You have surely encountered Web sites that show “what’s new” items and upcoming events dating from 2 years ago. Or that show a copyright year of 2009. These sites do not generate much confidence. Is the company still in business? Do they still sell the products and services they claim to offer? Hard to tell. Most site visitors faced with such questions will usually click the back button and try a different search. Number one rule of web site management: Keep your content updated, even if that’s the only thing you do.
I had an interesting discussion with some colleagues about the way Web Content Management (WCM) vendors present their product; especially, the value of their product. Basically, having evaluated and implemented a WCM at my last employer, I can safely say that we have very much gained in efficiency. However, it’s also the case that we have had major challenges because of the WCM: Demands on our team for new site development as well as constant requests for assistance from the 40 or so content editors started to put a strain on the team. This is the issue: WCMs will increase site publishing efficiency by decentralizing the effort, but now, there are added pressure on Web teams for training, hand-holding, and content approval, not to mention assistance in putting content that may not exactly fit the templates and layouts. All in a day’s work.
How much freedom should departments or units of a corporation have in developing their site? The answer is… It depends. Usually, a corporation with a strong brand will not have to worry about this problem. All sub-sites will actually want to be the same look and feel because it is to their advantage. The same cannot be said about organizations that have a culture of decentralization, where the various units are run almost independently from each other. However, it is possible to have a site that is very much homogeneous in look and feel, but the content is not so harmonious. This happens regardless of the strength of the brand. In a nutshell, my preference is to give departments room to explore how they can use the Web to communicate to their constituents, but keep them in line with a strong publishing methodology and guidelines.