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What Is Governance & Why Is It Important?


Joan Benson

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How do colleges and universities keep their content fresh and up to standard? It’s all about governance. But what is governance and why is it important?

Governance is an agreed-upon strategy for updating, making decisions about, and creating new website content. In higher education, governance typically incorporates input from marketing/communications, faculty, staff, students, and groups, such as clubs or Greek organizations.

All parties have well-defined responsibilities and, as a group, they share accountability and action for updating their content, including text, layout, and calls-to-action.

Governance is critical to keeping your website working for you. To work toward successful content management, start by following these three steps.

1. Define a centralized strategy

Each person, department, and content-creating group must share a vision for the direction of the website content based on a common set of values. Details of your plan should include:

  • How often you will update content?
  • Who is responsible for which sections and pages?
  • What images, layout options, and components are approved (or not)?

2. Provide proper training for all users

Writing for the web, making content accessible, and learning how to work in a content management system (CMS) are all special skill sets that can be taught. Before turning your content creators loose, make sure they understand the following basic governance principles:

  • CMS templates: Users should understand what templates are approved on which pages. For example, many sites have a special design for Programs, Departments, and the homepage.
  • Media: How to appropriately add videos, audio, and images to site pages. Make sure to include alt tags for accessibility.
  • Migration: Moving content from the old site to the new one. See 10 migration best practices.
  • Nested headers: To meet accessibility guidelines, hierarchy requires headings and subheadings. This helps visually impaired site visitors successfully navigate the site.
  • Scannability: Use of subheadings, bulleted lists, and components to break up walls of text.
  • Shared content components: Content that can be updated in one spot, with rippled changes throughout the site. For example, a “contact us” block that lives on multiple pages.
  • Writing for the web: Users should understand best practices for writing appropriate headings, calls-to-action, linked text, URLs, and meta descriptions. All these features will affect how well users can find and use your site.

3. Set up a content publishing workflow

We can’t all have the final “say-so” for what content or images should be included on the website. Many organizations set up workflows in which there are specific levels of access based on a user’s role in the organization, skill with the CMS, and understanding of the institution’s brand and digital guidelines.

Many workflows involve three general levels of users:

  • Administrators: These users have full site access and can upload, edit, and publish content sitewide, as well as manage permissions for other users.
  • Superusers: They have similar access to Administrators, except they can’t manage other users’ permissions.
  • Users: These individuals have access to change specific content or pages but generally cannot publish content.

Following workflows allows the central website team to keep the site content on brand without taking away all editing rights of the dispersed team. Email us today to discuss your governance strategy.

Related Reading: 4 PDF Accessibility Hacks

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