Web Renewal Series: Building a Foundation for Success
by Denise Eisner
Our last post on web renewal examined the different flavours for large scale transformations of a departmental web site. While there are various types and combinations of renewal strategies – content, information architecture and technical – planning their implementation as distinct projects with a beginning, middle and end typically should be regarded as an ominous sign. Treating web renewal as a project means the foundational pieces needed to support the web in a sustainable fashion are weak or perhaps nonexistent. We’ll look at the relationship of web renewal efforts with those pieces to illustrate the optimal path to web renewal success.
Part 2 – Renewal through Constant Change
For large organizations, delivering a web product that is useful and meaningful requires constant change, since the needs and expectations of your users are constantly changing. Large scale overalls of your web presence are sometimes required if you need significant change in direction. The value gained from these exercises, however, will slowly erode if the structures that support the web presence are lacking.
We’ve drawn three simple diagrams to help illustrate why changing your look, content and technology may only get you so far. The first diagram shows an ever expanding gap in your service offering if you take a lights-on approach to your website. The second one shows a similar scenario of service gaps if web renewal projects are carried out in isolation from the management of your foundational structures. The final illustration should be the goal of any organization management a web presence, with the right support in place to evolve alongside the client needs and expectations.
Continual Improvement through the Web Maturity Model
The foundation required to properly manage a web presence can be measured against our Web Maturity Model, which encapsulates a sustainable foundation through seven pillars, each of which plays a critical role in effective Web channel management. The pillars are defined as follows:
Governance – Governance structures define decision-making authority and accountability, typically in the form of persons or groups (committees, boards, working groups, etc.) and are responsible for addressing issues of budget, capacity and ongoing sustainability.
Strategy and Planning – Strategies and plans for the web demonstrate that the organization is making efforts to use the Web effectively, manage and control costs, ensure compliance with relevant statutes and policies and improve service delivery as well as internal business processes.
Roles and Competencies – Developing an effective Web site requires many different competencies and skills working in concert, including:
• Specifying who does what in a given process;
• Specifying the boundaries between different functions in a given process; and
• Specifying accountability for the activities in a given process.
Research-Driven Design – There is increasing recognition that effective Web sites reflect an in-depth understanding of the site’s users and their needs, and that effective Web management requires a commitment to undertaking appropriate research to inform design efforts.
Performance Management – A performance measurement framework defines the means by which the organization will measure success against defined outcomes. The framework should specify which metrics will be used for each outcome, and how the results will be obtained.
Web Standards and Guidance – Almost all federal Web sites are expected to comply with a number of Acts and federal policies, i.e. Common Look and Feel. In addition, standards and guidance should be developed for information architecture, editorial, visual design, IM and technologies.
Technology – The operating systems, applications, programming languages, standards and tools that underpin the organization’s Web development and publishing activities are planned, implemented and evaluated in accordance with desired business outcomes.
Together, these seven components can give your organization the footing it needs to keep pace with the ever-changing needs and expectations of your users and produce a web product that truly delivers. It’s more than just a “web renewal project”: it’s about a program of web management.
Our next post in this four-part series will look at sustainability in web channel management as an antidote to the resource-intensive web renewal project.
Denise Eisner is a senior-level content/UX strategist with a passion for creating enhanced user experiences. As a senior consultant at Systemscope, Denise’s experience and specializations include content strategy and design, writing/editing, prototyping, usability testing, web analytics, project management and change management.