We often get asked about our background: how did Alice and I (Rachel) get together and why did we start our business, Contented Enterprises? Read on if you wonder this too. If you’re an entrepreneur, or if you’re involved in communications, e-learning, online marketing, content strategy or web design, you’ll probably recognize parts of our story.
Birth of Contented
In 2005, a large government organization in New Zealand contracted me to audit the content of their old intranet, and train staff to write content for a new intranet. Alice was contracted separately to do information architecture and business analysis. And that’s how we met each other. Alice and I had been working with government intranets and websites since 1997—but this job forced us both to see the folly of training writers the traditional way.Auditing 37,000 pages, I found the content was out of control. Thousands of pages were redundant, out-dated or trivial (otherwise known as ROT). Thousands more were unusable: I had no idea who they were for, who wrote them or when or why. (Sound familiar? This is normal in an aging intranet.)
Instead of listing 100 problems with content, I identified 4 simple editing changes that would substantially raise the quality of any new intranet content. (For example, some bad pages can become useful if given a new headline that’s accurate and complete.)Training content authors was my next job. 200 were licensed to use the CMS, so 200 had to be trained.Today, intranets have more social features but the basic publishing process remains the same. Commonly, content authors are trained to use the CMS: that’s the supplier’s responsibility. Unfortunately, they’re not trained to write usable, searchable, accessible, readable content: that’s nobody’s responsibility, and of course it’s an extra cost. (Sound familiar?)
Training 200 people in 14 groups exacerbated all the usual problems of training one group.
- At every session, 2–5 people were absent.
- Scheduling for 6 locations was difficult.
- Training took 6 months. Some staff forgot what they’d learned, lost enthusiasm, changed roles or resigned before they ever wrote any content.
- The training was expensive.
It was obvious to Alice and me that large organizations needed a simple, scalable, economical online system for training staff to write content. When we got together and formed a company in 2007, this was the problem we set out to solve.
Who writes for the intranet?
Those who write intranet and web content for their organization are a certain type, and training needs to suit them. We know these people well! They tend to fit the following description.
- Intelligent, capable subject experts: so we make sure our courses provide substantial, challenging new knowledge.
- Busy: so Contented trains rapidly, and teaches only the key skills with the most impact.
- Reluctant to quit the desk for a training day: so our training is online, available any time and place.
- Used to heavy, serious documents: so we make our courses solid (as expected) but also entertaining (for a change).
- Insecure with new technology: so we make sure our training raises confidence.
How we got our beautiful name and domain name
This chapter is a cautionary tale. It starts madly and badly, but it has a happy ending.
In 2005, Alice’s company was Revero, and mine was Quality Web Content.
I began the online training enterprise alone, under the name QWICKIT, and after Alice and I combined forces, we continued using this name for a year.
That name was an acronym for Quality Web and Intranet Content Kit, dreamed up in the labyrinth of Rachel’s poetic brain. But it was a crazy, silly name, as it turned out.
- Nobody could remember it.
- Nobody could spell it. (Even I couldn’t spell it!)
- When we finally admitted we needed a better name and found one, we had to start again from scratch with a new logo and domain, and risked losing brand, links and customers in the changeover.
That perfect domain: Contented.com
O happy day! We found a Canadian software developer had registered the domain Contented.com. We contacted him, and he generously gave us the name for a token fee because he liked the sound of our company.
All business documents are treated as content now, so our business writing courses are all about content. And above all, we want our customers to be contented, and our customers’ customers to be contented too.
Alice and I both have the contentment gene, and we wouldn’t be in business if it didn’t keep us contented. We tentatively think we may have found the recipe:
- mutual respect and courtesy
- shared goals
- achieving a series of goals
- careful communication (of course).
Now our name gets compliments instead of frowns—even though many people do misspell it as Contended.com.
Oh well, that’s OK: we are a contender!