Bento Nation: Why WUCF Loves Bento

By Christine Dellert, Director of Communications & Outreach, WUCF TV

WUCF's New Bento Site

Breaking up is never easy, especially with a CMS. But Bento certainly has made the experience worthwhile for a station trying to create its own online presence –literally from the “digital” ground up.

When WUCF TV first launched as Central Florida’s PBS station in 2011, we relied on a beta site created in WordPress to provide users with basic information: where to find us on the dial, what was on TV, and how to financially support the station.

But expanding WUCF TV also meant improving our online experience for our new (and growing) audience and tapping into resources that PBS made available – everything from mobile-friendly platforms and video plugins to hosting the site’s “back-end.” It was basically like giving us the keys to an empty house, ready for decorating.

So three months after launching 2.0 as a fully Bento Explorer site, here’s what we’ve learned:

Organize, organize, organize.
Whether you’re working in Bento or any other CMS, designing a website is all about organization. Bento gives you the foundation and the tools to work with, but an effective site starts with good navigation and a “good plan.” What content do you want to highlight? What are the goals of your site? Do you want to drive online users on air, or vice versa? Do you want to increase your online video views?

In redesigning our site, we drew from PBS’ work with Ozarks Public Television and its recent web overhaul. We didn’t want to “byte” off more than we could chew by creating lots of pages and uploading content that wouldn’t have a cohesive home. In the early months of launch, we wanted a more robust site that would offer information on local and national programming, encourage community engagement with WUCF TV and showcase our commitment to education. In doing so, we also hoped to attract new members and make it easy to financially support the station.

Let yourself ‘play!’
Decorating is fun, especially with a little CSS know-how. Since we don’t have a web developer on staff, Bento made it easy to make little tweaks to its CSS design files – like changing font sizes and page backgrounds. Not having to design “from scratch” saved time and money. (Shout out to WMHT for its American Graduate customized page design in Bento.) 

Ask, and ye shall (likely) receive.
Like any web platform, Bento is not perfect, but its host of smart snippets and tools is laudable – and evolving. Thanks to the guidance (and good humor) of the SPI team, we’ve been able to add iframes and surface local content to post alongside national videos and photos on our pages using most smart snippets.

(My next requests involve longer image description displays, allowing hyperlinks in photo galleries, and scheduled Explorer Carousel postings. Wink, wink.)

Don’t ‘go it alone.’
Captain Planet speaks the truth: We can accomplish more “with our powers combined.” The beauty of Bento is improving stations’ ability to integrate national and local content for a better online user experience. And do it quickly.

As one of 10 PBS member stations awarded a production grant to film community members discussing civil rights in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we wanted to create an online portal that would not only showcase our videos but also explore civil rights in Central Florida and encourage discussion.

It was our first attempt at a microsite with videos, photo gallery, links to local historical documents and texts – and national content from the Black Culture Connection. In less than a day, we created a site that incorporated national and local resources – a much richer online experience. In its first week up, the site was our third-highest visited page, behind only the “Home” page and “TV Schedules,” according to Google Analytics.

Not a bad “report card” for three months. Now, on to what we can do with Bento in the next three months and the three months after that.