Of all of the things which go into making a functioning website, web governance hardly seems like the most exciting part. But web governance is what ultimately can make or break your website in terms of meeting your goals.
Simply put, 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. Yes, you read that right. ALL websites have web governance (whether they realize it or not). The problem is that few websites have a clear, supervised web governance system in place.
Have you ever heard a colleague say, “I thought you were doing that”? If so, it is a sign that your web governance needs some work.
Website Governance is Not Website Management
Where a lot of websites go wrong is that they don’t understand the difference between governance and management.
Website management is all of the tasks which go into running a website, such as posting new articles or updating product pages. By contrast, web governance is all of the policies and procedures which say how management should be done. It is the supervision behind the management.
Robert Jacoby at website-governance.com explains the difference well.
“Management is responsible for running things, and governance is responsible for running in the right direction… If your head is down looking at what's in front of you, that's website management. But when you're "heads up" and scanning the horizon for possibilities in social media, responsive design, cloud computing, APIs, analytics tools, strategies for business, mobile, or content, [next big thing]—and exploring how you might bring those new ideas into the fold— that's website governance.”
Defining Web Governance Policies, Standards and Procedures
When talking about web governance, an important word to remember is “supervision.” The supervisor is in charge of defining the web governance policies, standards and procedures which will dictate how everything is done, whether it is updating new content or performing a website audit.
The web governance supervisor can be a CEO, advisory team, or management team. Regardless of the web governance model, it is important that the policies, standards and procedures are clearly defined. You don’t want any guesswork going into the job of running your website.
Web Governance Policies
These are the policies which apply to each online channel, whether it is social media marketing, blogging, or product pages. It is vital that you keep policies to a minimum. Policies should not change unless it is absolutely necessary.
Web Governance Standards
For websites, governance standards are established to deliver consistency in voice, quality, and customer service. When you have multiple people each with different styles and skills (such as your content department and design department, or when you outsource to contractors), then maintaining these standards can be difficult. This is why your web governance map will need to include a editors who ensure all standards are being met.
Web Governance Processes
These are all the steps which must be taken to make sure that the website is in accordance to policies and standards. For example, you might make a checklist of processes that go into each blog post, such as optimizing URLs, Title and H1 Tags, and meta descriptions. Scheduling is also a big part of web governance processes. You will probably rely on multiple tools for your processes.
Establishing a Web Governance Model
As Tech Republic points out, there are numerous web governance models including: Advisory, Cooperative, Management Team, and Policy. The web governance model which best suits your website depends on factors like the size of the website, type, organizational structure, and the culture of your business. However, regardless of these factors, all web governance models can be broken down into two core components:
- Web Governance Activities
- Web Governance Resources
Web Governance Activities
These are all of the actions and tasks which go into controlling the website. Smart Insights defines them as:
Web Governance Resources
To make the above activities possible, you will need resources. These can be broken down into four types:
It is worth noting here that you can significantly reduce the need for one of these resources by investing in another resource. For example, if your budget is limited and you are unable to invest in manpower to maintain your website, then you can use web governance tools to automate some of the processes.
Mapping Your Website Governance Structure
Let me reiterate that website governance is not the same as management. However, a big part of website governance is outlining a clear management system. For example:
Under each of these different roles, you might have any number of additional managers, employees, and contractors. Again, this is why it is so important for websites (of any size!) to have a clear web governance system in place. If you don’t have established policies, standards and procedures, then serious inconsistencies can occur – such as if your web design team is creating a completely different voice/brand image than your content team, or your programmer is making processes which are inefficient for your content authors.
To further complicate things, many of these departments often have the same roles. For example, your marketing department might rely on your content department.
At website-governance.com, you can download a very useful tool for modeling web governance. The boxes can be moved around to create different hierarchies, and you can also draw links between the different interrelated departments. Each box has questions which help define the policies and processes which need to be in place.
Web Governance and Conflicting Goals
As we talked about before, one of the three main parts of web governance is Standards. When creating your web governance model, don’t be surprised if the model might conflict with your established Standards. For example, if one of the goals of your web governance model is to distribute the work load (such as by using contractors), then you might start having inconsistencies in quality and voice.
This is why it is so important to also have established web governance policies and processes. If your policies and processes are clear-cut, then they can be easily explained to any employees and contractors down the chain, and overseen by managers in the web governance hierarchy.
Putting It All Together
Once you’ve established your web governance policies, standards, and processes, and then mapped out your website governance model, you are ready to put it all into action. You will need some tools to make this happen. Shameless plug in here We recommend using the Monsido Webmaster and Web Governance tool. It automates a lot of the processes which go into maintaining a website, like checking for broken links, site errors, and SEO opportunities. With these monitoring tasks automated, managerial tasks like creating new content and delivering a good user experience become much easier.