Rewards follow clear web strategy

Working with the public and private sectors over an extended period during which web and digital technology has developed rapidly has given us an insight into the implications of strategic decision making.

In large organisations achieving any sort of agility in web presence is a rare thing. It seems to us that it has most often been achieved when the organisation in question breaks the web function down into components and has the vision to ensure that the different elements of the organisation genuinely take responsibility for the development and deployment of their own content. This approach runs against the grain in organisations where centralised decision making is the norm.

One of the fatal mistakes made by businesses of all types, but especially public sector bodies, is seeing websites are primarily a technology responsibility. In fact the web stopped being primarily about technology way back, yet for far longer technicians retained control, often with a level of responsibility for content and influence over its presentation way beyond their skill set.  Meanwhile those organisations with broader vision can still struggle with the real potential for devolved content management, their vision becoming hidebound by centralised administration and a lack of enabling skills and the failure to deal with imperial office politics.

Very few print rooms are asked by their clients to oversee the content of publications or to pass opinions on whether it’s appropriate to use imagery. Of course not, it’s a ridiculous notion – but that’s what organisations do with their web presence as a matter of routine.

In the local government sector the results are even worse. The adoption of standards based on futile attempts to anticipate the market and a false premise of ‘equal access’ has driven presentation toward the lowest common denominator and stifled innovation. The continued perception of the web as a ‘one off’ capital item, rather than a constantly developing revenue budget has also mitigated against progress. UK Government websites have reached a new low in presenting public information while ticking a myriad of boxes already out-of-date at first deployment. There are some signs of hope where the public authority is not the legal carrier, but it will take a major change of mindset to address the stasis.

Where organisations have moved with the market and adapted their web presence to available technology they have put themselves ahead of the game. The rapid take up of open source CMS, WordPress, led to an expansion in the after-market offering tools, templates, themes and serious tools for online business. Now the market leader at a canter, WordPress may lack the security features to create comfort for the carriers of large scale personal information databases, but the range of tools now available now permit the combination of horses-for-course CMS technology to address different elements of the web presence of a large organisation. Of course being the market leader will itself make WordPress more and more of a target for attack – something their future releases will need to address.

Crucially for SMEs, web platforms can now deliver rapid deployment without large capital outlay and can deliver ‘mobile-first’, SEO-optimised solutions with minimal technical involvement. This should make it more obvious that the essential ingredients of success are: an understanding of the audience, engaging content, a clear set of aims and the roles the site must fulfil and, most importantly, a strategy. Everything else – online brand guidelines, the platform, the content plan, house style guides, resourcing, budgets, technology decisions and tools flow from strategy. Understanding that addressing the website every couple of years just won’t do anymore is a good start.


Public Impact helps all kinds of business develop and implement strategic plans for web and digital communications. Contact us here to find out more.