||Thursday, November 3rd
||Northwoods Web Solutions - 1572 E Capitol Drive, Shorewood WI
|8:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.
|9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
||TUG Meeting - Keynote, Emerging Trends, Recent Titan Launches, Titan CMS v6.8 New Features Demonstration, Titan CMS v6.9 Preview, Future Roadmap for Titan CMS
|10:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.
|10:45 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
||Learning Sessions (TBD)
WHAT IS TUG?
At Northwoods, we keep our friends close -- literally, in the sense of "in the same room with us".
"Most CMSs don't upgrade that often," says Rick Fessenbecker, Northwoods managing director. "We do it to keep our updates cost-effective and easy. So we have to keep our clients up to speed and be sure that what we're doing meets their needs."
"We're constantly evolving Titan CMS, so it stays relevant and never goes obsolete, " says Patrick Bieser, Northwoods founder and president. "So we have sessions like 'Really Cool New Features You're Not Using but Probably Should.' We always hear clients say 'Wow, I didn't know I could do that.'"
Titan Users Group get-togethers always include sneak previews of soon-to-be-released features, and sometimes sneak previews of new Learn at Northwoods workshops before they open to the wide web world. Northwoods is know for generously serving the field through free, live educational sessions that cover everything from web design trends to user experience to SEO to intranets. (The company serves the industry beyond Greater Milwaukee through highly informative and very readable blogs.)
“It’s helpful to try out a new workshop at TUG, before a friendly audience that will give us some feedback,” Fessenbecker said.
The workshop previews add electricity to the lively atmosphere typical of TUG gatherings, which usually attract 100 or so Titan CMS users at all levels to Northwoods’ spacious quarters.
“I think I’ve attended every TUG meeting and taken every [Learn at Northwoods] workshop,” said Mark Barthel, webmaster for the Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. “I appreciate their ability to help both programming types and marketing types.”
Barthel has worked with Northwoods people since 1999, the company’s earliest days. He adopted Titan CMS for his employer 10 years ago. He cited the frequent upgrades, user-friendliness that makes it easy to teach to his non-technical colleagues, and the ability to easily manage thousands of pages and seven distinct archdiocese sites as reasons for sticking with both Titan CMS and the people behind it.
“They always seem to be on top of things in this field,” Barthel said. “They always seem to know when a trend will turn out to be a fad, and they’re not afraid to share their thoughts.”
Bieser and his Northwoods colleagues take pride in their users’ accomplishments, and they delight in showing off the clever things clients do with Titan CMS.
“User sharing was the original impetus behind TUG 10 years ago,” Bieser said. “People still find the user show-and-tell sessions incredibly valuable.”
THE VALUE OF TUG
TUG often has between-session crosstalk among clients, as they share ideas, tips and experience one-to-one. Sometimes, new friendships and business relationships take root at Titan Users Group gatherings.
“The main value for me is meeting other users and seeing how they solve problems and use the software,” said Jeanine Hantke, webmaster and marketing specialist for Server Products, a B2B manufacturer of specialty restaurant equipment. She adopted Titan CMS 10 years ago and has attended nearly every TUG meeting. Her company’s online product catalog – catalogs are among Northwoods’ specialties -- lists 400 items. Titan CMS provides easy manipulation of meta data and URL aliasing, which greatly enhance the searchability and search-engine visibility of catalog items.
She recalled that clients at a TUG session asked for URL aliasing, and before long, it was embedded in Titan CMS.
“It’s great to see them implement good ideas from their users,” Hantke said. “If they see value in something, they put it in the base. And that’s just awesome.”
From Northwoods’ point of view, user input is the main benefit of the TUG assemblies. Bieser and friends rarely field complaints, but they get lots of requests for new features -- so many that they dedicate wish-list sessions at TUG.
Those wish lists don’t fall into the black hole of some suggestion box. The Northwoods team discusses them at length, decides which among them offer the best and broadest utility for clients and thus determine the finalists among the items.
At the next TUG conclave, users vote their preferences, and Northwoods responds.
“Customers have a hand in setting priorities,” Bieser said. Off the top of his head, he mentioned page URL aliasing, built-in responsive design, filter blocks for geographic proximity search, batch file uploading, and batch meta data updating as among the items added to Titan CMS over the years by client request and votes at TUG sessions.
Between TUG gatherings, Northwoods keeps in touch through TUG email newsletters and through the TUG Group on LinkedIn. Those channels might be more important in the future, as Northwoods’ client base expands beyond Greater Chicago and Milwaukee.
Clients from Delaware to California can’t really fly to Milwaukee for a half-day session. Bieser and his team are pondering a more nationwide future for Northwoods and TUG. They’ve lived-streamed one meeting and might do more of that, or they could expand at least one of the two annual meetings to a full-day or two-day experience at a convention hotel. But they’re determined to maintain the close client relationships that they established and have maintained since.