It's a big deal when your company redesigns its website. I understand that because I've been through more website redesigns and relaunches at Plastics News (and our sister magazines) than I can count.
In fact, just last month we wrapped up another one. We made some subtle but important changes on PlasticsNews.com when we switched to a new content management system. We tried our best to keep all the features that readers liked from the old site. But we also took the opportunity to make some changes to make the pages easier to read and navigate and to encourage readers to stay longer.
It was a big project that took a lot of behind-the-scenes work by an army of people. News Editor Rhoda Miel spearheaded the editorial department's portion of the change, so now she's our resident expert on how the new CMS works. The rest of us will need some time to get up to speed.
The good news is that we didn't get any reader complaints. Changing a newspaper's website can be a headache, because readers get used to finding specific things and suddenly their bookmarks don't work or the navigation looks different. Or, in a worst case, popular features disappear.
We're excited about the new site because it gives us more freedom to create new products and control all the content.
Plastics News has been online since 1996. When I look back at our very first foray on the World Wide Web, the first thing I notice is how radically different it looked. The old design looks very old fashioned, which seems like a weird thing to say about a website. But online content gets old faster than things in the real world. It's a little like talking about how old your dog is, counting every year as the equivalent of seven normal years.
Back then, we had a big rainbow-colored Plastics News logo at the top of the page and a series of diamonds on the left, each one a different color, serving as a navigation bar. (Plastics News insiders will remember that one of our early prototype designs used a blue stripe that looked a lot like a line of toothpaste, instead of the colorful diamonds, on the navigation bar.)
While our design has changed, a lot of the content on the old site would look familiar to 2019-era readers. The 1996 homepage led with news stories, just like it does now, and we had prominent links to our resin pricing, processor rankings, datebook, opinion page, story archives and classifieds.
We didn't have blogs, videos, podcasts or webinars then. But we were still ahead of the plastics industry when it came to being internet savvy.
Industry veterans will remember that the world of plastics e-commerce exploded in the late 1990s. A substantial number of companies with totally web-focused business plans had big presences at NPE, and in our ad pages, by 2000.
Since then, most of those businesses have disappeared or downsized. But the internet hasn't become less important. Today, the internet is a key part of every company's business plan.
I like to tell people who manage plastics companies that if they think they've faced disruption in the past few decades, that's nothing compared to what we've seen in the media. But the internet has been a disrupting force for plastics processors, too. It's how you compete for global customers, communicate with your supply chain and even track your production. You probably couldn't survive for long without it.
I remember when people said that news reporters would never have internet access on their computers. It would discourage them from talking to sources on the phone and in person. I suspect that many plastics processors felt the same way; they thought the internet would be a distraction, not a business tool.
Flash forward to 2019, and we've had reporters write and transmit stories via their smartphone's text messaging. And you may have Wi-Fi on your injection molding machines.
When you're finished reading this column — especially if you're seeing it in our print edition — do me a favor and go to the Plastics News website. Check out our latest news and multimedia, sign up for our free email newsletters, and surf around sections like FYI Charts, blogs and events. Connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, and check the links to our sister Crain Communications publications.
We see the web as a way to have a closer relationship with you — and, as always, to give you a competitive edge in your business.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.