Getting a Web site up is easy, but keeping the content fresh can be challenging. Start-up Today.com is trying to solve that with software that lets anyone with a word processor update content while letting HTML-trained developers retain control over site design.
Called WebWare Lite, the Web site development and management package is the first in a series of products that Today.com plans to roll out over the next year. WebWare Lite runs on Microsoft’s Windows NT and Internet Information Server software. It has two components: a template server and a content manager.
The template server allows a Web site designer to create the overall look and feel of the site, such as how standard components will look and where they will be placed. The content manager is a Web-based administrative console that lets the designer set restrictions on who can change the content. Authorized users can edit the content of the site separately from the page design. While the software supports any word processor, it comes with a plug-in for Microsoft Word.
“It’s increasingly difficult to find Web site developers. You don’t want to have minor changes going through them,” said Ken Wilson, Today.com’s chief technology officer. “We’ve built a framework that lets Web developers focus on the design, and the content is handled separately.”
Wilson said another key feature of WebWare Lite is that it supports dynamic page development in such a way that both the content and the page layout are generated at the end user’s or developer’s request. Sites also can be designed to support distributed processing and load balancing, he said.
Eric Klein, an analyst with The Yankee Group, has seen several Web site management tools like WebWare Lite that provide templates for Web sites and allow end users to update the content without knowing HTML. Klein said these packages are useful for departmental Web sites and intranets. “The ability to have someone without the HTML expertise maintain the site is very important,” he said.
This feature of WebWare Lite was a big attraction for the Pueblo Nation of New Mexico, which recently awarded a multimillion-dollar contract for the development of a Web site that will link its governmental offices, support broadcasts of live events and educational courses, and provide an electronic marketplace for selling tribal arts and crafts. The winning contractor on the bid, Virtual Broadcasting of Albuquerque, is using WebWare Lite to build the site.
“One of the requirements in the contract is to allow secretaries to update the information on the Web site,” said Scott Thompson, president of Virtual Broadcasting. Thompson said most of the personnel in the Pueblo government lack advanced or technical degrees. “They can’t afford high-tech engineers to make minor changes to their Web site.”
Thompson said WebWare Lite also reduces the cost of developing the Web site. “Without Today.com, our bid would have been three to five times more,” he said. With WebWare Lite, “we can design a template page and then generate all of the pages.”
WebWare Lite works with various HTML editing packages, including Microsoft FrontPage and Active X design systems, such as Microsoft Visual InterDev. It supports XML and will support Word 2000, which converts documents to XML instead of HTML. The package works with any Open Database Connectivity/OLE database, although it ships with a runtime version of Microsoft’s SQL Server.
WebWare Lite costs US$750 and is available direct from Today.com. Next summer, the company plans to ship an e-commerce edition that supports credit card purchasing and invoice shipping. Later in the year, the company will release an enterprise edition that adds support for personalization, membership, e-mail and chat.