Clients often come to Systems Alliance looking to improve their web presence. Here’s a quick quiz: Which of the following two issues do you think our clients usually want help with?

  1. Website usability and design
  2. Web governance

If you guessed “website usability and design”, you would be right. Our clients are usually very concerned, as they should be, about the navigability, look and feel of their website(s). After all, site design and architecture have a direct impact on the client’s ability to reach and connect with their target audience. For example, I needed to visit 8 pages on a health insurance provider site, only to find that a phone call was required to complete the task I wanted to perform.

common complaintsIdentifying client websites in need of a makeover, with inconsistent brand images, and out of date and duplicate information, is not all that unusual. Hearing a client complain about the amount of time it takes to update website content is also fairly typical. “It takes too long to get things done,” is a common refrain.  In our experience, problems with site design and structure are often symptoms of larger organizational and operational problems. Problems like:

  • Web goals and objectives that are not clearly defined  or that don’t align with organization goals and objectives
  • Web activities that are not aligned with other online (e.g. social media, email marketing) and offline marketing and communication activities
  • A dysfunctional web organization structure with roles and responsibilities that are not well defined
  • Processes and procedures for website decision making, management and  maintenance that are unclear, if they exist at all
  • The absence of tools to facilitate management and maintenance of the  organization’s web site(s)
  • Insufficient communication and collaboration across the organization related to web guidelines, standards and best practices

When one or more of the above are present in a client environment, a web governance gap is typically the culprit.

Wikipedia defines website governance as “an organization’s structure of staff (each with well-defined roles, responsibilities, and authorities); technical systems; and the policies, procedures, and relationships such staff have in place to maintain and manage a website.”

What does good web governance look like?5 pieces to web governance

  • Goals and Objectives – clearly defining the purpose for an organization’s website(s) and the audience(s) it is trying to reach is a prerequisite for effective website governance. Carefully articulated goals and objectives along with well-defined audience personae, should inform all decisions about site design and content. Organizations with effective websites also define metrics that gauge performance vis-à-vis the goals and objectives defined (e.g. who is visiting the site and what visitors and doing once there).
  • Web Organization – Some of the clients we serve have staff performing web related functions distributed throughout their organizations. We believe this is as it should be, particularly as it relates to content creation and publishing. That said, we believe executive level accountability for an organization’s web presence and related outcomes is critical to success.

It should go without saying that a number of other web related  roles must also be present; roles including but not limited to designer, information architect, content strategist, user experience expert, web developer, project manager, user support staff, site administrator. For practical purposes, many of our clients house these roles in a central web organization.

Lastly, the roles and responsibilities defined should extend to include key roles in related functional areas (e.g. marketing and communications, legal and IT).

  • Processes and Tools – Potential risks associated with the distribution of web related responsibilities throughout an organization are role confusion, inefficiency, and non-performance. Each of which can have an adverse impact on website quality and performance.

Defining standard workflows and deploying tools to guide and promote conformance are key to an effective operation. Some content management solutions facilitate the application of standard templates and enable content authors, rather than technical staff, to publish content.

A wide variety of web analytics tools are available to assist in tracking website performance. The two blogs below provide additional insights about Google Analytics:

So how are you doing? Here is a quick checklist you can use to find out.


  Quick Assessment




Have you defined and documented the primary purpose for your website(s) along with related goals and objectives?




Can you describe how critical web related decisions get made (e.g. what content is appropriate for the website)?




Have you defined performance metrics that relate directly to the website goals and objectives?




Is responsibility and accountability for your web presence and related outcomes assigned at the executive level?




Are all key roles and responsibilities clearly defined and communicated?




Are web related workflow processes, policies and procedures in place?




Are tools in place to facilitate compliance with workflow rules and guidelines?




Are tools in place to enable tracking and reporting on key website performance metrics and do you act on what you learn from the measures taken?




Have you implemented a web community of practice that encourages your web professionals to share best practices and lessons learned across groups?




Do you have an effective communication strategy that informs key executives and web contributors about accomplishments, challenges and action plans?



Improving web governance will have a demonstrable, positive impact on the effectiveness of your web operation and ultimately on your web presence.