The 'simplicity' of website governance


Guest post by by Arjen van den Akker, Product Marketing Director at SDL

Website governance is really siple ... smple ... simpal ... simple.

According to Wikipedia, website governance is defined as "an organization's structure of staff and the technical systems, policies and procedures to maintain and manage a website". The purpose of proper website governance is to deliver a high quality website to ensure it serves its intended business purpose. This typically means increased engagement and more sales.

Clearly, website governance includes (and also goes far beyond) how well managed the content on the website is. As our partner ActiveStandards observes on its blog, there are a number of common mistakes that organizations make and the first of those is spelling. This point is nicely demonstrated in this article about Capcom's recent misspelling of their own company name.

And this is not an isolated case.

A financial services organization that used a local web agency for their Brazilian website saw that the agency managed to misspell the company name over 60 times. Not to mention the airline that misspelled the word Caribbean on their homepage. I'll be polite and let them stay anonymous.

If you asked any web team the question, "How good is your content quality?", they'd probably answer, "It's pretty good, " or even, "It's great!" But scratch below the surface and I think you'll be surprised what you find.

These are some simple examples that are easily highlighted and yet still happen. But let's look beyond the basics at some other aspects of web governance.

There's more to it

I assume you have well-trained web editors who know how to write engaging content, who add the right words and subheadings to optimize SEO, who apply consistent terminology (perhaps using a taxonomy) and who think carefully about their target audience. They use a content management system that has a spell checker and an accessibility checker to flag any issues they may have overlooked. So what else do you need to consider?

As professional as their approaches may be, they can only manage a few aspects of the content quality that your brand exposes to the outside world. Additionally, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) also looks at how clean and accessible the HTML of a web page is. Those who use screen readers notice how accessible the site is and whether your site complies with section 508 or WCAG standards.

Mobile web visitors immediately know if you've optimized content and images on your site for slower mobile networks and if their brand experience is consistent across the web, emails and on mobile devices. And even that important investor your CEO spoke to last week sees that the old information about the former CFO is still on your website.

As new quality and compliance standards emerge, you need to take into account more and more quality and compliance requirements, such as the recently introduced EU cookie directive. Take a look at the Econsultancy blog for some nice examples of this.

The bottom line is that website quality consists of so many factors, it's hard for any web team to optimize all aspects of your websites without spending days and days scrutinizing each and every page.

A holistic approach to website quality

To make it manageable, a holistic approach to website quality should consist of two phases: The pre-publication check and post-publication check.

The processes and technology your web team uses should integrate pre-publication checks. Your CMS should include important tools such as a spell checker, accessibility checker and workflow list. In addition, adequate training and corporate style guidelines add great value, especially if there's employee turnover in your web team.

Post-publication checks should be automated, since there are simply too many to execute manually. Today, various tools--predominantly SaaS solutions--assist this process. These tools spider all your websites and effectively check them for a wide variety of quality issues including brand consistency, SEO, accessibility, usability, domain name governance, mobile access and page load times. You can also use these tools at the pre-publication stage-- from within the CMS--to check pages an editor is working on and to prevent problems from appearing on the website.

More advanced tools even look at the meaning of content itself. For example, they can identify preferred terminology, names of people, company names, email addresses and phone numbers, as well as generate comprehensive reports that show where these are mentioned.

This ensures that you identify the pages you forgot to update after your CFO left, and helps you find out where your website still mentions that merged business unit as a separate division.

Embarrassment or damage?

At best, these issues lead to embarrassment, but at worst, they can harm reputations or have legal implications. Just remember that no matter what industry you're in, your website is your shop window. And on your website, the quality of your content is important. After all, if your shop window was dirty or had a crack you would fix it, right? Just make sure you do the same for your website. Luckily, there are plenty of automated window-cleaners these days that can do the job for you.

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