Over the last 20 years, we have seen an evolution in the composition of web teams. A single webmaster has been replaced by an interdisciplinary team with specific expertise in design, development, programming, content, information architecture, and the user experience. While this transformation has been key to the improvement of websites, most organizations are making a critical mistake by not making live website support a priority—aka web operations.
Web operations is defined as the processes and procedures that ensure the ongoing operational integrity of a website, including technology infrastructure and content/coding standards. While some organizations do have someone responsible for web operations, typically this is strictly an IT function with the responsibility of keeping the technical infrastructure operational. What you need is a more holistic approach to quality control that covers all aspects of the web, including technical infrastructure, coding standards, content, and design.
Some web teams completely ignore web operations or make it a low priority. The result is a website that has errors, compromised branding, and poses a reputation and legal risk to the organization. Without a proper support and maintenance process, overall web credibility will suffer.
Too often support for the live site is performed on an ad-hoc basis by the same staff responsible for working on new projects. Because they have to drop what they are doing to work on an update to the live site, it is difficult for them to stay focused on their project work. In addition, there is often pressure to keep a project on schedule, making maintenance requests a low priority. While adding another person to your team or altering job titles is not always practical, it is important to dedicate ample time to maintaining a quality website.
If feasible, the best way to ensure quality control and the ongoing operational integrity of your site is to assign someone the role of web operations manager. This is a different role than that of a project manager. Project managers are concerned about keeping their projects on time and within budget. Web operations managers are concerned about the day-to-day operations of the live website and are committed to keeping the site running at optimal effectiveness and quality.
The Web Operations Manager position requires broad web skills, and depending on where IT reports, they may also need a technical background to support the technical infrastructure. Specific responsibilities include:
- Manage day-to-day website operations including updates, maintenance, and changes necessary to enhance the user experience.
- Monitor quality assurance including broken links, spelling, accessibility, SEO best practices, and compliance to editorial style guides, web standards, and web policies.
- Document all processes and procedures including training on the content management system (CMS) and other tools.
- Collect and report on quality assurance data and web operations data.
Depending on the size and complexity of your site, the role of web operations manager will either be a part-time or-full time position. What’s important is that this function is recognized as critical to the success of the website and is given the proper resources.
Time to Prioritize
Web work falls into two broad categories: 1) work on new projects and 2) maintenance/support for the live site. Most organizations focus heavily on new projects, and maintenance of the existing site can be an afterthought. This approach is backwards, and support for the live site should take precedence over new projects.
As your site grows, more resources will be needed for support. If your web resources and staffing are fixed, every time a new project launches, more resources will be needed for support. This means less employees will be available to work on new projects. While there may be a strong desire to work on new projects, this should not come at the expense of support and maintenance. Hiring a web operations manager makes a strong statement that the quality of your website matters.
To learn more about web operations and how to implement an operational plan for your website, download the web guide “From Project to Process: Operational Thinking for Website Success.”