Shining a Lamp on Rockall

imageAssuming the DNS changes have propagated around the globe by now you should see the Rockall website in its new LAMP-based incarnation. Until yesterday it was a Domino-based website.

The fact this happened on the day I was talking about whether traditional websites were suited to the new-fangled XPages approach to development was purely a coincidence. Honestly.

Why not Domino?

A better question than "Why not Domino? " might be "Why Domino?". And, before you say anything, I've not done this just to cause some controversy.

There's no need for it to be a Domino site. The only reason it ever was is that I thought it might look odd for a Domino development company not to have a Domino website. Add to this the idea that people might see the site and think "Hey, this looks nice! And it's on Domino too - wow!!" was another factor. They're the only reasons though. It didn't need an ACL or replication or document-level security or anything like that. None of the things that make you think Domino is suited.

So I've moved it to LAMP as the first step of a much bigger plan for the site, moving forward. Until recently I've not really needed a company website as such. This site is where the business has always been generated. The company website was there as a formality. Which shows. It's a poor website and I want to change that.

The Most Important Part of a Company Website

Arguably one of the most important functions of any company website is the contact "us" form. What I need is a contact form I can rely on. Completely rely on!

Somebody using your contact form is, in effect, saying "Hey, I want to give you some money!". Now, I don't want to be not getting one of those messages, do I.

Thanks to the rise of the spambot the Domino-based contact form was no longer reliable. Even after I added a simple maths CAPTCHA to it. Domino has never been much cop at allowing server-side form validation and creating pseudo-sessions using ?EditDocument was leading to ~400 waste documents a day which I could no longer sift through to find the false negatives. I don't want to think about about the chance I've lost business this way.

Now the contact form is PHP-based I have much better control over it and can now rest assured I'll get all contacts intended for me.

Moving Forward

Rockall's website is how a website should be - fast! Firebug's Page Speed plugin ranks it 95%! If you can do that with an XPage-based Domino website I'd be amazed.

Now that it's stable and on PHP I want to make some changes to the site:

  1. More content!
  2. Better explain what it is I do.
  3. More case studies. What's on there in no way reflects what I'm capable of. The best stuff I do I'm never allowed to talk about!
  4. Re-write the content to be more friendly and honest.

I want to try and move away from the "We do this" and we do that" kind of stuff. You all know it's just me in a garage. And for those that don't know I don't want to mislead them in any way. If they don't want to deal with a man in his garage then I don't necessarily want to deal with them either.

Once it's there I'll start paying for some Google AdWords and see how it goes. I tried this recently but the visitors had a "page per visit" average of about 1.02. The site as it stands isn't sticky.


  1. Wow Jake, that is seriously quick! Mighty impressed...

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Fri 5 Nov 2010 04:59 AM

      It's amazing what a difference some quick changes can make. I enabled GZip and caching for Apache this morning, which makes a difference.

      It's definitely faster than the Domino version http://domino.rockalldesign.com/home.nsf/ although that's in the States, whereas the LAMP one is in the UK.

    • avatar
    • Bryan Schmiedeler
    • Fri 5 Nov 2010 05:45 AM

    I am very interested in your experience in moving from Xpages to LAMP. I am learning web development and although there are some very nice features in Xpages it all seems too little, too late, too tied to Domino. I am looking at LAMP and at Ruby. Any thoughts on why you picked LAMP or do you have an opinion on Ruby?

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Fri 5 Nov 2010 05:51 AM

      I didn't move from Xpages. Just from Domino "classic" and what I did move was just a simple website - rather than a true application. So I can't really advise on moving from Domino to PHP.

      I only chose it as the hosting is cheap and widely available and it's so easy to knock simple sites together. Other reasons too, but that one mainly.

  2. There are millions of people that can build a nice website on LAMP but only a few that can build it on Domino. Well there are more that can build it on Domino but only few of them can build it so that it looks good and works fast.

    The LAMP stack is very powerful and efficient but also very crowded.

    But if you are shifting focus then this probably is the way to go.

    Codestore may be the place where you get your business but with your "resistance" to spend a few fun days on XPages, generating Domino business will only become harder.

    For me Codestore still is a lot of fun and I really enjoy it but I am not in need for a developer.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Fri 5 Nov 2010 07:10 AM

      I don't plan on selling my services as a PHP developer. I'll be whatever it takes but the fact Rockall's site runs on PHP doesn't reflect on what career path I want to take. It's just easy to use for a simple website.

    • avatar
    • Erik Brooks
    • Fri 5 Nov 2010 07:23 AM

    Congrats on the new site! It looks good.

    "Firebug's Page Speed plugin ranks it 95%! If you can do that with an XPage-based Domino website I'd be amazed."

    Absolutely, 100% possible. I've got it today on an *application* (i.e. not just a static site.) In fact, I've got it with legacy Domino screens also.

    I'm with Henning though - if you don't spend some time really learning XPages your Domino work will eventually disappear. Whether or not that's a good thing for you depends on your success with other software.

    Case in point: "Domino has never been much cop at allowing server-side form validation and creating pseudo-sessions using ?EditDocument was leading to ~400 waste documents a day which I could no longer sift through to find the false negatives."

    Dropping Captcha on an XPage is trivial, as is implementing server-side form validation (there's even a simple checkbox in DDE for 'answer is required'). Rather than a whole new platform you could have simply turned your Contacts form into an XPage. Domino GZip compression is also a simple checkbox in the NAB.

    But if your goal was to dive into more PHP then perhaps you did want to go with a rewrite.

  3. Hi Jake, how did the SharePoint project go, I am genuinely interested, Sean

    1. p.s nice site

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Fri 5 Nov 2010 08:16 AM

      I keep meaning to post a follow-up blog on that project. In a nutshell - it went ok but SharePoint is horrible. I'd work with it if asked but won't be actively searching for work in it.

    • avatar
    • Aaron
    • Fri 5 Nov 2010 08:23 AM

    Nice Jake, and I get what you mean. Since you really don't do that much with the Rockall site, it doesn't make since to pay for Domino hosting when LAMP hosting is so cheap. And to your point it doesn't define you as a developer, Codestore does that. It's just a brochure to show the executives and a way to be contacted.

  4. Jake,

    It looks very nice. The power of Domino is it flexibility and what it can do at the back-end and it incredible capability of integrating with other platforms. How you surface your web application to the users and whether you are using XPages does not matter. I disagree with Erik and Henning. Customers only care if the Web application meets their needs or not.

    Only 25% of our client use Lotus Notes. The rest only knows that the Web server is based on some IBM technology. I do not mention the name Lotus when I talk to them because it automatically makes them think of Lotus 123. This happens all the time and their impress is Lotus means old and archaic. Since I usually deal with small organizations, maybe it is different with the enterprise organizations. A couple of weeks ago, I made a mistake of mentioning Lotus and immediately the person who I was dealing with started talking about Lotus 123.

    XPages provide one key advantage, the ability to create applications that can be used both on the Web and the Lotus Notes client. But from my impress you only develop web applications.

    The point is Jake, if you think XPages will make you money then learn it, if not there are plenty of ways of creating Web applications with Domino as you know. I use straight Dojo because I can apply those skills for both Domino and non-Domino projects.

    • avatar
    • Dan
    • Wed 10 Nov 2010 03:35 AM

    Hi Jake,

    Like the new site, one comment though it took me several second to find the all important "Contact Us" link. I was looking for it at the top of the page but that might just be me.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Wed 10 Nov 2010 03:37 AM

      Thanks Dan. It's not new though. Just moved platform.

      My designer is keen on the idea of missing the main navigational area off the homepage. At first I could see his thinking but have since gone off the idea and will be adding tabs to the homepage at some point soon...

    • avatar
    • Bo Frederiksen
    • Fri 12 Nov 2010 01:05 PM

    Hi Jake

    I think you are doing the right thing, by spreading your knowledge to other technologies, than Lotus Domino.

    To me, it looks like the Domino website count is declining. I just closed my Domino consultancy company, due to lack of business.

    Ruby on Rails, is where I will be going next.

    • avatar
    • Chris C
    • Thu 18 Nov 2010 12:19 PM

    Wow, not a single table tag in the home page's source. That's impressive! I have yet to figure out how to use purely divs and css to make a layout that looks right in all web browsers.

Your Comments


About This Page

Written by Jake Howlett on Fri 5 Nov 2010

Share This Page

# ( ) '


The most recent comments added:

Skip to the comments or add your own.

You can subscribe to an individual RSS feed of comments on this entry.

Let's Get Social

About This Website

CodeStore is all about web development. Concentrating on Lotus Domino, ASP.NET, Flex, SharePoint and all things internet.

Your host is Jake Howlett who runs his own web development company called Rockall Design and is always on the lookout for new and interesting work to do.

You can find me on Twitter and on Linked In.

Read more about this site »

More Content