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The water is as important as the glass (or the content is as important as the container)

Intergen’s Web Redevelopment Project Part 5

It has been a while since my last website update instalment.  We ‘went live’ on September 13. When I say ‘went live’ I mean that this was the date when we were supposed to go live. Heck, we’d built a website; we’d tested and tested it; 75% of the content had been rewritten and was ready to copy and paste. All that remained to be done was to put all the actual content in. How hard could that trifling detail be, in the scheme of things? Build it and it (the content) will come. Cue Tui billboard.

I should probably note upfront that we’re X weeks off go live. I say ‘X weeks’ because I have grown too superstitious to make public an actual number, for fear of jinxing it. But it is a matter of weeks now, rather than months. That much I can tell you.

As a company, we do websites (and most things web-related, among a number of other things). Lots of websites. As the client for the Intergen web project, I’ve recently had a few knowing looks and good-natured jibes from about the place. The truth comes home to roost (and very close to home indeed) when the client resides inside Intergen’s four yellow walls. It turns out that everything we’ve been telling our clients over the years is true!

I’ve had comments like, “This is what we’re always telling our clients: don’t underestimate the time it takes to get content sorted and the final site across the line.”

I should have known, but I didn’t. When I was rewriting the content for the website I would dream about it. Now that we’re actually populating the site, I dream about having a real live site to show and tell with. I want to point non-project people to it, to get real traffic, to give everyone a resounding pat on the back, put up my gone fishing sign, walk away from it for a bit and take a deep breath.

In my last post regarding content, specifically the writing of content, I mentioned the piece of advice I refer to when the big picture looks, well, just a little bit too BIG. To take things bird by bird.

That’s all very well, but what happens when you realise you’ve got an entire aviary on your hands?
I have been saving this blog post up for my end-of-day special treat. My reflect with a glass of wine time. I don’t want this to sound like I am complaining. I’m not, really. It’s just challenging and sometimes the shallow end seems a very long way off. But what worthwhile project isn’t challenging?

Having moved through the various other stages of the web project (from blue skies to Post-It notes to wireframes to UI to bugs and beyond), and having been present through all the steps along the way, now the onus is well and truly on us, the Marketing and Communications team, to pull it off. And a shell – however well thought-out and intuitive it may be – does not constitute a website.

This final stage – the get the content in and right and looking and feeling as it should stage – feels pretty myopic, buried in our content management system, EPiServer.* I go into my content cave and before I know it six hours have passed. I realise this and then I have a pang of guilt about my job. By ‘my job’ I mean all the other stuff that happens outside the web project. And when I attend to ‘my job’ for any length of time (and I’m talking mere hours here) I start to feel guilty about a languishing, untended website.

I nearly just wrote, ‘there aren’t enough hours in the day,’ but isn’t that true for most project-slash-information-workers? And most often (for those of us whose time is not being paid for by the hour, at least) we don’t have the luxury of discrete, sequential projects. We’re suckers for multi-tasking, or juggling, or whatever you choose to call it. The balls go up in the air; whether they come down in the right place and in the right way is often as much an act of faith as it is a matter of logistical precision.

Back to the content. One other thing I hadn’t truly considered until this project was that content doesn’t just equal words. Or even just words and images. Then there’s all the stuff you don’t see – like metadata and perfected templates, like cohesion of all of the various elements. Everything in its right place, everything present and accounted for, everything working in harmony.

It’s not hard to guess at the moral of this story, but if I have to spell it out: make time for content. The water is as important as the glass, as Confucius might say.

*More on EPiServer – and EPiServer Composer – later.

Posted by: Katy Sweetman, Marketing Director, Empired Group | 12 October 2009

Tags: Content, EPiServer, website redevelopment

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