Remember the webmaster, keeper of the keys to your institution’s website? While someone on your campus may still hold the title, we’re long past the days when the web was a one-person job.
Today’s college and university sites require a team working in concert, with clearly defined roles and a documented process for getting fresh content online fast. Fresh and fast—those adjectives are key. Your process needs to facilitate publishing, not put up roadblocks.
A basic web publishing workflow requires a contributor (or editor) and a reviewer/publisher. Sometimes those roles can collapse together—maybe you designate trusted contributors who can publish independently. Conversely, some processes build in additional checks.
Let’s lay out some principles that will help you design a process that works for your school and your team.
Distribute Contributor Responsibilities
If you haven’t already expanded the team charged with content reviews and updates, now’s the time. The more capable folks you involve, the fewer barriers to keeping your site vibrant and current.
Content teams vary in size and composition. Look for the right mix of professionals and personalities. Team members don’t need to know code, but they do need to be interested in the details of the website and should know a lot about the programs they represent. Ideal contributors are genuinely curious and communicative, ready to help tell your institution’s story in an engaging way.
As you assemble your team, decide who can publish new or revised pages. Publishers closely review content, make fixes (or kick them back to contributors), and decide when material is ready to go live.
While you might deputize contributors to publish pages for their own units, you’ll likely want to keep responsibilities for the home page and other key pages centralized in whichever office “owns” the institutional website. Your central publishers effectively become captains for the whole web team.
Designate at least two central publishers who can back each other up, train colleagues, and maintain continuity. You might want all your publishers engaged every day, sharing responsibility for content review, or you may have them trade off. Regardless, be sure they all take regular hands-on roles and keep their skills fresh.
Determine a Final Arbiter
Occasional disagreements about content—whether it meets guidelines, where it gets placed, and so forth—are virtually inevitable. With that in mind, designate an authority who can make final decisions, and make sure they have backing in that role.
Your arbiter can be an active member of the web team or, even better, a unit director who is familiar with standards and processes, but generally not involved day to day. Assign this responsibility at the minimum practical level—you probably don’t want every content dispute going to a VP.
Defining content types, editorial style, image standards, accessibility practices, and other basics can minimize disagreements. The best teams adopt a common content strategy and work toward shared goals.
Your guidelines should spell out what goes where. If your home page includes a prominent “hero” image or carousel, establish what this space is for and what content fits. Do the same for every element of your most prominent pages.
Also, establish a standard taxonomy for your content. Many sites rely on keywords or tags to automate publication and aid in search, so make sure your contributors are using the same set of terms.
Develop a Calendar
A common content calendar can keep your site current. You don’t need to go overboard—just start with the essentials:
- When major site features (e.g., the hero/carousel described above) should be refreshed
- What new content will rotate into those key positions and when it needs to be ready
- When every page on your site gets reviewed for currency and accessibility
- Who’s responsible for new content development and routine reviews
Decide on a Content Management System
Finally, choose the right tools for the job. A content management system (CMS) like OU Campus™ will make a process like the one we’ve outlined possible and sustainable.
With OU Campus, you can define permissions to match roles, design seamless workflows, make sure pages are fully accessible, and establish a strong institutional brand. A CMS should facilitate your process, not dictate it. If you haven’t adopted a CMS, or if you feel hemmed in by your current system, you owe OU Campus a closer look. Get a demo of OU Campus today! Your campus could be ready for a change.
Post originally published on Higher Ed Live.