Today, many organisations are still busy building websites that are built-to-last. At every attempt to introduce new technology or a sparkling new design, best efforts are made to put something robust in place for as long as possible.
As many web professionals have recognized, a web site won't last. There seems to be a clear disconnect between the common managerial perception of the corporate website as something static, while the web team recognizes that to make best use of the Web, you should frequently improve your web pages as you learn along the way. The problem is that built-to-change websites don't go far enough and have their own particular set of problems.
Built-to-change websites are not manageable
If there is one constant theme across the many J. Boye groups for web professionals, it is that there never seems to be enough resources dedicated to the web team. Trade-offs are constantly made in an effort to avoid having an outdated or even broken website. Even those companies where the website is the most important revenue stream, are struggling to look beyond the best-selling products and build a truly great website. The long tail dream is really more like a garbage trail.
Over the past decade many experts have written about how the Web impacts organisations and how it enables us to incorporate change into business processes. To quote Irish Web expert Gerry McGovern from his article on From built-to-last to built-to-change:
The Web demands a new model of management: from built-to-last to built-to-change. Internally, most large organizational systems are designed to be robust, secure and future-proof. However, they often end up being slow, cumbersome and rigid
Yes, the Web enables business transformation, but we can't keep focusing on change in order to manage the web. If you believe that websites tend to need constant updating, why worry about building something to last? The problem with this "change is constant" strategy is that few organisations have enough resources to constantly update and improve their websites. In reality what happens, is that the web team is always running behind, chasing from one project to another, fixing what most urgently needs fixing and whilst patching up the rest of the website to the best of their abilities.
The content explosion will cost you a fortune tomorrow
Beyond the never-ending stream of changes, another thing that is plaguing most web teams is the content explosion that is a reality for almost all websites. Website content is growing at an already unmanageable rate.
During the past decade many organisations have deployed content management systems, hoping that IT would somehow save the day. Some have also deployed wiki, blogs and a handful of other tools. These systems generally introduce a helpful layer of management, but the unintended consequence is that it actually make it much easier for your colleagues to create additional content. That means you end up with an alarming growth of content.
This aquarium of content that organisations are doing their best to keep healthy, is turning into an excruciatingly expensive eco-system for tomorrow:
- Your next website redesign will certainly be much more expensive than the last one
- Changing tools, e.g. from one content management system to another, will only become riskier and more complex
- Forget about search as even the most expensive search engines are not going to return meaningful results from your ocean of content
We need a better way.
Kill your darlings and build sharing into your website
How about we started the next web project somewhere else: Not by emphasising change, not by making it even easier to create more content and certainly not with technology. To really manage the web, we will probably need to kill some of our darlings, both in terms of how we've approached digital projects so far and also in terms of what needs to go on the website.
A trend is emerging where "sharing" is entered into the equation to better manage the web. Think of sharing as the thing that naturally succeeds open. Sharing means that other people can contribute. Sounds scary and vague? It means you need to take a wider, more integrated approach and look at your web presence as a whole. Not just the corporate site, but the entire new media universe in your organisation including Facebook pages, Twitter, YouTube channel, blogs and video.
Here's how you get started:
- At a high-level, you need to allow sharing and don't restrict what you have on your website by copyright or any such things.
- At a practical level, make it easy to share what you have, whether this means that a website visitor can share something on Facebook or whether a programmer can take your content and apps and turn them into something completely different.
The most important darling to be killed is the illusion of control. Web managers and in particular the senior management above them, like to be in control of the key informational assets that go on the website. They prefer to control how they are used.
Those that really are reaping the business benefits from the Web are right now thinking about how they can set their information assets free, so that others can easily leverage them. Built-to-share means less content. Many have already found that much of their existing content is redundant, outdated and trivial. Essentially content that wastes time and certainly nobody wants to share. Unfortunately few web managers have the mandate to simply clean the mess.
Learn more: Find better ways to manage the web
Benefit from the shared experience of others: