by guest blogger Amanda Junker, founding editor of Fitbie.com and Senior Editor with the Creative Services group at Rodale Inc.
You may have heard that there’s a new place to get healthy on the Web, and Rodale is the company behind it. Fitbie is a diet and fitness destination that features useful, inspirational, and actionable advice for looking and feeling better—whether you want to lose 10 pounds, need motivation to go to the gym, or would like to take your training to the next level. Whatever your goal, Fitbie offers the right advice, tools, and programs to help you get there.
The site lives within MSN.com, bringing Rodale’s expertise to the network’s vast audience of nearly 100 million subscribers. Fitbie includes content from top brands like Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Prevention, Runner’s World, and Bicycling, in addition to original daily editorial to engage and entertain this broad audience.
While the site just launched yesterday, it’s been brewing on the 16th floor at Rodale for months, so we thought it would be a good time to take a look back at what exactly went into getting this thing off the ground. Let’s just say that if this were a recipe in Maria’s kitchen, it would call for thousands of pieces of content, countless man-hours, a lot of collaboration, and a steady stream of caffeine for good measure. Take those key ingredients and then follow these steps, and you’ve got yourself a website:
1. Identify your unique offering.
Rodale has been syndicating content to MSN for years, but this site was an opportunity to take the user experience a level deeper. In addition to featuring the magazine stories each month, Fitbie touts original daily programming, as well as two-week versions of Rodale’s most popular subscription programs, such as the Flat Belly Diet, Belly Off, and Eat This, Not That! The Diet and Fitness section on MSN is no longer just a casual browsing experience; now users can sign up for plans and find the products they need to help them lose weight and achieve their goals.
2. Design it.
In the early phases of a project like this, everyone wants to know two things above all else: 1) What’s it called, and 2) What will it look like? The naming process ended up being anything but simple (note: if you stumble upon an available domain in the English language, buy it—fast!), so we proceeded to design a site without a name.
Fitbie’s look and feel reflects its editorial tone: helpful, friendly, and motivating. The design is clean and simple, brought to life by vivid, inspirational imagery. It’s meant to be an encouraging, approachable place that offers something for everyone. In order to serve the needs of such a wide-ranging audience, it had to be simple to navigate, but also showcase a vast array of content. The site is designed to make it easy for anyone to find the topics most relevant to them, from race training to healthy eating.
3. Build the thing.
Laying down the code for the back end, scripting the style sheets, and integrating the site with a major portal is no small task, and our team of developers toiled tirelessly to bring these pages to life. In fact, the glow from their Macs is still alight as they work on some key enhancements that will roll out over the next few months, such as a personalized “smart bar” that recommends content you might like based on what you’ve viewed and “favorited,” as well as more advanced functionality for the Exercise and Workout Finder, so it will be even easier to find the perfect routine for you.
4. Add content.
At launch, the site’s foundation of content is largely drawn from the Rodale brands, including almost 2,000 exercises, more than 700 videos, and hundreds of workouts and articles. Thanks to this wealth of editorial, there’s plenty for anyone who’s looking to get in shape or lose weight.
That said, one thing that we learned quickly from the MSN editors was that while many of their readers respond well to straight-down-the-middle diet and fitness topics (flatten your belly!), there are a good number of others whose interest in health stories is limited to things like slideshows of the famous, bizarre, and awkward. And, you know, that’s okay, because Fitbie really is for everyone. Our daily editorial programming includes a mix of stories that ranges from undeniably useful to uniquely offbeat (but still useful!). Check back every day to find something new and different.
5. Work out the kinks.
Oh, there will be kinks. Come to think of it, this should have been the first thing I pointed out: When you’re building something from scratch, things don’t always go as planned. The content-management system malfunctions, requirements change, stories evolve, and the domain name you really like is owned by an elusive man in France who won’t return your phone calls.
That’s just how it goes. But if you give yourself the time and flexibility to work through all that, things will come together. And seeing Fitbie take form makes it all worth it.
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