Thinking about a website as a project only deteriorates the quality of the site over time. How can we balance project web work with operational web work, especially in higher ed?
In “The Web is Not a Project” session (MPD1), Mark Greenfield, Digital Strategist, University at Buffalo, and Doug Kozar, Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications – Web Services, University at Buffalo, discussed this project and operational balance using a Web Operations Plan.
Greenfield said even in 2016 most college and university websites need updating. It’s not usually a matter of expertise, but more often how we view the web.
“The biggest mistake most web teams make is thinking about the web as a project,” said Greenfield. “Projects by definition have an end. The challenge with the web is once you launch a new site the work begins.”
Your web credibility suffers when treating a website like a project. The risks of the project approach include spelling and grammar errors, broken links, compromised branding, and increased exposure to legal and reputation risks.
The project mentality doesn’t consider operational management. There are huge implications for Google results and SEO with spelling errors alone, Greenfield explained. User experience and quality matter.
Web Operations Plan
Greenfield presented a Web Operations Plan in seven steps.
- Quality Assurance
- Compliance Monitoring
- Content Life Cycle Management
- Operational Management System
- Ongoing Improvements Program
Spelling and grammar, broken links, SEO, accessibility, and technical infrastructure (hardware and software) are important to website quality. You also want to set up monitoring for your editorial and web style guides.
There needs to be a plan in place to consider the content life cycle and ongoing maintenance. “There’s a big risk with leaving old content out there because Google will probably find it.”
Greenfield added that it’s okay to okay to delete content. And just because you can add a web page, doesn’t mean you should.
Kozar demoed the operations management system that the University of Buffalo’s Marketing & Communications – Web Services department uses as a single point of contact for web-related activities and to assign and track that workflow of the 30 sites they manage.
“Having the tool itself really helps the process immensely,” said Kozar, which aids in documentation and reporting parts of the Web Operations Plan.
To Do: Now
Sounds great, but a little overwhelming? Greenfield said there are five things you can do now.
- Assign a web operations manager.
- Think KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).
- Plan for the maintenance at the start of a project.
- Measure the efficiency of web operations.
- Be proactive instead of reactive.