“Content management” has been the bane of my
existence since inheriting a site that was originally created by a team of virtual volunteers. First the directive was “Don’t touch it” so I let it become “archival” since it had some really good stuff on there (but it was really a “cobweb”). I focused most about keeping the home page current. We were chided (gently) even by our good friends for not changing/updating our site in a timely manner, but still heard from others that the look and feel of the original site was “friendly” and inviting” (read: cartoony). It was nothing short of a huge drag.
The issue was, we had no paid or reliable volunteer staff to maintain the site, much less overhaul it. We turned to students and even to web accessibility contests bringing web publishers and nonprofits together. We also turned to interested dotcoms (when they were still expressing an interest in dotorgs), until we landed some funds to
pay someone to re-design the site; some of the student work was very helpful.
Then the issue became since the site was done in Dreamweaver, only 2 people on staff had the skills to maintain the site without fearing the destruction of the site with one wrong move. Real or not, that was the general sentiment, so we’ve gone through the drama of having to get someone with Dreamweaver skills to make changes istead of having key staff make changes/corrections/updates themselves.
We’re now looking forward to a re-design, a custom-built site, and hosting with a company providing open source solutions for nonprofits. After having gotten into exploring blogging just this January February (2003), then exploding into it in March, I know much better what features to ask for, what to negotiate for, what to include in the re-design, and, most importantly, I trust wholeheartedly that we will have staff buy-in because the tool will be tailored to meet their stated needs. Among those tools we’re considering: RSS feeds, internal blogs, and other nice bells and whistles.
When I read of your process, I felt a little vindicated (OK, a lot) because, in a big way, you share some of our trajectory (I still love hand-coding but stopped a while ago). After all, we are not web publishers in the strictest sense of the term; we backed into that role because it was expected of us. Meanwhile, we know that branding, reliable information, and good, accessible design including user-friendly navigation—especially for people new to the Web, or with limited technology resource—are at the very least critical elements, and we want to prioritize these elements and others on our soon to be re-designed web site.
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with the re-design.