As we migrate content into Bethel’s new site, we’re trimming down the number of web authors in our content management system (Silva).
I know at first this sounds constricting—perhaps even controlling. And to be honest, we’ve received a healthy share of opposition when we’ve asked groups to select a single author for their office or department.
Don’t get me wrong, we love Silva authors and need their support to keep Bethel’s site running. But our experience over the years taught us a few things about maintaining a huge, complex website. We learned that if we wanted to help Bethel become better at adapting to the online needs of our audiences, less is more.
All Hands on Deck
In the old website, we used an all-hands-on-deck approach to web authoring. In most cases, multiple employees in a department or office had access to update their webpages.
There were two reasons for this method. First, departments needed some redundancy. In those days there wasn’t a web team to support an office if their web author caught the flu or took a sunny vacation. Second, offices wanted to divide up web maintenance based on job function—employees who knew the information were responsible for updating specific pages.
Although these were logical and pertinent reasons for having multiple authors, this approach produced some maintenance challenges that surfaced at the beginning of the redesign process.
Who’s at the helm?
With the redesign, we began the migration of thousands of webpages into a new system. One initial step was to audit all webpages, looking at where they were located, what info they housed, when they were last updated, and who maintained them.
I ran into many abandoned sites with broken links and outdated information. Pages hadn’t been touched in years. Many of these areas had multiple web authors in the system and I couldn’t always identify who was responsible for upkeep or who to approach with questions.
So who steers the ship when all hands are on deck? In most cases we learned that multiple authors led to outdated content because roles and responsibilities were not defined clearly.
Stranded at sea
To gain access in the old site, web authors went through an initial technical training. This was a basic training on how to use the system that didn’t take into account web writing standards or strategies for search engine optimization, two things crucial for developing today’s web content.
After training, authors were sent out to build webpages. The staffing structure wasn’t in place to provide continued support for such a large user group. So naturally, some authors forgot how to use the tools and they didn’t have anyone to go to for help.
We realized this was another crucial piece to the abandoned content problem.
Steering without a rudder
With web authors spread throughout campus and no staff in place to coordinate efforts, Bethel’s system wasn’t set up to respond quickly to the demands and changes of the fast-paced web world.
This meant we were in for a long migration process with many groups to inform, people to introduce ourselves to, and disparate workflows to help coordinate.
Resetting the Strategy
This time around, we knew we wanted to train and support web authors a bit differently. And part of this new approach meant fewer Silva authors.
We’re resetting the system, which creates the kind of confusion and loss that comes with any major change.
So to help work through this change, we want to unpack a few details about our new approach and how we’re trying to set up Bethel’s site—and Silva authors—for future success.
Identify who’s steering the ship
With each office or department we migrate, it’s part of our strategy to identify a single person to serve as the Silva author. This is helpful for two reasons.
First, it defines responsibility for the web. Teammates know who to go to with questions or updates. Web Services has a single liaison to consult when we’re making changes to the system or have questions about a webpage.
Second, it helps us find the best person for the role. Let’s face it; some of us aren’t suited for troubleshooting web issues and others might not be in the office enough to coordinate with teammates. And that’s just fine. By having one person responsible for web updates, we can work with area leaders to make sure web authoring fits with their role and interests.
This doesn’t mean others on the team can’t contribute to the web. Silva authors rely on their teammates for information. They need help identifying what’s out of date and what needs to change. The Silva author is then responsible for making the changes happen and working with Web Services on more complex issues.
Build relationships with web authors
In total, over 230 different web authors had accounts in the old system. When Web Services was formed we didn’t know many authors. Looking at the list, we couldn’t even identify if they all still worked at Bethel.
We want to know everyone who works on the web. We want be able to say hi to the Silva authors who pass us in the hallways. We want them to know we’re here and ready to help—and we want to invest in what they’re doing. We don’t want to give them access and leave them stranded. But that’s tough to do for hundreds of people.
It’s our belief that we can serve our audiences and our Silva authors better if we have fewer authors in the system. In the end, this builds stronger relationships that lead to more meaningful conversations about how to serve our audiences. And it gives authors more focused training to build confidence in their role.
Create a more agile system
With the web constantly in flux, our systems will always be changing. This creates a lot of stress, but also makes the work fun and challenging.
Constant change calls for open lines of communication with everyone contributing to the web. If major changes are on the way, we need to get a message out to everyone in a swift manner and help each author prepare for what’s next.
Communication is time intensive. So is helping people learn something new and adapt their process. But the web isn’t slowing down, so we need to continue to become more nimble while maintaining a high-quality web presence.
Plan for better succession
Unfortunately, great people leave Bethel for new opportunities. We’ve seen a lot of turnover in Silva authors throughout the years.
By defining a single author for each area, it helps for better succession. With fewer people, we have an understanding of their responsibilities, where they have access, and any unique maintenance challenges they face. This allows for faster transitions between authors.
A few last thoughts
In all we do, we try our best to create sustainable systems that help us care for our online audiences. It’s our dream to have a go-to person for web support serving each office and department—and as we work with your area, we’ll help you find the person that fits the role.
We also know some of our programs might not be staffed with enough support for this approach. In these cases, we’ll have other Silva authors pitch in or Web Services will provide continued support.
If you’re waiting for migration and wondering who’s at the helm of your site, stay tuned for our next post or contact our team today at email@example.com.