Date Written: 1/11/2015 by Andrew Scott
Out with the old and in with the new..
A few of my customers have been in touch to find out why their old unlock code no longer works. This isn't strictly the case, it does still work but only with an older version of the system which is still online and fully working.
If I explain a little about the history of the map colouring system it may help people understand.
Up to 2013 I was being asked more and more frequently to colour in postcode maps for customers wishing to split the UK into different zones to show sales territories, delivers charge zones or any number of other reasons. I had the original artwork available on my site for people to purchase however they still wanted me to colour the map for them. The main reason for this was they didn't own any kind of vector graphics package to edit the maps such as Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape etc.
So I set about designing a simple application that customers could use themselves to colour in a uk postcode area map without the need for expensive graphics editing software they would only use the once.
The first version of my map colouring tool was born a couple of months later. Initially it was free to use while I refined the features and ironed out all the bugs, after giving it away for a couple of months, it was finally finished. The system was becoming very popular and the number of maps being created was amazing. Pretty soon all those maps being created and stored online had exceeded the storage capacity of my web server.
I had to buy more space and bandwidth to continue providing the service which meant more cost. I'd been working on the system adding new features and cleaning up a few of the existing features and these were released at the same time as I began to charge a nominal £6 fee to use the system. This covered the costs of moving the site to another web server capable of housing the site for the foreseeable future.
The Postcode Area map was the only map available and it was a huge success, but people always want more! The postcode area map had 120 different zones to colour which took long enough to get working correctly, now people wanted the UK postcode districts to be colourable(there are over 3,000 of those!). This was the biggest challenge I'd taken on. It took 6 months to get the map created and the system updated to work with the new map. All this was fine until I started live testing the system with the public. It was slow.. very slow.. which was again down to my webserver.
Time to move again. I purchased a dedicated web server based in a data centre in the USA which was hugely powerful, fast, reliable and could cope with the massive load generated by the map colouring system. (This kind of server doesn't come cheaply). So I had to work out a way of making it pay for itself and also generate an income for me to continue to develop all the new features I had in the pipeline.
The solution... It had already proved to be a useful tool but it had to be taken from being a pet project to a fully scalable system which was easily updatable and expandable. So, I would stop working on other 'paying' projects and work on developing the new system full time. I spent around 6 months totally redesigning the system, the interface, the order process, the way the system accessed and created maps the whole thing had to be re-done. It was then released and integrated into my existing website and I began the process of designing a raft of new maps that could be used within the new system. Although it looked and 'felt' like the old system the only thing that was the same was the way in which you coloured a map, everything else was completely new (and unfortunately incompatible with the older original system).
I had to continue to maintain the older system because people had purchased access to that system on a 'create maps forever' basis and it will continue to be useable by all those that are customers of that system. New customers are not able to buy that system and it is only available to those early people that purchased use of it. I would highly recommend that people on the older system bite the bullet and buy access to the new system also and take advantage of all the new features but I would say that, I created it. Really though, it's well worth a look as it has many features that were missing in the original system and is well worth the additional cost.
This isn't my way of extracting more money out of all my existing customers which is why I haven't emailed them all encouraging them to upgrade, if they use the old system and enquire about its limitations I will point them at the new system and explain what I have here.
I hope you understand a little more about how the system has evolved and why I have to charge for customers who want to use the new system over the old. I'm continually upgrading the system and adding maps and features all the time and you're contributions are what keeps that development going. Thanks again !