Editors Note: Dana Greenlees technology column is running a day early to make room for another story in tomorrows paper.
There is nothing as sad and useless as an out-dated Website. Have you seen ghost town Websites with wrong contact information, incorrect details and the last press release on the site is dated from 2001?
Another typical dilemma facing a business Website is you have five department heads all writing information for the company Website and no one knows HTML.
Despite what high-end Web development companies may imply, Website owners can update your site without any hardcore coding knowledge or restricted to just the techies.
Non-technical people can author and edit online information on a Website, giving them the power to publish fresh content.
The answer is a robust back end Web-based administration tool kit that helps manage and update a site through an easy to use interface.
Trey Hickman, founder and president of Chicago-based Nextology.com. was working for large corporations like AOL/TimeWarner and the Tribune Company managing big Website properties when he decided to respond to the need for Web content management technology at the small to mid-sized enterprises business level.
Q: What kind of services are you offering to help people create Websites?
Hickman: You know, the expense of developing a Website over the last couple of years has just grown exponentially. The fact is, theres great technology out there that allows small to medium-sized businesses – even individual users – to develop sites at an extremely low cost.
One of the things Nextology does is specialize in making low-cost content management systems. Whether youre a home coder – you taught herself to design your site – or even if you no design skills whatsoever, it still allows you to maintain your own content, keep your site up-to-date and get the important facts about your business, about your reason to be on the web, out there.
It also helps control the cost of Web maintenance.
Q: Its certainly isnt very good for a company to have their Web developers fixing spelling errors and posting press releases. Youre focusing on helping companies keep their site fresh.
Hickman: Absolutely. Were focused on the idea of distributed content management.
We feel that the people who are the stakeholders in a certain department or area of the company – maybe the PR or HR personnel or the sales group – have their own vested interest.
They should really be empowered to maintain their area of the site. As you mentioned, the developers have other things to do. Theyre worried about security issues, the upgrading of the networks and keeping abreast of current technologies.
The guys who are involved in the day-to-day business planning need to get that information up on the site in real time. Thats what content management does in a nutshell.
Q: Nextologys content management solution can be plugged in to an existing Website, correct? It doesn’t have to be integrated from the get go, right?
Hickman: Exactly. Thats the greatest thing about this. It doesnt matter where your site is hosted or who developed it and how it was developed. It keeps the look and feel of your existing site. Theres not even a change out.
In fact, many times our clients will come to us and say, Hey, we paid you for a content management system. Where is it? Well, its actually in there. You just cant notice it because it looks exactly the same as it was before.
Q: Do you guys consider yourselves to be a Web services provider by the definition that’s out there in the industry?
Hickman: Not so much. We actually produce more product. In a sense, you could call us a Web services provider because we do do our own database hosting and we do provide that off site connectivity for clients.
Our ideal for the future is to go to a shrink wrapped solution. For right now, doing it over to web and doing it direct is the most efficient way to get our stuff installed.
Q: So youre saying that Nextology can wrap your solution around any design?
Hickman: In fact, I would actually say that exactly the reverse. Any design can wrap around our solution. Were designed to be just a little core component thats totally invisible to the end user. Any design that exists out there we can essentially carve out, put our QuickEditor solution in there, and its incredibly affordable. It starts at $100 installation and $40 per month.
Q: Nextology has a sort of tool kit of applications to deploy on a Website. What are some of the applications you have developed?
Hickman: QuickEditor maintains the core content of your site: text, images, graphics, the overall information. We also provided NextInventory, which is essentially an online catalog. NextInventory allows small business owners to post not only products but individual units of items and services they sell quickly on the Website in real time, no technological knowledge required.
We also offer NextCommunicator, which is a newsletter distribution service that actually ties into content management. One of my favorites is NextWire, which is for broadband content distribution.
Q: Put your futurist hat on and tell us what the future will look like for Website projects like this and how people are going to be getting content up on their sites in the future.
Hickman: I think were seeing a general trend in the industry to greater accessibility. I think we all remember back in the 1990s when you had to have an advanced degree to program a Website.
But the advent of the easy drag-and-drop, type-and-go Website content were seeing is going to go further and further. I think its going to go into video and multimedia.
Were going to see the ease of production for this type of content increase very rapidly here in the hands of the everyday user.
Were also seeing an evolution of the whole blogging trend. People are really just dipping their toes in the water there and kind of understand the potential power of the Web.
These sorts of tools are getting far more powerful and enable people to network and communicate much more effectively.
The full audio interview with Trey Hickman can be heard at www.webtalkguys.com.
Dana Greenlee is a Web designer and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based talk show featuring technology news and interviews.