Most of our long-time friends will be hard-pressed to remember the last time anything significant changed on our website. I’d like to be able to say that because our site is so perfect, no changes have been necessary in the last ten years, but that just isn’t the case. There’s a grain of truth in it, though.
Our site was awesome in its day, and we were one of the first (maybe even the first) independent record labels and distribution companies to have a web shop, which ours was linked directly to our stock control, so customers had a real-time view of what was available to order. The complexity of the system, however, led to other problems, not the least of which was the expert knowledge required to maintain it. Not many people know that in the last 15 years or so, Southern Records had at least two, usually three, full-time IT staff (including John Loder himself) who maintained Southern’s–considering the resources available–rather impressive network across several locations in London and Chicago. We certainlyhad the expertise to manage our web site, but didn’t have a lot of timefor it. The focus of most of the IT work was on making sure the software we use to run our businesses was working well, and on keeping our network stable.
Because the web shop system was built around our, er, vintage accounting and stock control suite, it lacked a certain flexibility. Changes that by modern standards should be simple were very difficult to make. For example, changing the layout of the site’s front page required the skills of a programmer. So for years it was necessary to employ someone whose sole job was to maintain the website, adding content and making improvements here and there, until about five years ago, he finally found enough time come up with a way for non-experts to publish news articles.
We really needed a Content Management System (CMS), but to put one in place would require a Herculean effort to get the thousands of pages of content in different formats and based on different standards across ten years of development of our old site into the CMS, in addition to the not-insignificant work needed to put all of this content into some sort of useful (and searchable) structure.
However, the time has come for us to make this happen. Over the next few months, we will be working on extracting all the useful content out of our old, moribund, site and importing it into a new system that will allow us to benefit from all the features that a modern system has as a matter of course. The old site is still there–it’s just the front page that’s been replaced for now.
We’ve already started work on the base system and have decided many of the features we will need, but we would love to hear your ideas as well–so please use the comment system on our blog to tell us what you think. The new site will be intended for people like you, after all.