The company’s previous system had proved unreliable in the face of high volumes of traffic, and there was also a requirement for additional functionality, such as the ability to carry out ad hoc surveys and email campaigns.
The Abacus system handles the administration and set up of individual registration questionnaires. This was based on Abacus’ Inform product, which allows non-technical users to set up complex questionnaires, which can then be delivered into web sites through HTML templates. This system provided the facility to set up unique URLs which can be sent to the readership, allowing them to register online by completing the necessary application forms.
One of the challenges for the system was the requirement that it could quickly and efficiently handle high levels of ‘bursty’ traffic. Following a marketing campaign, for example, it is not unusual for the site to have to manage new registrations at the rate of one every two seconds. The design of the system, using flexible templates widely utilised by Abacus for other publishing clients, was a core element in ensuring the ability of the system to handle this type of traffic. The templates run with a minimum of interaction with the underlying database, thus guaranteeing a fast response with a minimum of system overhead. This in turns allows maximum throughput.
Inform is a flexible e-forms package, which allows non-technical users to set up and analyse web-based forms, survey and questionnaires. It allows administrators to create anything from the simplest of feedback forms through to highly sophisticated multi-page surveys. Workflow can be attached to any form, thus allowing administrators to allocate different tasks to different staff. All data submitted on the forms is collected in the Inform database, which can then be analysed in real time using a range of standard reports.