Monday, October 1, 2007

Here's (Hopefully) Good (State) News

Delaware.Net President John McKown has a post up on his Building Better Web Sites blog announcing that his company has won a contract to re-do the web site of the Delaware State News.

It's about time. I'm not a huge fan of the News Journal's site (too busy, too blinky, and with too flashy-move-y thingies, though it is getting better). But the Journal's site is head and shoulders above the current State News site. At least the News Journal posts its stories by day and by section and provides archives and some sense of order.

The current State News "News" section for Central Delaware, for example, includes a headline and teaser that suggests that Milford has a CompPlan meeting "tonight."
City looks at comp plan
MILFORD — City planners will meet in special session at 7 tonight to begin revising Milford’s comprehensive plan.
It's only when you click through that you realize that that headline has been up there since September 12. That meeting is already over.

That's just one of several gripes. But what's important to note is that the State News is not a terrible newspaper. They have some decent reporters and do a respectable job covering Downstate Delaware.

I'm hoping that Mr. McKown and his team can bring some on-line order to the News.

1 comment:

John McKown said...

Mike,
Thanks for your post and opinion. Our contract to redesign the Delaware State News site has several stages to it, and our current involvement in this initial stage will be to work on the graphic, file, and layout structure of the site, as well as search engine optimization for various sections and sub-sites. My hope is that after the initial work is complete, we will be able to aid them in other areas as well.
There are many challenges with a project such as this. The largest being the integration of a fresh new design with the existing structure, applications, and content that are presented to us. This is because the current web site uses code, technology, and on-demand solutions from many different vendors. In contrast, you mentioned the News Journal web site, which is a Gannett newspaper. Since Gannett owns 85 daily newspapers, they have an IT budget and economy of scale to their online offerings that transcends the Delaware area. Applications for different sections areas of the newspaper, such as classifieds, advertising, obituaries, etc. are built centrally. So in the case of Gannett, they can build extensive content management applications once, then redeploy them over and over again for their various newspapers. All of those papers are then, in essence, sharing their IT expense and design timeline. . Hence, they have a larger economy of scale to those efforts.
Typically, smaller independent newspapers don't have that scale or IT budget, so they forge partnerships with vendors that offer content management applications in an on-demand way. The State News is a good example of this type of newspaper. This is a good approach because it allows them to choose vendors that get their content to market quickly, without a long programming lead time. The State News site is comprised of separate domain names, sections, and sub-domains which allows the vendor programs to co-exist within the one web site. While Delaware.Net does build, deploy, and host such applications, this project entails simply adding graphic design to the current web site.
With the challenges I mentioned, our design treatment must be applied to existing code, sent to the various vendors, and hosting will be deployed to various hosting companies. All of these sites must then be upgraded in concert to improve the overall structure of the site. In our industry, we sometimes joke that web sites are never really done. This is true somewhat, so this re-skinning of the web site will be the first stage of the site’s continued evolution. I am encouraged by the commitment that the Delaware State News has shown in recognizing that their web site needs improvement, and my hope is that this first step will lead to a web site that looks better and is easier to manage. I believe that there are additional solutions coming to the site that will enable an “e-edition”, which would allow the printed newspaper content to be deployed to the new web site in one easy step. That would solve some of the stale content issues that you pointed out.
Cheers.
John McKown, President
Delaware.Net, Inc.

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