P036: It Never Ends

Please allow me to briefly indulge in a little meta-commentary. When I started this newsletter back in January, I figured I’d only be able to build anything of substance if I kept to a strict publishing schedule: every Tuesday. That lone constraint informed the name, the logo, then tone of this publication and it’s been the one consistent thing through the entire run.

So tonight I sit here, writing my 36th issue, and I have come to terms with the idea that I’ve built my own personal 10,000 year clock. By jumping into a publishing endeavor with no set goals or objectives, I’ve created an open-ended responsibility that will not cease as long as I show up to do the work. To bring this newsletter to an end would suggest that I’d either learned or communicated something concrete about publishing and I would be foolhardy to even entertain such a lofty notion at this stage. My word is my bond and you, dear reader, are going to get an email from me every Tuesday – so long as you are in US Central Time at least.

Limping Towards Launch Day

Anyone wondering if I was alluding to real-world events in past issues can wonder no longer: today we launched a new website at my agency. It’s a complete overhaul – brand, positioning, CMS, the whole thing – and in the year-long process we felt like we took the time to really break down what we were trying to accomplish and put ourselves in a good position to be able to respond to change over time.

Our previous site was a beautifully-illustrated long-scroller with lots of animation and easter eggs. While it succeeded in delivering surprise and delight (at least for users on desktop browsers), it was very difficult to update and relied on a SilverStripe CMS, two separate WordPress blogs and a mountain of javascript to function. Without getting into all the gory details, let’s just say that there was a significant amount of technical debt. And while we were able to figure out what we wanted for the site today, we knew that we had no way of predicting what we might need it to do or be six months from now. The only requirement was that it had to be more modular and flexible than the previous version. So here we are then with the modern paradox of web development: In a world where the major relaunch has been dead since 2003, how can I sincerely put a link in your inbox proclaiming the New and Improved?

Turns out Bruce Willis was the new website all along

One of the main goals of the new site is to better showcase our writing. We had built up over 500 blog posts and 2500 mini digital case studies and all of that rich content was locked away in their own silos. It was an easy decision to look for ways to better surface that thinking and use our constant stream of content to help users find their way to and through the site. Once we placed our content on a pedestal, the rest of the pieces fell into place naturally. Yes, this was a massive technical overhaul, but it was in the service of a new direction that we’d been working towards since 2008. And while the increased focus on editorial content has created an open-ended, unceasing responsibility to maintain that content pipeline, the past six years of production suggests that we are worthy of that task.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron