7 Key Web Governance Principles

November 29, 2023 8 minute read
Unlock the full potential of your website with effective web governance. Get insights on creating clear models, roles, and more for business growth.

As the world becomes increasingly digital, the importance of your organization’s digital presence grows too. Your website is often a first touchpoint for many new customers and acts as a central information hub for your audience. It's a crucial componant in communicating your brand. Having a solid web governance plan ensures that you protect your organization’s brand through strong, defined processes that ensure consistency, stability, and scalability.

What is web governance?

Web governance is all of the policies and procedures that go into maintaining and managing a website. All websites should have a system of web governance in place.

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.

Why is web governance important for all organizations?

Web governance grants decision-making authority, sets goals, assigns roles, and establishes accountability for the overall digital presence of an organization. It acts as a sort of insurance policy, where the strategy ensures that all updates, archival, and maintenance work to the site have a process and a clear definition about roles and responsibilities involved. This help to preserve the integrity and functionality of the site. Having a set of rules and practices in place allows digital teams to manage websites, digital assets, and other content in a controlled and orderly way. 

Ultimately, a web governance strategy can help you more easily manage your web presence. It provides structure to projects like website redesigns or expansions and outlines the digital guidelines for both internal or external (e.g., an agency) teams. 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

Successful web governance strategies are built upon four pillars:

1. Development: The building up of your website and all its features

2. Maintenance: The tasks involved to ensure your website runs smoothly

3. Infrastructure: The upkeep of your hosting accounts, content management system (CMS), servers, etc.

4. Leadership: The leadership support required to strategize, organize, and oversee the successful execution of these activities

To execute on these activities successfully, organizations will need to source the following resources.

People: The roles across your team and the tasks they will be responsible for to perform the 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 resources including 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.

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. User confidence in your 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, then your website won't be able to help your business grow. For example, if your site is slow and has constant downtimes, users take that as a sign of bad website quality and performance and lose faith in what your brand can deliver. Chances are, they'll leave your site and opt for an alternative just to avoid the bad user experience. 

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've defined success, you will find that the other areas fall into place more easily — like the steps that 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 contributing to 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.

But let's 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. 

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). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 16% 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 be actively maintained. No matter your industry, it's likely things are constantly changing. So your web governance process needs to be an ongoing initiative. Don't just set it and forget it. 

6. Training is essential to web governance

This goes with the previous principle. Since the governance process is always evolving, you should also expect to invest in regular 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, it cannot enforce policies, review effectiveness, or drive your website in the right direction.

This applies to other tools, too. At Acquia, we make a web governance tools like Monsido by Acquia and Acquia DAM that can do wonders in helping you helping you improve website quality and SEO, manage content, and assess results. Our tools can also help you free up resources, such as by saving your staff valuable time. However, these are ultimately only tools. To ensure you use these tools to their full potential, it's up to you to establish a web governance model and determine how they 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 always being top of mind for most, understanding the idea and framework behind it will ensure your website’s overall success. To see how Monsido, Acquia DAM, or any of our other products can support your web governance efforts, request a demo today.

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