Surfability News: Press coverage

Appeared in issue 11 of Frontiers magazine:

Science and Surfability - From B-Physics to e-Business

The World Wide Web was invented in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN to facilitate information exchanges between collaborating Particle Physicists in different universities and institutes around the world. Ten years later, thanks to PPARC, a team of budding entrepreneurs from Queen Mary, University of London, have been given the opportunity to commercialise the website management software and IT consultancy skills they developed in the course of their own Particle Physics researches. Their new business venture goes by the name of "Surfability".

In July 1998, Mark Williams joined the BaBar collaboration as a postdoctoral Research Assistant with the intention of studying rare B-meson decays. However, before embarking on a new Physics analysis - and despite his lack of relevant experience - Mark agreed to take charge of redesigning the BaBar website. At the SLAC B-factory in Stanford, California, Mark assembled a team to identify the main problems with the website and to develop workable solutions. Graphical user views of the information space were combined with the results of analyses of similar websites, and of hit statistics within the old site, to produce a better balanced design. The implementation of this design involved re-mapping the BaBar web onto a more logical directory structure so specialist tools were required to ensure a relatively painless transition for the site's dependent users. On finding that commercial website management tools could not handle BaBar's two hundred thousand web documents, Mark and Paul Dixon, a Queen Mary colleague, created original software to do the job.

The new BaBar website was released in February 1999, and the success of this project inspired Mark's successful application for a PPARC Enterprise Fellowship award. The Fellowship supplied Mark with a year's worth of funding and business expenses, mentoring from successful technologists, and formal business training in the form of a MSc in "New Venture Creation" from Glasgow Caledonian University. In early 2001, along with two colleagues, Mark formed Surfability Ltd, and they completed their first contract - a new web design for Quantin' Leap Ltd (www.quantinleap.com). They are now looking for bigger, more challenging web projects and are developing innovative new software products to meet the challenge.

As intranet design specialists with years of experience of Knowledge Management processes within international collaborations, the Surfability team can provide painless redesigns of websites that are measurably more usable and navigable, or ``surfable''. Benificiaries of this transfiguring new service would be large organisations whose mature intranet websites are in disarray due to various sub-webs that have merged together and grown organically. Surfability Ltd will work with its customers to improve and simpify their websites, making them more efficient, convenient and reliable "knowledge portals". These improvements can be quantified using the Surfability ScaleTM, while the Kanaloa ControllerTM will empower webmasters with complete control over their websites. So if your organisation's website has become rich in information, but painful to use and difficult to navigate, then send for Surfability Ltd and make your website work!

For more information on the BaBar web improvement project, read Mark's keynote presentation to the InterLab'99 conference: http://www-conf.slac.stanford.edu/interlab99/program/williams-keynote-BaBar.htm.
Visit the Surfability.com website or e-mail m.i.williams@surfability.com to find out more about Surfability Ltd.

Released on June 2nd 2001

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