UNC-TV Launches New and Improved Website Using Bento 3.0

When Brian Sickora became the new director and general manager at UNC-TV in 2016, he gave his staff the freedom to be creative as they worked to streamline fundraising and improve viewer outreach. One of the first priorities became overhauling the network’s aging web presence at UNCTV.org.

“The decision to redo the website has been an ongoing conversation here since before I arrived,” says Tivi Jones, UNC-TV’s director of marketing and communications. She joined the team in early 2016. “The past website was developed using [the open-source content management system] Drupal and no one here really knew how to manipulate it in the way it needed to better serve the audience.” In other words, the network needed a new website, and everyone knew it.

Beta-testing Bento

UNC-TV decided to pursue an overhaul. That decision led to months of research and, ultimately, an RFP process. But as UNC-TV prepared to execute the site redevelopment, PBS Digital’s team announced a beta launch group for Bento 3.0, the robust new version of its web site management tool. The UNC-TV team took a step back. Deciding to give Bento a shot, they ended up joining the beta group.

“We had heard really good things about its capabilities,” she says of Bento 3.0. “Personally, I was very interested in the fact that it was free [for PBS member stations].” She was also excited about the platform’s visual and design features. “It offered a much better visual experience. The integration with the video platforms was really important to me too. We wouldn’t have to go through the development process of making sure everything worked and aligned right.”

Cadillac or Camry?

Still, Jones knew that beta-testing any software or digital product would come with its share of bugs. “I told my team to take perfection off the table,” she says. “I had this joke with my website team: We’re not building the Cadillac version of a website. We’re building a 2004 Toyota Camry.”

Jones laughs, because she drives a 2004 Toyota Camry. “So I feel like I can say that. It’s a solid car, it gets you from Point A to Point B, and it has the features you need.” She made it clear that the platform, the process, and the final product didn’t have to be perfect, but the final result did need to be functional. UNC-TV wanted a site that was user-friendly for both viewers and staff, but flexible enough to address UNC-TV’s future needs.

Launching the New Site

That’s exactly what they got with Bento. The redesigned UNCTV.org launched in July of this year. The response was positive right off the bat. “So far, people love it,” says Jones. “We’re getting more traffic on the site and everything has improved. All the quantitative and qualitative measures are great.”

The numbers tell a positive story. In the two weeks after launch:

  • Website page views were up 105 percent
  • Mobile views grew 157 percent
  • Tablet views increased 200 percent

In the 30 days after launch:

  • Online sessions were up 79 percent over the 30 day prior to launch
  • Users increased by 25 percent
  • Page views grew by 50 percent

“We’ve gotten a lot of comments from viewers and from partners in the community,” she says. Almost all are positive. The few complaints are mostly from viewers who had grown accustomed to the prior layout and struggled to adjust to the change.

Building in Beta

As for Bento 3.0, Jones says the experience was a good one. “The responsive design alone is amazing, and I love the ability to do really cool things with images.” When her team encountered limitations or bugs in the beta version, they were quick to share those issues with PBS. “They were really open to feedback and tried to take note of what we were saying,” she says. “It’s a really promising platform.”

Her team encountered a few challenges—batch migration of pages or content weren’t possible—but she believes that helped streamline the new site. “It forced us to really be intentional about what we wanted to bring over and what we wanted to build,” says Jones. The support and communication from PBS Digital kept the process moving.

Now that the new website, UNCTV.org, has launched Jones and the rest of the station are happy with the result and with Bento 3.0. UNC TV has added the website to its arsenal as it works to reduce pledge while expanding its digital fundraising efforts.