not going to stop me from giving you a quick Disneyland Paris Primer to make sure you get the most out of your post conference activities

Disneyland Paris is two parks and a Shopping / Dining village, these parks are smaller than their American counterparts but still have their own charm,

The most common question I’ve been asked by speakers is “what rides I go on” so let’s try and answer that and a few other questions

Disneyland Park

Notable Attractions

  • Phantom Manor  (closed for refurb)
  • Space Mountain* – ( In the dark coaster)
  • Star Tours* – (Star wars based motion simulator)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean* – (Water base dark ride which inspired the films)
  • Indiana Jones* – (Standard off the shelf coaster, nothing special)
  • Big Thunder Mountain* – Runaway mine train, probably the best version out of all the Disneys
  • It’s a small world – if you come to Disneyland and don’t go on this… what is wrong with you.

Walt Disney Studios

Notable Attractions

  • Crush’s Coaster – (Closed for Refurb)
  • Ratatouille* – Just do this one (soon to be copied in WDW’s Epcot)
  • Aerosmith* – Indoor coaster
  • Lights Motors Action – Car based stunt show
  • RC Racer – Half pipe car coaster
  • Tower of Terror – world famous drop attraction

(These recommendations are based on a solo traveller without any children, if you are bringing kids, let me know and I’ll recommend some different plans)

Other things to notes

Fastpass

Disneyland Paris has a Fastpass system which is free to use, if a ride has a large queue, you can go to a Fastpass machine, put in your park ticket and it will give you a time to come back (the attractions above with * all have Fastpass)

You can have one fastpass every hour or so but some of the top rides run out of Fastpass quickly)

If money isn’t a problem and you are short on time, Disneyland Paris have recently introduced a paid fastpass which allows you to skip the queue on one or all the rides, once or unlimited times throughout the day.

Parades & Special Events

It’s currently Star Wars time at Walt Disney Studios park has special things throughout the day with marches from the First Order and Legends of a Galaxy Far, Far Away featuring some of the best characters from the galaxy as well as some special photo opportunites (this week it’s Chewbacca) .

Disneyland Park has it’s usual Stars on Parade parade which is well worth seeing if you have time.

Evening Shows

At the end of the evening, Disneyland Park has a ‘kiss goodnight’ show, now I will warn you, this won’t be an all singing, all dancing fireworks spectacle of its American cousins (there are people that live too close to DLP with noise complaints about that) but they have some wonderful projection mapping and water effects (without spoiling)

Walt Disney Studios usually closes earlier and at this current time has a Star Wars based show which has some impressive mapping.

I hope this helps anyone attending if any anyone would like any more advice or has any questions, @thehodge on twitter @ukdisdad on instagram