When tiny tasks dream

by Gareth de Walters

I’m working on a project to create an improved information architecture (IA) for a corporate website. To design a good IA , we first have to understand what our customers expect to do when they come to the site - so we’re doing Top Tasks research.

Top Tasks research is an essential component of every web manager’s tool box. If you’re not already familiar with it, focusing on top tasks is a research model developed and popularised by the customer experience specialist Gerry McGovern.

Check our Gerry’s amusing and engaging presentation to UX Brighton 2017 and Jeff Sauro's guide on how to conduct a top task analysis.

How to make Neapolitan-style pizza at home

by Gareth de Walters

Making a delicious Neapolitan-style pizza at home is perfectly achievable if you follow these tips from the expert pizzaioli.

Enjoying pizza on a Friday night has been a tradition in my family ever since we lived in London. We were lucky enough to live not far from the Orgegano (now Stef's at Oregano) in Islington where we would go for their delcious pizza parmigiana, umbria and calzone.

Ever since time I've been trying to recreate the flavours and textures in my kitchen at home. My first attempts at hand kneading were frankly terrible and resulted in a pizza that lacked the lightness and chewiness that the professional chefs so easily produced.

As time went by I got better at making pizza at home. The feedback from family steadily improved and I finally achieved that light and airy pizza base using a conventional oven. Here's the method that works for me.

These ingredients and methods have been compiled and adapted from advice and lessons learned from expert pizzaioli like Giampiero de Falco the original owner of Al Volo in Mt Eden, the staff at Oregano and more recently from the videos by Enzo Coccia and Davide Civitiello.

This recipe should make enough pizza dough for four or five adults based on 200g servings.


Neapolitan pizza dough

  • 320ml water (37%)
  • 9g salt (1.5 tsp) (2%)
  • 3g of yeast (>1%) (fresh if you can get it, or a teaspoon of dried yeast)
  • 7g sugar (1%)
  • 16g olive oil (2)
  • 500g of Italian 00 flour (~58%) or similar medium protein content flour (or a mix of half plain, half strong flour)

Tomato topping

  • 12-18 grape- or cherry tomatoes (traditionally the Pomodorino Vesuviano variety) or two cans of crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 tsp of salt (adjust to taste)
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 6-8 large leaves of fresh basil
  • 50-100gm of mozzarella sliced into 1 x 4 cm strips
  • A splash of Worcestershire sauce to taste (optional)
  • A slpash of balsamic vinegar to taste (optional)

Have handy

  • Pizza stone or heavy baking tray 
  • Pizza spatula (optional), metal fish slice and a sharp knife
  • Two large mixing bowls
  • Air-tight plastic containers for cold leavening
  • A large serving spoon
  • Salt, pepper and extra flour for dusting

Prepare the dough

For best results start at least one day before you intend to serve to allow time of cold leavening.

Tip: Begin with the water and then add dry ingredients.

Pour the water into the first bowl then add the salt and mix until dissolved. In the second bowl, add half the flour then crumble your fresh yeast and combine with the flour. If you're using dry yeast, first rehydrate the yeast in half a cup of tepid water before adding to the flour

Begin adding the flour and yeast mix to the salted water to make the initial mixture. Add the sugar gradually as you work the mixture together.

Gradually add the rest of the flour measure as needed to make a solid (but still sticky) ball of dough. The exact measure of flour required for this recipe will depend on the ambient humidity and temperature of your kitchen. 500 ml of water should absorb 500 - 600 gm of flour.

Add the oil to the mixture and combine. Add it early in the process if working the mixture by hand, or three minutes towards the end if using a mixer

Tip: A wood-fired pizza oven burns at about 450°C and cooks a pizza in 90 seconds. Your home oven clearly won't get that hot, so your pizza will take longer to cook — about 8-12 minutes. Your homemade dough needs to be reasonably wet to withstand the longer cooking time in a conventional over.

Once the mixture reaches a solid consistency fold it out onto your work surface to begin to knead. Knead the dough on a floured work surface for about 20 minutes or until you get a smooth and elastic dough. Cover the dough so it doesn't dry out and leave to rest for 20 minutes

After the dough has rested, cut it in half to form two long strips. Cut each strip into 200g portions for adults or about 150g for children

Form each portion into a ball by hand (or by gently rolling it on the worktop beneath the palm of your hand) and then cover and leave to prove for 6-8 hours.

Tip For improved flavour, texture and digestibility, transfer the dough balls to air-tight containers. Allow enough space in your containers for the dough balls to expand. They should remain seperate from each other while proving. Prove the dough at ambient temperature for an hour before refrigerating for up to 24 hours. The dough will continue to ferment in fridge. The longer, slower fermentation will help develop the flavour and structure of the dough. Air-tight containers will protect the dough balls from the drying effect of the fridge and allow an atmosphere of CO2 to and stave off oxidation.

Prepare the tomatoes

Tip: The tomato topping should not be cooked or blended. You're not making a pasta sauce. Instead, you're creating a light topping which highlights the freshness, texture and flavour of the tomatoes. The flavours of your pizza bread and toppings should complement each other without one overpowering the other.

In a medium bowl break up the of tomatoes by hand. Add torn basil leaves and drizzle of olive oil and combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. For best results prepare the tomatoes the day before to allow the flavours to develop.

Add Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar to balance and finish the tomatoes. This addition isn't authentic, but I like the umami boost you get from the Worcestershire sauce.

Prepare the mozzarella

Cut your mozzarella into slices of about 1 x 4 cm. Cut the mozzarella rather than tearing it to keep the water leaking out of the cheese and saturating your pizza dough as it cooks.

Stretch the pizza dough

Set your oven to it's highest temperature and place the pizza stone or over tray high in the oven.

In this step you're aiming to work the dough as little as possible while forming it into a circular shape.

I can't stress this enough. At no time should a rolling pin come into contact with your pizza dough. While it's tempting to use a rolling pin, all you're succeed in doing is crushing the air and structure out of your dough. Rolled-out dough will result in a tough, leathery pizza. Resist the temptation to roll!

If you cold-proved your dough, remove your container(s) from the fridge an hour or so before cooking time and let the dough balls to come back up to room temperature.

Remove the dough balls from the air-tight containers (you might notice a gasp of CO2 escape as you open the lid) by gently folding them out onto a piece of baking paper.

If your dough balls have expanded into each other, carefully cut them apart with a sharp knife then lift them out of the container with a fish slice or pizza spatula. You don't want to dent or break the risen dough otherwise it with collapse. In one steady movement slide the slice / spatula under the dough ball without breaking its surface tension. Lift it out of the container and place on the baking paper.

Using the pads of your fingers, lightly poke the dough moving from the centre outwards and leaving the perimeter untouched. Flip the dough over, rotate half and repeat. You can now gently stretch the dough.

Place the palm of your hand flat on one side of the dough and with your other hand stretch the dough. Rotate the dough by a quarter turn and repeat until you'll pulled the dough into a plate sized circle. You should be able to form the dough in to a circle fairly quickly. Work as gently has possibly to keep as much air in the dough as you can.

Dress the pizza

Spoon the tomatoes onto the pizza base. Work the mixture with the heel of a large spoon until it covers the base except for the crust. Add the mozzarella strips, basil leaves and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Cook the pizza

Slide the pizza on to the pizza stone or baking tray and cook for 6-12 minutes depending on the strength of your oven. The pizza is ready when the crust and underside is golden brown. The crust should be soft and chewy when eaten.

Serve the pizza with a drizzle of olive oil, cracked pepper or or a dash of a mild chilli sauce.

Did something go wrong?

Did your dough not turn out the way you expected? Was your pizza too dry? In this video Enzo Coccia — a master pizzajuolo from Naples — describes the six most common problems made during preparation of the pizza dough.

Gwenllian Walters - the case of the disappearing great grandmother

by Gareth de Walters

On 22 September 1888, a young woman gave birth to her illegitimate son in the Llanelly Union Workhouse, South Wales. A month and a half later Gwenllian registered the birth —and with that bureaucratic step completed— she then disappeared from the historical record.

Alt text
The civil birth registration details for Gwenllian Walters Image credit: Private collection.

I’ve researched my family history for many years. Much of the time, money and effort I’ve devoted to the exercise has been focused on resolving the mystery of what happened to my Great Grandmother Gwenllian. Unfortunately, I’m no nearer to discovering where she went after registering the birth of her son (my paternal grandfather).

I wrote this biography for Gwenllian in the (slim) hope the details might sound familiar to someone. If that someone is you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Gwenllian Walters

Gwenllian Walters was a Welsh domestic servant who lived in Llanelly, Carmarthenshire in the late 1800s. After giving birth to her son David Lewis Walters in 1888 she fostered him with her sister Margaret. Gwenllian then disappears from the historical record.

Early years

Gwenllian - gwen (gwyn) "fair, blessed, white" and llian (llinaidd) "flaxen" - Walters was born at home at an address on Constant [Row] in Margam, Glamorganshire, Wales on 6 September 1867. She was the fourth child and second daughter of Lewis Walter(s) a coal miner and his wife Ann (née John).

Gwenllian’s mother Ann died sometime between her daughter's birth and Gwenllian’s first appearance in the historical record on 2 April 1871. On that day, Gwenllian as living at 3 Greenfield Row, Margam, Glamorganshire the the household of her paternal grandparents, Lewis and Margaret Walters, with her father, her three older siblings (David, Margaret and WIlliam) and her maternal grandmother Gwenllian John (née Morgan).

It’s my speculation that the elder Gwenllian might have moved into the household to help care for the children after her own daughter’s death.

Gwenllian very likely spoke Welsh and English like her sister.

There is no record of Gwenllian or her immediate family in the 1881 census.

Birth of her son

By 1888 Gwenllian lived at an unknown address on Llanelli’s Market Street and worked as a domestic servant at Mount Pleasant, Llanelli. A distance of about 500 metres between home and work.

As an unmarried mother-to-be, Gwenllian was probably disowned by her family. Unable to work and with no support from her family she had no option but to enter the Llanelly Union Workhouse to have her child.

On 22 July 1888 Gwenllian gave birth to a boy named David Lewis Walters. There was no father listed on his birth certificate.

The boy’s middle name might refer back to Gwenllian’s father’s name, or it could signal something of the child’s parentage. Unmarried mothers sometimes gave their baby their biological father’s last name as their middle name.

The evidence from my genetic genealogy research indicates the last name of the father might have been Thomas.

After the birth

There is no record of Gwenllian following the registration of her son’s birth. She probably spent a few weeks recovering and working in the Llanelly Union Workhouse before discharging herself to look for employment.

Her son David was fostered with her sister’s family - Margaret Ann Samuel - and grew up known as ‘Dai Sam’.

Possible record matches

A ‘G. Walters’ appears in the 1891 census. This person worked as a house maid at the Thomas Arms Hotel, Mount Pleasant, Llanelli. A pub operates under the same name to this day.

This person is the right age to be Gwenllian, but gave their birth place Aberavon - a locality about 10 kms distant from Margam. This doesn't rule this person out. People weren't always consistent when reporting their place of birth - sometimes giving to general administrative location and at other times giving the specific town or village.

Family tree

The family tree of Gwenllian Walters, born 1867, Margam, Glamorganshire, Wales.


![gwenllian-walters-family-tree](gwenllian-walters-family-tree.png "gwenllian-walters-family-tree")

Google Analytics account health check

by Gareth de Walters

Good web content relies on properly configured analytics to identify visitor pain points and guide enhancements. Follow this checklist to make sure your Google Analytics properties and views are up to scratch.

I’ve written this guide for anyone in the first week of a new job in a web team. In my experience there’s seldom a team member whose dedicated to care of the Google Analytics account, so there’s a good opportunity — for you, the new hire — to survey the health of the analytics properties, identify any problems and make updates that will benefit your new organisation.

This checklist has been helpful to me in the past. There’s more detail for each section which I’ll go into in later guides, but this should give you a good starting point to kick off your own Google Analytics account health check.

Bounce rate

The bounce rate for your site can be a good barometer for the health of your analytics configuration. If you see a site-wide bounce rate under 25% that’s a clear sign that something’s wrong.

A graph from Google Analytics showing a bounce rate error.

Head to Google Analytics and navigate to the ‘Behaviour > Overview’ report then switch on the ‘Page views vs Bounce view. Take a look back over the last six months. If you see a value within the 45-55% range then your site is doing fine. The definition of ‘good’ bounce rate varies between industries. For a longer discussion on this topic check out The Rocket Blog’s 'Good, bad, ugly, and average bounce rates'.

Identifying what’s wrong will take a bit of digging on your part, but It will most likely be due to one or more of the following problems:

  • Your site has two or more (!) sets of analytic’s code in your template - perhaps one if embedded in the page and another is in the Google Tag Manager code
  • Your site’s event tracking is configured poorly, for example your scroll tracking might be set to “non-interaction hit: true”
  • Your site is using a poorly configured add-on or plugin

The remedies are pretty straightforward (remove duplicate GA code, set “non-interaction hit” for events that aren’t really interactions), but should be done as soon as possible. Remember you can’t fix your data after it’s been (incorrectly) processed by Google.

Accounts, properties and views

Your Google Analytics is divided into three levels:

  • Account: one account for all your organisation’s properties
  • Property: usually pertains to one website or app, but one property can track multiple sites if those sites appear to be one contiguous journey to the visitor — for example, www.example.com > shop.example.com
  • View: Each property can have up to 25 views per property. Your views contain your data and your reports

It’s a good idea to maintain at least three views for property:

  • Unfiltered: a view untouched by filter or configuration. An unadulterated benchmark to which you can always refer back to if you see something odd in your other views
  • Test (with filters and config): The view in which you test any new filter or configuration that might affect how data flows into your reports
  • Main (with filters and config): Your live production view with proven and tested filters and configuration. Give non-web team colleagues and agency staff access to this view

If your site only has one view— the default view that was created when the account was first set up —rename it to ‘Main’ and create a your two new ‘Unfiltered’ and ‘Test’ views. Never delete your original view. Once your data is gone, it’s irrecoverable.

User access and privileges

Your health check should include a survey of who has access to your organisation’s Google Account. The amount of people with access might surprise you! I recommend reducing the number of accounts down to a minimum number of essential staff and agency partners.

Start by emailing the lists of account holders to let them know you’re tidying up access to the Google Analytics account and will be removing access for unused log-ins in, say, two weeks time. Ask people to get back to your if they still need access the Google Analytics account for their project, otherwise they need not respond and their log-in will be closed.

This advice might sound a bit hard-nosed, but having lots of people with access to your Google Analytics account is a risk for your organisation — especially if those people no longer for your organisation or are contracted to it.

Once you’re whittled down the number of people with access to an essential few the next step is tidy up the permissions that person has.

Google Analytics permissions a granular. People can have access at the Account, Property and View levels. I recommend you grant access to only those views your staff need to do their work (and that view should be the Main view).

Giving people Account or Property level access might make it possible for them to traverse into properties (if you have many) and views they probably don’t need, or shouldn’t have access to.

If someone needs higher access (usually an agency) then grant them that access long enough time to do their work and then return them to a sensible default like ‘Read & Analyze’.

Finally a word about log-ins. Only grant access to people using your organisation’s email domain, rather personal addresses That way it will be easier to check if that person still works for your organisation. It’s easy for people to register an existing email company address with Google.

Google Tag Manager

If your organisation isn’t already using Google Tag Manager, then arrange to move your analytics implementation over to tag manager as soon as you can. It’ll make your life so much easier. All you tracking can be managed in one place and make it a lot faster to deploy analytics to your site be removing the developer / development bottle-neck.

The same rules about access and security I mention above also apply to your Google Tag Manager account, plus one more:

  • Give access to only those who need it
  • Give only those permissions people require
  • Make you and the rest of the web team the publishers of your Google Tag Manager account. If you don’t know what’s in your GTM account, taking on this lead role will force you to become familiar with all the tags, triggers and variables.

If you find this daunting then check out the many clear and helpful resources on Simon Ahava’s blog and Julius Fedorovicius’s Analytics Mania.

Set up your new Google Tag Manager account with a set of useful default tags. Dana DiTomaso explains what those tags should be in a Whiteboard Friday over on the Moz blog and I’ll show you how to do that in a follow-up article. For now the short answer is:

  • a page view tag for all pages
  • an event to track scroll distance for all pages — don’t forget to set it to “non-interaction hit: false”!
  • an event to track outbound link clicks
  • an event to track all file downloads
  • an event to track contact link clicks on telephone numbers and email addresses
  • an event to track contact form submissions