This post was originally published September 15, 2016 and has since been updated for accuracy and freshness.

Web governance can be a difficult topic to get people engaged with, partly because, let’s face it, it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Even so, maintaining web governance best practices is a crucial consideration that can mean the difference between leaving your site’s users satisfied or frustrated.

Web governance is the process of maintaining and managing an online presence in an organized way. The idea is to set certain standards for your website and hold yourself to them. That can include both your own organization’s standards and external regulations or compliance standards, such as WCAG 2.1 web accessibility standards. The ultimate goal is to provide the best user experience possible for your website visitors by ensuring quality, consistency, accessibility, searchability, and more.

What Does Web Governance Entail?

Web governance includes processes, policies, and procedures. The important part of having a web governance process in place is to establish guidelines specific to your website and organization. Chances are, web governance is already a part of your digital strategy or digital marketing efforts. Perhaps you don’t call it by the same name—website management or digital governance are common synonyms—but in some form or another, you’re already governing the content, files, and media on your website.

Running Your Site Like a Store

Maybe the best way to think about web governance is through a real-world analog example—in this case, the world of retail. Opening a retail store requires a lot of work upfront before you can launch your business and open your doors to the public. Your space has to be accessible so everyone can get inside your store and shop. You need to organize your store in a way that makes sense so it is easy for customers to find the products they are looking for. You need to be ready and available to answer questions. Last but not least, the space needs to be clean and tidy, and you need to have an ongoing maintenance process in place.

Everything from keeping your inventory up to date and staffing your store to the general upkeep of your physical space are important considerations in owning and operating a retail store. If something breaks down in your store, you don’t just leave it, you fix it. You maintain a high standard of quality so that those coming to visit leave with a good impression of your store and want to return.

Keeping Your "Store" in Order

The responsibilities of operating a physical retail location bear a lot of resemblance to the type of maintenance that goes into having a website. Imagine you decide to launch a website for your retail store. What’s most important to you? Perhaps it’s making sure that customers can find your storefront. Maybe it’s driving more online sales to aid in your overall sales goals. Whatever it is, there should be similar processes in place.

It should be easy for customers to find the products and information they’re looking for. Information should be organized in a way that makes sense, and there should be a way for customers to easily contact you with questions. All pages should be clean and tidy, without any errors.

Visitors of all abilities and backgrounds should be able to access the site. That means someone who is blind won’t run into a product image without an alt tag description. It means not letting inconsistencies and misspellings live on your site. It means your shopping cart link isn’t broken. It means web visitors can easily find the contact information.

Good Web Governance is for Every Site

Maybe you don’t have distinct goals for your website beyond having something come up when customers search for your business. Even if your sole purpose is to have an established online presence with company information, following web governance best practices is still important. No matter what your website’s goal or purpose is, having an established web governance process will help you to maintain a quality online presence.

Web Governance is Like Insurance for Your Website

Lest the storefront analogy give you the wrong idea, web governance is not just for retail shops or B2C businesses. It’s for all types of organizations with all types of website goals. It matters because your website represents your organization, and you need to protect your organization’s reputation.

Think of web governance as insurance for your website. Often, web teams spend many months redesigning their website, but don’t have a post-launch strategy in place to maintain it or protect all of their hard work. Having a web governance strategy in place can help preserve the integrity of a newly launched site or ensure the quality and usability of your current website.

No matter who manages your web presence, even if it is an agency or third-party organization, you still need to know if your website is adhering to certain standards. That’s why at Siteimprove, we urge web teams to have processes in place, whether it’s through an automated web governance tool or not.

While web governance may not be a term your team uses, it’s vital to the success of your online presence. And it’s never too late to implement a web governance strategy suited to your organization’s website. Going back to our retail metaphor, even the best-stocked storefront in the world is going to struggle if customers can’t figure out what to do once they get there.

Want to read more about web governance and other best practices for your website? Check out the Siteimprove Blog!

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