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Establishing authority to protect your content evolution

Establishing authority to protect your content evolution

5 minute read

Establishing authority to protect your content evolution

5 minute read

Establishing authority to protect your content evolution

Tony Rose

Executive User Experience Consultant, Partner at Digital Wave®

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Before you launched your newly redeveloped website, you pored over every nuance of the content. You tested it thoroughly with end-users. You had it proofread, corrected, and proofread again. And all of the interested parties signed off on it. It wasn’t easy, but you owned it, and you got it done.

So then you went “live.” And people loved it. Sure, there were those who questioned some of the decisions, wondered about some of the wording, or just plain questioned the need for change at all. But the new website was a success. In fact, it was such a success that, very shortly after launch, people were inspired to help you make it even better.

An example of a university website redesign showing a before and after mock-up of the homepage.

The importance of governance

The more you succeed in creating a clean, simple, focused website, the more it may look like a blank slate for people with ideas about new content. It’s important to have multiple content contributors so that your content will continually represent the activities of your organisation. But multiple agendas can quickly move you away from your critical objective of maintaining a cohesive, immersive experience designed to engage your users while supporting your brand.

This is why content governance is so important to the success of your web process. The role of governance is to ensure the ongoing success of your website by preserving its “launch quality” as it evolves.

But it won’t protect you from those hallway conversations in which a well-meaning constituent asks you to make “just one little change” to the website, add one more thing to the main menu, or spotlight a pet project. Especially if the request comes from someone who outranks you. Some of these requests may be very helpful, but many may be inconsistent with your strategy. Saying yes to the latter may seem harmless enough, but it can also be the first step toward anarchy, content sprawl, and yet another expensive redevelopment a few years down the road.

Establishing a higher authority

I’m often asked, “What is the most important way to ensure success for our new website?” Having been part of scores of website launches, I can answer without hesitation:

Empower your team to maintain high-quality standards as your content evolves.

A robust governance process won’t do this for you. A governance leadership team shouldn’t have to. But they can combine to give you the authority you need, and with authority comes empowerment.

Three simple aspects of authority that you can tap into

So how do you establish and assert that authority as you start to receive content requests that are not consistent with your strategy? Here are three aspects to focus on.

The authority of the plan

Content strategy sounds like a radically new concept, but it’s really just about having a viable plan for how you will use content to meet your objectives. The more your planning is based on actual user research, the more defensible it will be when other people come up with “even better” ideas.

So what do you tell people? “Everything on our home page is part of a carefully controlled plan, and we need to let it get some traction in order to measure its effectiveness.” And it doesn’t hurt to throw in, “You approved it, remember?”

The authority of the team

No content decision should come down to a debate between two people, especially if one is you and the other one outranks you. If you are asked to take on responsibility for your website content, the first thing to do is distribute the load. Have an oversight group with the responsibility—and the authority—to make decisions about content based on your strategic groundwork as well as your vision for the future.

And what do you tell people? “I’ll bring that up with governance.” Let them know that you are not alone in the decision process, and that important content decisions need to be vetted and evaluated.

The authority of the end-user

Ultimately, there is no greater authority than the acceptance of the people you are hoping to serve and engage. With surprisingly little effort and expense, you can incorporate a simple, agile testing program to vet new ideas and compare A/B alternatives. By giving your end-users an ongoing voice in your process, you can ensure that the content decisions you make are aligned with their preferences.

And what do you tell people? “We’ll be happy to test that!” Eventually, you can encourage a mindset among your content contributors—that it’s not about how good an idea sounds, it’s about how well it serves your users.

Evolve your content with confidence

Your website has a long future ahead of it. It will go through many changes, and involve many contributors. By leveraging the authority of governance, you can control this evolution, ensuring that your content continues to align with your strategic vision, to support your end users as well as your institutional goals.

Before you launched your newly redeveloped website, you pored over every nuance of the content. You tested it thoroughly with end-users. You had it proofread, corrected, and proofread again. And all of the interested parties signed off on it. It wasn’t easy, but you owned it, and you got it done.

So then you went “live.” And people loved it. Sure, there were those who questioned some of the decisions, wondered about some of the wording, or just plain questioned the need for change at all. But the new website was a success. In fact, it was such a success that, very shortly after launch, people were inspired to help you make it even better.

An example of a university website redesign showing a before and after mock-up of the homepage.

The importance of governance

The more you succeed in creating a clean, simple, focused website, the more it may look like a blank slate for people with ideas about new content. It’s important to have multiple content contributors so that your content will continually represent the activities of your organisation. But multiple agendas can quickly move you away from your critical objective of maintaining a cohesive, immersive experience designed to engage your users while supporting your brand.

This is why content governance is so important to the success of your web process. The role of governance is to ensure the ongoing success of your website by preserving its “launch quality” as it evolves.

But it won’t protect you from those hallway conversations in which a well-meaning constituent asks you to make “just one little change” to the website, add one more thing to the main menu, or spotlight a pet project. Especially if the request comes from someone who outranks you. Some of these requests may be very helpful, but many may be inconsistent with your strategy. Saying yes to the latter may seem harmless enough, but it can also be the first step toward anarchy, content sprawl, and yet another expensive redevelopment a few years down the road.

Establishing a higher authority

I’m often asked, “What is the most important way to ensure success for our new website?” Having been part of scores of website launches, I can answer without hesitation:

Empower your team to maintain high-quality standards as your content evolves.

A robust governance process won’t do this for you. A governance leadership team shouldn’t have to. But they can combine to give you the authority you need, and with authority comes empowerment.

Three simple aspects of authority that you can tap into

So how do you establish and assert that authority as you start to receive content requests that are not consistent with your strategy? Here are three aspects to focus on.

The authority of the plan

Content strategy sounds like a radically new concept, but it’s really just about having a viable plan for how you will use content to meet your objectives. The more your planning is based on actual user research, the more defensible it will be when other people come up with “even better” ideas.

So what do you tell people? “Everything on our home page is part of a carefully controlled plan, and we need to let it get some traction in order to measure its effectiveness.” And it doesn’t hurt to throw in, “You approved it, remember?”

The authority of the team

No content decision should come down to a debate between two people, especially if one is you and the other one outranks you. If you are asked to take on responsibility for your website content, the first thing to do is distribute the load. Have an oversight group with the responsibility—and the authority—to make decisions about content based on your strategic groundwork as well as your vision for the future.

And what do you tell people? “I’ll bring that up with governance.” Let them know that you are not alone in the decision process, and that important content decisions need to be vetted and evaluated.

The authority of the end-user

Ultimately, there is no greater authority than the acceptance of the people you are hoping to serve and engage. With surprisingly little effort and expense, you can incorporate a simple, agile testing program to vet new ideas and compare A/B alternatives. By giving your end-users an ongoing voice in your process, you can ensure that the content decisions you make are aligned with their preferences.

And what do you tell people? “We’ll be happy to test that!” Eventually, you can encourage a mindset among your content contributors—that it’s not about how good an idea sounds, it’s about how well it serves your users.

Evolve your content with confidence

Your website has a long future ahead of it. It will go through many changes, and involve many contributors. By leveraging the authority of governance, you can control this evolution, ensuring that your content continues to align with your strategic vision, to support your end users as well as your institutional goals.

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About the author

Tony Rose

A founder of Digital Wave and partner in its parent company Antech Systems, Inc., Tony Rose (@TonyRoseUX) is a consultant in UX and content strategy with a focus on higher education, not-for-profit, and healthcare. His strategic consultation has helped shape the business strategies of Digital Wave clients even outside of the digital experience. He has been a trusted executive level consultant for accounts such as Unisys, K’NEX, Drexel University, Rutgers University, George Mason University, Virtua Health, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and various medical certification board members of the American Board of Medical Specialties. He has served on several NFP boards, including the Epilepsy Foundation of Eastern Pennsylvania. He has worked in web communications since Digital Wave was founded in 1993, and his experience includes creative direction, branding, editing, and writing for advertising and publishing. Tony has led webinars and training in a variety of UX-related topics including “Going All-In on Prospective Students,” “DIY Usability Testing,” and “Writing & Editing for the Web.”

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