What Is Web Governance On Higher Education Websites And How To Implement It

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Last Updated: May 9, 2024 11:00 AM

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How a higher-ed institution's website is managed can significantly impact its ability to engage students, faculty, and alumni.

In a recent webinar, Hannon Hill's CEO Kat Liendgens and Georgy Cohen, Director of Digital Strategy at OHO Interactive, examined the importance of web governance in higher education and how the concept can empower institutions to better manage their digital presence.

Watch The Webinar Today

What is web governance


Web governance encompasses the systems, processes, and policies that manage and maintain an organization's digital presence in an orderly and purposeful manner.

"Governance creates an insurance policy for the investment you've made in your digital platform, providing structure and accountability toward the achievement of your communication goals." - Georgy Cohen

It involves establishing clear roles, responsibilities, and procedures to guide digital initiatives.

This framework ensures that activities on digital platforms such as websites align with the organization's communication goals and overall strategy.

By setting governance structures, organizations can create accountability, enhance efficiency, and optimize the use of resources across their digital landscapes.

Through web governance, organizations aim to prevent chaotic digital practices by regulating content creation, access permissions, and the deployment of digital projects, ensuring that each element supports the strategic objectives and effectively engages the intended audience.


Web governance in higher education

Web governance on higher-ed websites is crucial to ensuring that an institution's digital presence aligns seamlessly with its organizational goals and user expectations.

Traditional practices, where "this is the way we've always done things," often clash with modern needs for agility and user-centered design.

Many higher education institutions grapple with legacy platforms and outdated processes that have been in place since their websites were first launched, sometimes as far back as the 1990s.

These entrenched practices can create significant challenges in adapting to current digital standards.

“Web governance isn't just about setting limits and restricting abilities and access. It's also about educating and empowering your content creators." - Kat Liendgens

Elements of web governance

Understanding the key elements of web governance can greatly assist organizations in making informed decisions about their digital strategy.

Governance Models


The governance model determines how a website is managed, ranging from centralized to decentralized models.

Centralized models involve a specific team managing all aspects of the website, ensuring uniformity across digital outputs.

Decentralized models distribute responsibilities across departments, promoting specialized content but requiring careful coordination to maintain coherence.

Hybrid approaches mix both, with some aspects managed centrally and others distributed.

Success in any model requires appropriate resources, support systems, and a strong connection to the overall brand.

Authoritative and Core Content


Determining the hierarchy of content based on business importance is crucial.

Authoritative content like tuition fees and program descriptions must be centrally managed due to its critical nature, ensuring accuracy and quality.

Core content, such as admissions, may be managed by specific departments but follows organizational guidelines.

Non-core content, such as parking services, requires less oversight but still needs basic support to meet general standards.

This strategic categorization helps maintain a balanced and effectively managed website that aligns with organizational objectives and user needs.

Web governance through the CMS


Cascade CMS plays a crucial role in implementing web governance by offering tools that:

  • Automate Compliance: Ensuring accessibility standards are met and SEO best practices are followed.
  • Manage User Permissions: Tailoring access based on user roles to safeguard the integrity of the website.
  • Enhance Content Management: Utilizing templates and structured workflows to streamline content creation and maintenance.

CMS Features to Reinforce Web Governance


The following include some of the features within Cascade CMS that reinforce web governance:

  • Role-Based Access Control: Limiting editing capabilities to authorized users to prevent unauthorized changes.
  • Workflow Management: Automating the review and approval process to ensure content meets established criteria before publication.
  • Content Scheduling and Archiving: Allowing for the timely publication of content and the removal or archiving of outdated material.

Roles and responsibilities


In web governance, defining roles and responsibilities is critical to ensure efficient website management and maintain high standards of content quality.

Below is a streamlined approach to understanding roles within web governance:

  • Role Definition: Different users may occupy similar roles, such as editors or publishers, but it's crucial to manage these roles effectively, often grouping them to streamline management. For instance, roles can be specific to certain sections of a site, ensuring that editors only have access to relevant areas.
  • Online and Offline Roles: Responsibilities extend beyond just online actions like editing or publishing; they include offline duties such as legal approvals or content reviews. Consider both aspects when defining roles to cover all governance bases.
  • Customization of Roles: Default roles provided by platforms like CMSs may not fit all organizational needs, especially in varied settings like small centers or large universities. Customize roles to reflect internal terminologies and responsibilities that make sense to your team members.
  • Accountability and Ownership: Clearly defined responsibilities, not just role titles, are necessary. Specify the scope of influence and expectations for each role, ensuring that these are part of formal job descriptions. Assign clear content ownership to enhance accountability and keep contributors invested.
  • Task Management and User Training: Use features like task managers to assign and track responsibilities. Continuous training in web writing, SEO, and accessibility is crucial to empowering users and improving their proficiency in managing web content effectively.

By clearly defining and managing roles and responsibilities, organizations can create a structured environment that supports effective web governance, leading to a more coherent and user-focused digital presence.

Publishing workflow


The publishing workflow is a structured process that guides content creation, review, approval, and management.

Here's how this process typically unfolds:

  • Content Creation: This is where it all starts. Content creators develop the initial drafts that form the base of web content.
  • Review and Approval: Content must undergo rigorous checks for accuracy, relevance, and brand alignment by designated reviewers or overseers.
  • Publishing: Once approved, content is published. Remember: publishing is not the end but the beginning of the content lifecycle.
  • Monitoring and Auditing: Post-publication, the content's performance is tracked using tools like Google Analytics. Insights gained from this data inform future content strategies.
  • Continuous Audit and Update: Regular audits ensure content remains accurate and relevant. Schedule reviews of important pages to maintain content quality and relevance.

This structured approach helps ensure that content aligns with strategic goals, maintaining the integrity and efficacy of the website.

Content quality assurance

Ensuring high content quality is a pivotal component of web governance.


Here are key strategies to maintain and enhance content standards:

  • Automated Tools: Utilize CMS-integrated tools or third-party applications to monitor issues like broken links, spelling errors, SEO, and accessibility. These tools help maintain baseline quality and identify areas for improvement.
  • Ongoing Content Audits: Schedule regular audits to ensure content remains current and aligned with brand and user needs.
  • Preventive Measures: Before publishing, leverage CMS features to check for common errors that could impact user experience and SEO. This proactive approach helps avoid future corrections and maintains content integrity.
  • User Education and Empowerment: Continually educate contributors on best practices in content creation. Tools like readability checkers and SEO tips can guide users to produce better-quality content autonomously.

Kat Liendgens emphasizes the importance of actionable feedback in quality assurance, stating,

"You always want to show your users action items. You don't ever want to overwhelm your users with reports that point out issues they can't do anything about. We call this technical terror, and we want to avoid that to encourage buy-in to your web governance strategy."

This approach ensures that contributors understand the issues and are equipped to address them effectively.

Training, guidelines and community

Effective web governance relies heavily on comprehensive training, clear guidelines, and a supportive community.


These elements are critical to ensuring that all team members understand and can effectively contribute to the organization's web initiatives, regardless of their role.

  • Training is essential for all governance models but particularly crucial in decentralized settings. Training should be regular, accessible, and mandatory and cover CMS usage and brand expression, accessibility, AI, and web content best practices.

Georgy Cohen emphasizes the importance of training being a cultural expectation:

"Training should really be a cultural function and expectation around the web, regardless of the size of your team."

  • Guidelines: Develop and maintain a variety of guidelines, such as brand guidelines, web writing best practices, voice and tone guidelines, and editorial criteria. These documents help standardize practices across the organization and clarify decision-making processes for content.
  • Community: Foster an internal content community to provide peer support and share best practices. This community can serve as a platform for celebrating successes, disseminating updates, and soliciting feedback on upcoming changes.

By integrating training, guidelines, and community into web governance, organizations can enhance the effectiveness and cohesion of their web operations, leading to a more robust and aligned digital presence.

Next steps / Action Items


If you're looking to bolster your web governance or unsure where to begin, here are practical steps to get started:

  • Start Small: Focus on one aspect at a time—whether it's enhancing training programs, refining homepage editorial criteria, or utilizing untapped CMS features. This approach prevents overwhelm and ensures progress.
  • Document and Inventory: Begin by documenting your web content request workflow and how access to the CMS is granted. Inventory all existing training materials, documentation, and website-related policies. This 'intake phase' helps establish a baseline understanding of your current governance structure.
  • Identify Gaps and Liabilities: Within a few weeks, identify gaps or liabilities in core content ownership. Conduct surveys with content editors to pinpoint their challenges and pain points.
  • Engage Leadership: Share reports, data, and concepts to start discussions about governance with leadership. This engagement is crucial for gaining support for upcoming changes.
  • Conduct Audits and Analyses: Perform content audits to assess quality and consistency across your digital presence. Use the findings to propose targeted governance improvements and optimize content workflows.

Georgy Cohen emphasizes the importance of taking the initiative:

"You can't boil the ocean. You just gotta pick one corner and start there."

As you've learned, effective web governance is crucial for the success of higher education institutions in the digital age.

By establishing clear rules, roles, and processes through tools like Cascade CMS, institutions can ensure their websites are compliant and compelling and effective communication tools.

To discover how Cascade CMS can elevate your institution's web governance, fill out the form below to learn more and watch the webinar today.

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Chris Rapozo
Marketing Specialist


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