Roles, Responsibilities and Your Website

Posted: July 25, 2013

Diane Kuehn CEO

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Chances are you’ve been in a similar situation before. Your website is either impossible to update because of limitations with your content management system (CMS) and how it’s set up, or your site is a little too easy to update. There should be rules in place to ensure that the look, feel and content across your site is consistent and in line with your brand.

That’s where defining clear roles and responsibilities for your site comes into play, not only in terms of how your CMS is set up, so that content can be published correctly and efficiently, but also from a governance perspective. While both of these topics are complex enough to justify their own blog posts, we’re going to focus this post on defining the roles and responsibilities that help inform your content publishing workflow. Having done this a number of times for our clients, here are a few questions we suggest you ask as you go through the process yourself.

First thing’s first, ask yourself, “Who is involved?”€

Anyone that has a role in doing something for web operations in a routine way such as producing, reviewing, editing or maintaining content or contributing to overall website strategy should be accounted for. This may include the ‘hands-on’ people (content owners and editors), the oversight and advisory people (web communications, information technology) and even executive leadership.

Next up, “Who does what?”€

Armed with an understanding of who will play a part in managing and maintaining your website, the next step is to understand what each of these roles will be responsible for doing. For example, who owns, writes, reviews, and/or posts content? Also, consider whether each role will be specific to certain areas of the site (departmental content vs. marketing content vs. news, etc.) or if they will have access to all content types throughout the site.

Aligning roles with the appropriate responsibilities can be a challenge, but here are a few roles related specifically to content publishing that we’ve used in the past to get you started.

Hands-On team members are in the content trenches, so to speak.  Collectively, they create, edit, review and publish content for your website.

  • Unit Leaders (department heads, deans, directors, vice presidents, etc.) are responsible for driving your unit’s overall content strategy. They also enforce the content’s quality and accuracy.
  • Content Owners (communication specialists, mid-level managers, etc,) determine what type of content gets published, how frequently it gets published and who publishes it.
  • Content Contributors (subject matter experts) are responsible for creating content about subjects they’re experts in.
  • Content Editors review and edit content that the content contributor created. They check the content to make sure it has correct grammar, meets established institutional content standards, and uses the proper tone and voice.

Depending on your institution’s size and structure and the type of content publishing model that you have in place, some of these roles can be combined or not used at all. For example, a content editor can also be responsible for publishing content to the website. Or in a small organization, one person may act as content owner, creator, editor and publisher.

A Few Parting Considerations

Having done this numerous times for our clients, we know this can be a big undertaking. While there are a lot of factors to consider, we’ve learned a few things along the way and wanted to share.

  • Be sure to address roles and responsibilities early on. While it can seem premature to do this in the strategy or information architecture phase of a project, it will have a huge impact on how your site is structured and built and can get very complex depending on how your institution is organized.
  • Plan for the future. While it’s important to focus on your institution’s current roles, defining all of the roles that your institution could need in the future is key as well. Otherwise, it will be much more difficult to add new roles in the future since they can impact workflows and how your content is organized and categorized.
  • Think in terms of your CMS. Let’s face it. Every CMS is different and with that comes different nomenclature. When you’re working to define your roles and responsibilities, make sure you’re clear on how it works for your specific CMS and the language that is used. States and transitions used in defining your workflow in Drupal could easily be called something else in a different CMS.

Ready to define your website roles and workflow or have any insights from going through the process yourself? Drop us a line or leave a comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions.