Laser Technik Ltd

Providing Internet services for over a quarter of a century

Our origins: the story of Laser Technik (formerly Web Technik)

Rob & Wendy started building web sites in 1994 before most people had even heard of the internet.  We were working from a spare bedroom. Wendy’s focus was on marketing, Rob with long experience in the IT industry was the technical specialist.  There were only a handful of web design companies in the UK so while our active marketing focus was on our local region, we attracted work from businesses all over UK who’d seen sites we created. 

The idea to set up the business came when Rob, who had been exploring the technology for some time, found that his employer at the time had just paid a marketing company a reported £10,000 for a very poor web site.  Rob said he could have done a better job in an afternoon and went on to prove it that evening, creating a copy but without the defects.  Wendy’s response was to start the business on the basis that we could charge a fraction of the price and service a much larger client base than those with £10,000 budgets.

It soon became evident that we needed to grow the team to expand the skill set and in 1996 we created Web Technik Ltd, moving to commercial office space.

We were selling web sites to people who didn’t know what the internet was, and didn’t have internet access but by keeping the cost down and demonstrating features on a laptop PC there were enough forward-looking, entrepreneurial businesses to keep us busy.  Back then to connect a PC to the internet involved expenditure of maybe £200 for a modem and software bundle.

In those early days domain names were relatively expensive as was the hosting for an individual site.  The combined cost of hosting and name would be the equivalent of £400-£500 at todays values, and that’s before creating the web site.  Rather than propose each client bought their own domain name and web-space we acquired sheffield.co.uk and built web sites for local clients in separate folders under that domain name (e.g. www.sheffield.co.uk/client-name) using a shared hosting account.

Websites were limited to the width of a PC screen, a 15 inch screen (measured diagonally), 640px wide (less than half todays typical size) and the colour palette was the 216 “web-safe colours” (today we have 16 million shades!).  There were no website building tools, everthing had to be hand-coded HTML, no CSS, no Javascript, no PHP (we did make some use of another rather more complex server-side language, PERL).  Those lucky enough to have internet access had to use an expensive dial-up connection, phone line usage was still charged by the minute.  Initially speeds could be as low as 1200 bits per second (compare with current broadband, current UK average speed is 10,000 times faster), that meant we had to code very efficiently for pages to load in a few seconds.
See how ghastly one of our earliest home pages looked – but not for long!

As still a relatively small operation, a team of 6, the death of Wendy in 1999, our MD and main driving force, was a near fatal blow, especially having built up significant bank borrowing. By then we no longer needed to go out actively seeking new clients, we had a steady stream of work coming from recommendations, so we scaled back operations such that income would exceed expenditure. We continued operating successfully until 2014 when our chief designer was involved in a serious accident and it became difficult to continue.  We had explored the option of selling the business but that was going to take too long.  In any case the market had expanded dramatically.  Software capabilities had changed beyond all recognition and rather than there being no other similar business in Sheffield, there were now dozens, many competing by proposing uneconomically low prices.   We chose to liquidate Web Technik but there was a problem, we had a substantial client list dependent on our services.  We didn’t want to let them down.    Instead we set up Laser Technik Ltd to provide continuity to those clients.

Laser Technik undertook to provide the web hosting and support services those clients had paid for in advance at no further cost.  Our expectation was that clients would drift away and we could close down completely after a year.  We were mistaken.  After 3 years only a handful had moved away.  We interpreted the reluctance to move away as something of a vote of confidence.  We knew that many had “had their fingers burnt” by engaging less competent and unreliable providers.  We took the decision to continue not only to continue providing hosting, domain names, maintenance and support but once again to take on new projects and clients as now, with much reduced overheads, we were generating a small but worthwhile income.