Autumna.co.uk is the UK’s largest directory of care homes, home care, live-in care and retirement living.  It is built using Django and DjangoCMS.

In December 2019 we were approached by Autumna to take over the development and maintenance of the site.  A good portion of the site had been developed, however, they had not been able to get the site working in a production environment.  We did not have that information at the time but we were given the chance to review the code base and database but not any assets.  As an example, the database might tell us what image to show in a certain place, but we would have the asset, which would be the image file.  We could not talk to the existing providers to arrange a transfer.  

We were initially hired as a test to see if we could achieve what the previous suppliers couldn’t.  We estimated it would take 16 days to grab all the assets and get the site running on an Amazon Web Services (AWS) instances.  

As potentially the most time consuming task was to access and get copies of all the assets, particularly images, the first job was to write a program to crawl the development site and gather get copies of the assets and save them in the same directory structure as currently used.  This would allow us to access these new files once we had a copy of the system running.  This is an example of applying some mitigation to high risk items.  By identifying its potential impact on the project timescales we brought the work forward and allowed the program to run in the background while other work absorbed the man hours.

The system was dockerised.  Docker is a tool that allows runs a virtual machine on the machine it is running on.  This is useful when multiple developers might be working of different operating systems, for example one on Linux Ubuntu, one on Windows and one on Apple with the final product running on AWS Linux.  Docker is really helpful when you have a working system but need to bring on new developers or the system is ageing and some of the older software is no longer available.  In this case it was getting in the way.  

We stripped out the docker code and functionality to discover a number of old applications were being used, for example, ElasticSearch (a program that makes searches quicker) was set to run on version 1.7 whereas the current version was 5.7.  We quickly found upgrading some applications led to others needing an upgrade.

Indeed, the fundamental problem with the site was that the software house had used their old, previously developed, functionality and tried to utilise it as is within the new client’s application.  These were unexpected issues and it took probably 3 days, which is a very significant part of the 16 day allocation, to work through as sort.  It did look very much like the deadline would be missed and the client was made aware of the issues.  Indeed, they took them back to their previous supplier.

Having achieved got the site running on an new AWS server, with all data transferred across and using modern applications, Autumna decided they would like us to develop and maintain their application going forward.  Since putting the application live we have added much functionality, including but not limited to:

  • a client management system: allowing care facility owners to manage their listing;
  • brand functionality: combining multiple facilities under a single company
  • lead and lead management functionality: allowing customers searching for care homes to submit a description of what the want and the system automatically identifies the most relevant providers, sends a shortlist to the user and leads to the supplies
  • shortlist functionality: someone seeking care can create their own account and maintain a shortlist of providers they are interested in

Example Work

Here is a random example of some of our work.

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