From the BENTO 3.0 Beta Files: Wicked Fast Bento Deployment tips for Small Stations
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One of the questions we often get here at KMOS when people around the network find out that we were the launch station for the new Bento 3.0 platform is “How in the world did you get your site up so fast with such a small staff?” The question is both valid and one that we enjoy answering because getting our Bento 3.0 site developed and deployed in just five days speaks both to the power of the 3.0 platform as well as the validity of the Sprint process we used to get it done. While the method we used won’t work for every station in the network that wants to get going rapidly on Bento 3.0, we feel that many stations could benefit from the undertaking. Listed below are some of the top tips we learned from our process.

Consider creating a Bento 3.0 “War Room.”

If there was a single thing that we could recommend for success in the Bento development process, it would be the designation of a Bento War Room in your station. We realized quickly that the biggest enemy of progress on development was simple distraction. Because we have a small staff there’s a lot of competition for people’s attention so we needed to eliminate that as much as possible. We created a room where we had whiteboards and markers, 3 computers with Internet and image editing software, a table and enough chairs to seat up to five people. When people came into the room to work they came in with the understanding that they would be focusing solely on Bento. No emails, phone calls or other meeting topics would be allowed.  This worked tremendously well, as it was refreshing to be tackling one challenge in an intense fashion.

Consider a complete rebuild.

This one may sound very daunting to a lot of people, but one of the things we realized when looking at our web presence is that while it needed a refresh when it came to look and feel, it also needed a shake out of what was actually being looked at by users on our site. It’s pretty easy over time to allow your web presence to get bloated with older content or sections that seemed like a great idea at the time but simply didn’t perform. Bento 3.0 gives you a great opportunity to have a true “fresh-start” when it comes to your stations online presence. When creating our 3.0 instance, we did a complete rebuild. This allowed us to ask the tough questions about what content actually needed to be online, and forced us to look at analytics to help create content that would be engaging.

Have the right people in the room.

Another major hurdle that we identified during preparations was the old adage that too many cooks spoil the pot. While we felt it was important to get as much input as possible on our station’s web presence, we didn’t think that every single person in the station needed to be consulted about every piece of our site. My development partner and I took a look at the sections we were planning for the site and then assigned what we thought would be the appropriate staff to each one. During our war room, we invited just those staff members in to work at certain times on the specific section that we had assigned. The feedback we got from staff on this move was fantastic. Because we had narrowed the focus and put less people in the room, ideas were able to flow and be worked with on the fly. This generated some outstanding creativity and rapid whiteboarding of the site framework.

Leverage the planning/framework power of the 3.0 platform.

One of the things that the development team at PBS worked really hard on was to give us a good layout editor in the new platform. On Bento 2.0 the major complaint was that it was difficult to visualize how pages were laid out since the visual GUI hierarchy was a bit complex. 3.0 really fixes that and gives you a nice tool you can use for planning in the fact that you can know what your layout looks like before you even create a single thing on your site. Having the choice between single, double or triple column layouts might seem limiting at first, but these limitations are actually quite freeing in the fact that they give your staff a strong boundary to work within. Our staff reported huge relief in the fact that they could simply pick an option then run with it. This allowed us to whiteboard exactly what each page and section was going to look like, which allowed us to rapidly develop when we got into the actual Bento 3.0 backend.

Realize that Bento 3.0 is created for stations that don’t have a dedicated online staff person.

One of the statements I hear over and over when talking to people about 3.0 is the fact that most stations think they can’t have a strong web presence because they simply can’t afford a dedicated staff member for that area. While I think this statement was valid in the past, Bento 3.0 is written so that literally anyone in your station can write and rapidly deploy content in a good looking way. Don’t get me wrong, having a staff member whose mandate is engineering your online presence is a great thing but it’s not a necessity anymore. Bento 3.0 looks to decentralize content creation by allowing you to have as many staff members assigned to different areas as you choose. The user interface is intuitive and easy to understand and, as I mentioned above, the layout rules give rigid guidelines that less experienced staff members can work in with ease. Our suggestion is to assign content creation and upkeep for different sections of your site to the departments that are in charge of that content to begin with. While this does take a bit of training, it spreads the work out amongst your staff and negates the idea that you can’t have a great site without putting resources into a new online staff position.

Bonus tip: One of the resources we used to guide our development was a book called “Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days” by Jake Knapp. This is a solid book and a short read. We highly recommend it to anyone that asks how we got our site up so fast.

In closing I want to convey the simplest tip that I can to get you going on your Bento 3.0 development; just start doing it. Many times stations get bogged down thinking that the hurdles are too many and the time too short to tackle a new web presence. I encourage you to jump in with both feet into Bento 3.0, before you know it you’ll have a brand spanking new site ready to go in no time!