Website Governance: 5 Ways to Safeguard Your Redesign

Posted: March 5, 2012

Tony Poillucci Vice President & Creative Director

Maintain the integrity of your new website with a web governance policy

Remember your old website? The one that was a pain in the neck to manage, that never had fresh content and that allowed each department its own color palette.* At this point, you’re hopefully either past that or on your way toward a website redesign. You’ve invested plenty of time and resources and you’ll be damned (or fired) if your site ends up like it used to be.

With so much at stake, it’s time to think about protecting your investment with a solid plan that safeguards the integrity of your website. By creating and instituting a governance policy that establishes rules and procedures around how your organization manages and publishes content to your website, you’ll be that much closer to ensuring your new site doesn’t suffer the same fate as that of its predecessor.

How do I develop a governance policy?

Developing a governance policy is no small task. There are many considerations and decisions to be thought through and agreed upon by a number of different stakeholder groups. Roles and responsibilities need to be established, job descriptions may change, technology will play a big part, and the overall culture of your organization may need to shift.

At VisionPoint Marketing, we’ve spent a lot of time creating these policies with and for our clients, and whether you end up working with us or decide to go it alone, you’ll want to be prepared to address the following tasks.

1. Map out your current content publishing workflow.

The first step is to understand the current content creation, approval and publishing processes your institution has in place. By conducting a content publishing audit you’ll gain an understanding of who is involved (roles), what they do (responsibilities) and who they do it for (relationships). Roles may include content contributors, content owners, unit leaders, web management teams, web advisory groups, leadership, etc.

Include as many stakeholders as you can at this point. Ask them what’s working and what isn’t. You might feel like you’re stirring up a bee’s nest, but you’ll also hear everything you need to hear and you’ll probably even walk away with a few good ideas.

Once you’ve developed a grasp of how things are currently done, document your management structure. By understanding your current workflow, you can leverage its efficiencies and address its deficiencies.

2. Plan out your ideal-state approach to publishing content on your website.

With a map of the current system drawn out, it’s time to decide whether or not your current management approach and workflow will work in the future. Don’t be surprised if you have to make some modifications or improvements. When planning your ideal-state, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • How centralized/decentralized will your approach to creating, approving and publishing content be? Will all content be created and published by one person or unit, or will there be a number of content publishers across various units?
  • What will the workflow be like? Think about designating an approver who will have the ability to either accept and publish, edit and publish, edit and send back, or reject and send back content.
  • Does all content need to be published on the website or can stakeholders publish to their own social media channels? if so, how will those social media channels leverage the website and vice versa?
  • Will there be a governing body that is ultimately responsible for the quality of content on the website? If so, how will this group function and what will be its role? Will a hands-on web team report to them or simply pull them in on a periodic basis for guidance?

3. Choose the right content management system (CMS) for your institution.

A big part of your governance strategy will rely on which technology you choose to manage the website. Picking a CMS that works best for your institution will be important. Hhere are a few questions to consider.

  • Will an enterprise or open source option work best for you? The major difference between the two choices are workflow management and cost. Open source CMSs typically lack robust workflow management and cost less, while enterprise options have stronger workflow management at a higher price.
  • How much do you plan on spending?
  • Which types of content can be edited?
  • What platform will your IT services team best be able to support?
  • How much customer support do you think you’ll need?

4. Develop content creation standards and best practices.

With a new management structure in place, you can begin to develop content standards to follow. These standards will help save writers and editors time by creating a uniform system of rules to follow with content.

  • What sort of writing style would you like to incorporate in your content? (MLA, APA, AP, Chicago, etc.)
  • What style of writing and voice will you use? Will you write in first, second or third person?
  • Does your institution have brand guidelines that can help define your approach to content?

5. Determine how success will be measured.

Once you’ve taken all of these things into consideration and developed a new model for web governance, spend some time deciding how you will measure success. Use what you come up with to help decide on proposed changes to your site in the future.

  • How will you evaluate the performance of the website and the people involved with it?
  • Will you conduct periodic usability tests to assess your website’s usability and success?
  • What kind of role will a web advisory group or similar body play in reviewing content and ensuring topics are presented appropriately?

We know a website redesign is an expensive and time-consuming process. It’s a very big part of what we do and unfortunately, we’ve seen good websites go bad because they lacked the proper governance policies and guidelines. Without proper guidelines in place, content authors will insert their own personal writing styles, nomenclature and tone of voice. Approval processes will not be followed and over time, these inconsistencies will add-up, resulting in a web presence that is more representative of a large group of individuals rather than the institution they serve.

By developing and following a governance model tailored to your needs and structure, you can ensure your website will serve its audience and maintain its integrity well into the future.

*If your website still has these issues, contact us to see how we can help.