I looked at my blog and realized that I pretty much fell off of the face of the planet after Content Strategy Workshops PDX. I learned a ton and wanted to use that knowledge, okay?

We’re updating our website over at Stephouse Networks. Stephouse has a relatively small crew, but we have great synergy and collaboration that’s brought us into our 10th year now. Woohoo! I figure I could take advantage of this camaraderie and build us a better web presence.

What does “updating the website” even mean? Are we just applying a new skin to some old, outdated content? (no.) Are we creating a new Geocities entity? (w/ MIDI’s! no.) Are we going to just rely on social media pages to get us by? (no.)

Well, it’s not just a facelift. Our customers want to see more support documentation. Colleagues want to be able to manage content without having to take an HTML class on the side to understand how to publish. We want to clearly bring our pricing to market on the web in a modern, relevant way. These are some of the agendas that are fueling our web renovation. They probably sound familiar to a lot of you in similar positions.

I share my field notes as a way to document my work, but to also tell others in my shoes that they’re not alone. I hope this piece highlights the fact that the convergence of organizational needs, user needs and business requirements has helped us form a path towards this new iteration of our site. These are exercises that take different forms and shapes depending on who you are and where you work. All in all, this is the type of effort that leads to sustainable content, if done properly and with care.

Organizational needs stem from what our organization expects of the content all the way down to what each user (author, editor, manager) will want from it as well.

Our user needs come from six months of research around topics like what we can do to improve our communications with our customers and how they would like to see us improve our web presence.

Business requirements are the “gimmie” here. We need to fulfill these in order to accomplish our communications and marketing objectives.

This convergence reveals advantages to our web content planning and development.

How we model our content. User research reveals what the customer wants to see. What they want to see, how they want to see it and the order they prefer to see it in has a lot to do with how you or your colleagues publish content. Spending extra time on content modeling to fit the convergence of organizational and user needs and business requirements leads to creating proper workflows to support the content. It’s well worth the time. It also greatly informs the decision-making when it comes to choosing a CMS as well.

Oh, yeah. When you work with structured content and have a plan ahead of time, you won’t believe how less annoyed developers and designers can be with you!

What we need out of our CMS. Just because we’re a smaller organization doesn’t mean it’s an automatic pick between Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla or other free, open-source CMS solutions. Don’t fall into that route. Organizations of all shapes and sizes have specific needs. We have to dig into the minds of our colleagues and our users to find out what they are.

Locking in a “cheap” or “easy” CMS that doesn’t fit down the road can be very painful in the long run. It hurts especially if employee workflows don’t necessarily fit with the structure of the CMS. That’s a lot of internal support that many of us don’t need during the day. It’s answering questions like “how do I publish this?” “how do I change that?”– things that can be answered by choosing and teaching the usage of a great CMS that fits.

Maybe your dream CMS costs a bit of money. Maybe a lot of money. Chances are that it costs something because it brings value to your content initiative. Of course, avoid the snake oil by aligning what’s promised by the CMS with what you, your users and your crew need.

Adapting workflow for publishing and management. This isn’t Ron Popeil kind of stuff– you don’t set it and forget it. Content requires maintenance and nurturing. Our lack of these things is what got us into the need to reinvent how we do web content. Overhauls are great, but very costly in everyone’s time and resources.

Shifting from an overhaul every x-years into more of a governance of content mode takes conversations around adapting the workflows of people involved with content. Company publishers, editors and managers need to understand their roles and newer parts of those roles once the new site launches.

Converge these needs, learn from them and then act.

It’s a lot to manage with a smaller team, but it’s just as much required as it is with a larger firm. There’s just as much at stake if we put money into a new web asset, only to have it drain us of even more resources all because we chose the wrong CMS for the job, left our colleagues unprepared for the new web asset and modeled the content in a convoluted, unstructured way.

As content strategists, it’s our duty to solve for our organization’s or client’s needs, and within their parameters. Raise the bar and push the limits towards understanding and fully taking advantage of structured content, but don’t push your organization down paths that become costly down the road.

It probably won’t be until 2013, which is right around the corner, but I’ll definitely show the fruits of our labor once we get our web overhaul done. In the meantime, what’s your latest project? What are you all doing?