Case Study: Spin your own Web

Written by David Zimmer

CHALLENGE: Heritage Inn Hotels, a chain of seven properties in Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C., needed an updated Web presence and the ability to take bookings via the Internet. A standard revamp for most firms, but owing to the specifics of the hotel business, Heritage also needed to be able to react quickly to marketplace changes and update its new site without the aid of an expensive Web developer or having to train staff in the black art of HTML protocols. “In our business we change rates, we change special packages, we change a number of things on an ongoing basis, and we didn’t want to rely on a third party to do it for us,” explains Nikolaus Wyslouzil, director of sales and marketing for Heritage.

Wyslouzil’s previous experience with website maintenance left him wary of the back-end costs. When changes were needed, the contracted Web wizard might be unavailable or away on holidays (or grounded by his parents). Even with an immediate response, Wyslouzil found the process numbingly slow. “You’d send the information in and eventually get an e-mail back saying, ‘We’ve changed your information, it’s now live.’ Then you’d go look and it would be wrong or need changes,” he says. “That process could take days.” And it was expensive: predetermined site development fees only allowed for a few hours of update time per year. Anything more was billed at an hourly rate.

SOLUTION: Heritage invested in a content management system (CMS) that allows non-nerds to update Web content without the use of programmers-for-hire. There are literally dozens of CMSs out there that allow users to update their websites themselves, so choosing the right one can be a challenge. Wyslouzil wanted to keep it simple and close to home, so he settled on a system offered by Calgary-based Globi Web Solutions. “Of all the options I looked at,” says Wyslouzil, “this was the most affordable, straightforward system.”

HOW IT WORKS: The Globi CMS can be installed on in-house or outsourced Web-hosting servers, and is easily integrated with your existing website. You pay a one-time licensing agreement based on the number of users you need to access the site — a single-user licence is $199 — and then approximately $50 a page to install the CMS on the pages you have selected. (Of the 70-odd pages on the Heritage Inn Hotels site, just 18 needed to be updatable, for a one-time investment of approximately $1,100.) With the CMS in place, the client uses a password to gain access, then selects an edit function to change text, swap graphics or add rich text format (RTF) content to the site. The changes go live on the Internet at the push of a button.

Wyslouzil also likes the password control over content updates: “My concern was if that authority got in the wrong hands it could do some damage.” For added security, whenever the CMS is used to change the content, an automatic e-mail notifies both Wyslouzil and Globi of the update. “It alerts me that something has been changed,” says Wyslouzil, “so I can go in there and see what happened and make sure the information is correct.”

ROI: While it’s difficult to set a dollar figure on savings from this type of investment, “We were spending about $5,000 a year just for minor updates to the site, so we’re saving at least that much annually. But there’s also the invaluable fact that the program gives me control and a lot of flexibility,” says Wyslouzil. “Let’s say a competitor in one of our locations launches a rate special. We can change ours in 30 seconds. There’s a peace of mind that comes with that.”

© 2003 David Zimmer

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