7 Key Web Governance Principles

What is Web Governance?

Web governance is all of the policies and procedures which go into maintaining and managing a website. All websites have a system of web governance in place. When done right, your web governance system can catalyze business growth. In order to make your web governance work, you need a clear model that outlines how activities will be completed and with what resources. But, just as importantly, you need clearly defined web governance principles.

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Why is Web Governance Important for All Organizations?

As the world becomes more digital, your organization’s website is even more important as becomes a central information hub for your audience and is crucial in communicating your brand. Having good web governance is ensuring that you protect your organization’s brand through strong, defined processes that ensure consistency, stability, and scalability.

Web governance grants decision-making authority sets goals, assigns roles, and establishes accountability for the overall digital presence of an organization, as well as a sort of insurance policy, where the strategy ensures that all updates, archival, and maintenance work to the site has a process and a clear definition of the roles and responsibilities of who is involved to preserve the integrity and functionality of the site. Having a set of rules and practices in place allows digital teams to manage websites and other digital assets and content in a controlled and orderly way. In fact, every website has some form of web governance in place, whether the owners realize it or not.

A web governance strategy can help you manage your web presence easily, and provides structure to projects like website redesigns or website expansions, or when work on the site needs to be done either internally or externally via an agency. Governance helps set the standards and the processes to ensure that as digital teams and web content grows, clearly defined roles and responsibilities keep everyone moving forward together.

Core Web Governance Components

All systems of web governance are built from 4 categories of activity, each of which are composed of different subtasks. These 4 activities are the pillars of a successful web governance strategy.

Development - the building up of your website and all its features
Maintenance - the tasks involved to ensure your website runs smoothly
Infrastructure - the upkeep of hosting accounts, content management systems, servers, etc.
Leadership - the supervision required to strategize, organize, and supervise the successful execution of these activities

To support these activities, organizations will need to source the following resources.

People - the roles in your web team and the tasks that they will be responsible for to perform the web activities mentioned above, from employees to the freelancers, agencies, or consultants that are involved.
Tools - any products or services required to carry out the activities
Budget - the costs allocated to acquire the necessary products, services, and people
Processes - the detailed procedures that the people involved will have to abide by to ensure the successful execution of the activities

These four resources are not a prerequisite for success. You can eliminate one or another based on your own organizational situation and focus. For example, you can focus your resources on automated tools to optimize your site if you are unable to bring in more people to your team due to budget constraints.

Difference between Web Governance Principles and Rules

We probably shouldn’t need to differentiate between principles and rules. However, in a lot of discussions about web governance, the term “principle” gets thrown around a lot when the person is really talking about rules.
A principle is an internal motivator. It drives you to do what seems good or right for the organization or business.

A rule is an external motivator. It compels you, through threat or punishment, to do the things that someone else has deemed good or right.
There has been a lot of talk about the principles vs. rules debate in the world of accounting. Proponents of the principle-based approach site benefits like:
  • Principles provide guidance that can be applied to the many variations in circumstance that arise in everyday practice.
  • Principles are flexible and can quickly adapt to the rapid changes that modern businesses experience.
  • Principles prevent the development of the mechanistic “box ticking” approach to decision making
  • Principles focus on guidance and encourage responsibility in the exercise of professional judgment.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t set clear web governance rules which apply to certain tasks or procedures. Rules are guidance on principles! But don’t make the mistake of setting web governance rules without first setting the underlying principles.

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7 Web Governance Principles to Adopt in Your Business

To get started on building a good web governance strategy, you need to adhere to some web governance principles. The following are the key governance principles that all organizations must implement to develop, improve, and manage your business.

1. Confidence in the Website is Necessary for It to Reach Its Potential as a Driver of Business Growth

People are online more than ever now and the competition is intense. Your website needs to gain the trust of users by fulfilling their website needs and expectations. If users don’t feel they can trust the content on your website, your website will not be able to help your business grow. For example, if your site was slow and had constant downtimes, users take that as a sign of bad website quality and performance and lose faith in what your site can deliver. Chances are, they will leave your site and opt for an alternative just to avoid the bad user experience. 

A more common example of a lack of confidence would be if you have broken links in your content. Users click the link thinking they will be taken to something useful or relevant and instead get a 404 error message. The effect isn’t as severe as the malware example, but it still deteriorates the users’ confidence in your website.

2. Websites Must Be Underpinned by a Business Plan

To be successful, a website must have its own business plan. Use your website business plan to define success. Once you have defined success, you will find that the other areas fall into place more easily – like the steps which need to be taken to manage the website and measure and evaluate its efficacy. Most importantly, when you have a website business plan, you will provide direction to everyone working on the website (content creators, designers, developers, etc.).

This business plan can be defined in a few brief sentences as part of the website mission statement. Having a mission statement will provide guidance to the goals of the website by defining your digital audience as well as what your site aims to achieve. The mission statement should be able to provide a reason for all the content created on the site, ensuring that everyone involved in the creation, management, and maintenance of the content is on the same page.

3. All Websites Need a System of Accountability and Monitoring

No matter how good of a writer you are, you still need someone to review your work and help you make it better. And any large institution needs a “central managing editor” who can establish an online content strategy and override lower-level decisions if they are counter to the institution’s goals.

We can take this further. It isn’t just the content creators who need an editor. Anyone who works on the website – whether their job is blogging, SEO, or design – needs someone who oversees their work. Even the managers need a central manager.

This can be achieved by mapping out your website governance structure so roles are clearly defined. Web management is not the same as web governance, however, having this structure in place ensures a clear system of accountability. At the top of the structure is one manager or committee which ensures all of the objectives of the website are being met.

How does the central manager or committee ensure that all objectives are being met? This is where reporting comes in. The information must be available, and it must be regularly analyzed in order to make decisions about improving the website. One example (shameless plug here ;)) is the graphs in the Monsido Statistics module. The graphs show the health of the website over time. These graphs make it easy to see how team members are doing in terms of maintaining the quality of the website and SEO.

4. All Websites Should Adhere to the Latest Standards and Legislation

This web governance principle applies to industry-specific regulations or international standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Approximately 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability, yet only a small percentage of websites are designed to be accessible to people with disabilities.

Many nations have now stepped in and made it a legal requirement for certain types of websites to be accessible. There are now legislations like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 in the US, the EU Web Accessibility Directive in Europe, and the Accessibility for Ontarians Act (AODA) in Canada. Aside from legal compliance, there are many reasons to improve web accessibility, particularly because it increases your audience and also improves website quality.

Learn more about what is web accessibility and why it matters for your website.

5. Web Governance Is an Ongoing Process

Web governance isn’t something that you only think about during a once-yearly cleanup of the website or during a redesign. While your principles, procedures, and policies may not change (often), the governance should actively continue.

If a city was having a problem with crime, you wouldn’t expect the mayor to hire some more police officers and then forget about the issue, right? You’d expect the mayor to monitor crime levels to see whether the increase in the police force was having any effect. Likewise, your website needs to be carefully monitored.

6. Training is Essential to Web Governance

This goes with the previous principle. Since governance is an ongoing process, you should also expect to invest in ongoing training to improve outcomes. Everyone involved on your website should not only understand the principles guiding the website, but feel empowered to work on it effectively.

7. A CMS is Not Web Governance

A CMS is one tool which can help you carry out your web governance model. However, your CMS cannot enforce policies, review effectiveness, or drive your website in the right direction.

This applies to other tools too. At Monsido, we make a web governance tool which can do wonders in helping you helping you improve website quality and SEO, manage users, and assess results. Our tool can also help you free up resources, such as by saving your staff valuable time. However, we are ultimately a tool. It is up to you to establish a web governance model and determine how the tool will be used as part of the ultimate goal.

Improve Your Web Governance Today

Whether you know it or not, web governance is central to your website’s success and despite the concept not being very top of mind for most, understanding the idea and framework behind it will ensure your website’s overall success.

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