GUAM – For their business news website, GuamBuildupNews.com, the GBN team has years of experience to draw from. The company’s principals, Leon Colaco, president, and Sharla Montvel-Cohen, publisher and editor-in-chief, have over 30 years of combined experience building and running media and news organizations. It’s a portfolio that has taught them the priceless value of audience feedback.

This hard-won lesson is the premise of the current beta testing phase for the new site, which aims to be a primary web space for businesses eyeing the Guam military buildup and the business opportunities and challenges that come with it.

By opening the beta site to the public, the team expects to collect practical audience feedback on the real user experience.

Mrs. Montvel-Cohen oversees GBN’s editorial content and says her focus is on whether the stories and analyses are useful to a business audience.

“Ultimately, any open beta test is a chance to strike up a dialogue with users and in our case, to start building an online community of Guam businesses with a stake-hold in the buildup,” Mrs. Montvel-Cohen says.  “That’s important to us because these businesses – our readers — are ‘The Story’.  Our primary users are the company executives and managers who are on the ground bidding for contracts and the related business each contract brings, hiring employees, sourcing vendors, purchasing real estate, and literally turning the soil over in this buildup. Without question, we need their input and we need to keep them engaged.”

According to Mrs. Montvel-Cohen, the website’s final editorial vision, news cycle, story line-up and social networks will be shaped by this audience.  Are its stories and analyses easy to read and do they deliver insights for the businessperson?  Does the editorial cycle strike the right balance between updating content often and giving visitors a chance to absorb the material?

Mr. Colaco on the other hand is keeping his eye on different user features.  Are the site’s search engine and business directory helpful and easy to use?  Is it compatible with various browsers?  How difficult or easy is it to navigate through the site?  What other kinds of stories, functions and features would users like to see?

“In its beta form, GuamBuildupNews.com is still under active development, debugging and revision,” Mr. Colaco says.  “In fact, certain features won’t be fully functional or implemented until after the official launch.”

As with any new design process, the GBN development team knows it’s time to switch gears and open up.  While relentless introspection, internal rethinking, retooling and development is a continuous process throughout the life of any media, the feedback of real users and a real audience is what keeps the process meaningful and on-track.

“After months of researching and writing our editorial lineup and brainstorming the site’s features and functionality, after long days of programming the site’s interactive modules, building databases, and all manner of tinkering, it’s time to see if we’re in the ballpark,” Mr. Colaco admits.  “And all the user feedback will be key as we strive to make this a great resource for the entire business community. So, please send us your feedback. We welcome rants, raves, and suggestions. We’re pretty thick skinned.”