May 8 2014
Having gone through all the usual traumas – getting paint on a client’s jacket, coming up with illustrations for a sexual health website, etc. - Spider were now making money and expanding, but small things could still be a bind.

A persistent bugbear, before the days of electronic procurement and uploaded documents, was the binding machine. By this time Spider were employing ten people and working late into the small hours was commonplace, often because it took that long to try to bind 120 page presentations and proposals.

 

Botched binding machines are one thing, but surviving all the other traumas that afflict small companies wasn’t always just a question of working round the clock. After the crash and burn of 2008 and the seemingly never-ending recession that followed, times were tough, especially when Spider’s biggest client told them, "We won't be doing anything for 6 months". However, the team rolled-up their sleeves and persevered, and as a result has grown and prospered. Winning the work for the London 2012 Olympics is perhaps the highlight of recent years. This was the website for FirstBus (who had won the contract from the Olympic Authority for bus travel into London) and it did ‘what it said on the tin’ in that it worked perfectly, coping with tens of thousands of customers booking tickets in the run-up to the Games and performed quietly but heroically during the excitement when the eyes of the world were focused on London. This is one of Spider’s real areas of unmatched expertise: making sites that are robust, intuitively functional and which don’t fall over.

 

These skills were critical for the pitch for tellmescotland.gov.uk, the new public notice portal for Scotland’s local authorities. Spider was competing against some of the UK's biggest software firms, but battled through a tough tender and two pitches to win an important project. In turn, this led to involvement with the Scottish Government’s Open data strategy and Spider’s current big project on the Citizen Account Service - a one-stop portal for members of the public to login to all public services across Scotland; in effect, a project that will change the way the public sector uses digital to communicate with the public and vice versa.

 

Spider also works with the award-winning myjobscotland site, providing the front-end design and interface with the applicant tracking system that underpins this exceptionally successful public sector job-board. Here, John explains what happened…

 

“We had been working with myjobscotland for many years, when the site was entered into the UK Public Sector Digital Awards in the ‘best shared service’ category. This is a hugely prestigious event, held in the Guildhall in London, with Cabinet Minister, Francis Maude, handing over the awards. I was delighted to be on the stage as part of the myjob team, as could be seen from the size of my grin in the photograph!

 

“Spider’s continuing success has been mirrored in increasing numbers of trips to the winners’ podium at awards ceremonies. Winning ‘Best web site’ for Golden Charter at the Herald Digital Awards was our first major win. For me personally, the business and public sector awards for ROI/business effectiveness mean a lot to Spider as this is what we’re in business for – to make a difference for our clients. Our most recent award was for the Mobile App we built for First UK Bus, at the S1 Digital Awards in October 2013. This has been an amazing project. From a soft launch in October 2012, the app has ranked as high as 26th (from 200) on the AppStore ‘Most Popular Travel app’ table and 20th on Google Play ‘travel and local’ section. It’s outranking the likes of the Oystercard info app, Virgin Atlantic, Eurostar, the AA, National Express, Scotrail and even Barclays’ Boris’s Bikes app! We’re particularly proud of the fact that it’s the highest-ranking Scottish company app in Travel Reviews across the Google Play Store and Apple App Store and users give the current version 4 stars out of 5. We have built up real and substantial expertise in this area and it’s great when it’s recognised in this way and it shows how we have adapted to the shifts in the sector.”

 

So, now they’ve turned ten, what’s next for Glasgow’s digital arachnids? John again...

 

“We’ve re-engineered the business significantly over the years, by necessity at times as the market and sector changes and adapts. Like all small companies, every penny is a prisoner, but you still need to service your clients, which is something we place great emphasis upon. We are fortunate in that we have a great team of account handlers and technical experts, as well as a number of highly talented associates in the fields of business development, HR, finance, advertising and social media and they make a significant but massively appreciated contribution to our continued financial well-being. Despite the recession, the last four years have been the best yet for the business in terms of turnover and profit. I know it’s a cliché, but if you’d said to me when we were driving away from the Sage car park that we’d be here in ten years’ time, I’d have laughed in your face. Now, everything we’ve built – all the hard work, the broken binding machines and the tantrums that accompanied them are in the distant past. Spider is a business bristling with possibilities, so who knows where the next ten years will take us?”

 

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