The title of this blog post is news I have to communicate to my clients regularly. I have to look them straight in the face and tell them: “The problem you have with your [website, mobile app, digital experience] is a people problem. It’s not the design, it’s not the UX, it’s not even the content. I mean, it may be all those things. But those things are just symptoms of a problem with people.
Let me be clear, though — I’m not saying that people are intentionally causing problems. In fact, more often than not, they have the best intentions. It’s just that those intentions aren’t always aligned and prioritized.
Alignment and prioritization comes with a solid framework for governing your digital things. Governance is made up of four key parts:
Authority: Who is empowered to make and enforce decisions?
Planning: How do you decide what projects to take on and how do you prioritize them?
Measurement: How will you determine if your digital things are getting you the results you set out to achieve and how will you make adjustments when necessary?
Tools: What kind of support do the people working on your digital things need to be successful?
For more on governance, check out our recent webinar.
So, how do you know if you need governance? Short answer: Yes. If any of the following symptoms sound familiar, you do. If none of the symptoms sound familiar, you are probably already doing it.
SYMPTOM 1: Perpetual Redesign
This symptom can also be described as trying to put lipstick on a pig. If your organization has found itself embarking on re-design after re-design thinking the way the site looks or the interaction patterns are the problem, you likely have a problem with content governance
SOLUTION 1: Define Your Content Strategy
Content is the reason most sites get any visits at all. People are looking for information. If they get to your site and they can’t find what they need or it’s not presented in a way that makes sense to your site’s visitors, you’ll lose them.
The first step is to articulate the purpose of your site’s content, who it’s for and what it should do for your business and your users. Then, craft your content accordingly. Get rid of what doesn’t belong. Revise it to meet user’s needs. Organize it with business and user goals in mind.
SYMPTOM 2: Microsite Mania
There are some good reasons for microsites. In my experience as a UX and content strategy professional, the reason I see most often is that a business unit decides to go rogue to avoid dealing with whomever is responsible for the core website. The reasons for going rogue range from it being quicker to do it on their own to not wanting to be told no. That’s the one I’ll focus on.
SYMPTOM 2: Win Over Stakeholders
Recently, my colleague Hannah Grossman and I were discussing the characteristics of a successful web project. We landed on stakeholder engagement and alignment as the universal contributing factor. It’s not enough to come up with a strategy. When stakeholders feel a sense of ownership, they are less likely to go rogue.
Start with understanding who your stakeholders are, what roles they play on your project, and what their pain points and challenges are. When you approach it from their point of view, you have a better shot at keeping your digital presence unified and on-strategy.
Here’s a handy matrix to get you started.
SYMPTOM 3: Homepage Turf War
We’ve all seen websites that are so jam packed with content that we have no idea what to look at. Or, there’s the home page carousel full of messages we’ve never bothered to look at. That’s what I’m talking about when I say homepage turf war. It happens for a couple reasons:
Assuming you have a strategy and the guidelines to support it, the solution is quite simple. Give someone authority. Real authority. Let them tell the VP of Marketing no, emphatically, because what they’re asking for doesn’t support the strategy. And make sure everyone who might contribute content knows who’s in charge.
Empower them to enforce — and sometimes break — the rules you’ve set to follow a plan that supports your business goals and achieves your users’ needs. Even better? Insist they have a seat at the table as your business partners are determining how to communicate in the digital space. They can set expectation early to avoid conflict down the road.
Get your gavel
OK, so governance doesn’t have to be heavy handed and it doesn’t have to be a ton of work. Start with the basics and add as necessary. Job no. 1 is to document your strategy and the guidelines that will help you achieve it. From there, it’s mostly about communicating and collaborating. And recognizing that at the heart of whatever digital thing you’re doing, is the people.