Web teams need real authority

Imagine how different newspapers would be if the editor-in-chief didn’t have editorial control over his own paper. What would the Guardian newspaper be like if the head of subscriptions could tell the editor to feature a large subscription advert on the front page of the newspaper? Or what about if the person in charge of advertising out-ranked the editor-in-chief? We would quickly find most newspapers completely overwhelmed with advertising.

Guardian Newspaper full of advertising

Unfortunately, this is a scenario that is all too common for websites. The web team are seen as nothing more than technicians who implement the ideas of others. If the head of sales, or the CFO want something featured on the homepage, the web team has no authority to say otherwise.

This is why all too many websites lack a cohesiveness and communicate mixed messages to its readers. For your website to be truly successful, this needs to change.

Fixing the problem

I believe that web teams should have the final say about what appears on the website. They should have the authority to reject content, remove out of date content and maintain editorial control.

There needs to be policies in place that set this down in writing, and outline ways to resolve any conflicts that arise. Your website is just too important to be left to the whims of departmental heads.

Getting outside help

I know that putting together such a policy may prove difficult, but that is where outside help can often make a difference. Having an outside, paid consultant to present this approach to management, can come across as more impartial and with more authority than an internal web team asking for more power.

These are issues that you need to be thinking about now, if you are not already.

If you are, how have you resolved them? I would love to hear in the comments. If you haven’t succeeded yet, please feel free to use the comments as a therapy tool to share your pain :-)

Update: The lovely people at .net magazine have picked up on this post and asked me to expand on it for their site. To read what I had to say visit their post on the topic.

  • Sam

    I really couldn’t agree more. I have seen too many websites where a post is obviously from someone outside of the web team, and it completes destroys the flow and tone of the site. Being able to veto this sort of post should be something every web team has the power, and confidence, to do.

  • The problem is getting the opportunity to get the outside help in, in most cases the people that are not giving their web teams the authority they need are unaware that there is anything wrong – thus there is no perception that a consultant is needed at management / director level.

    • They may not realise there is anything wrong with the management of the website, but they often decide the site needs redesigning etc.

      In such cases recommend a review stage at the start of the project. This is where the external expert can provide feedback on what needs to change on the site (design, usability, accessibility etc) but also can raise the issue of management.

  • The biggest travesty is that, in my humble opinion, it’s never the power-holding idiots who get fired when web strategies go tits up. Sadly it’s almost always those on the bottom rung who knew what to do but weren’t allowed to do it.

    I was once tasked with writing and implementing a web marketing strategy for an MD of a medium sized financial services company. She confessed to know sod all about online marketing but insisted on making every micro-decision on what was being done.

    Well, I’m sure you can guess where that project went…

  • sidonaldson

    I strongly agree with this, my biggest professional frustration as a developer is knowing so much about the industry, having a great amount of knowledge and not being able to influence design decisions. Developers are not faceless resources but are the industry experts. Responsive design is bolstering this argument as there an many technical decisions to be made from the ground up and only the best tech aware creatives can handle a full RWD layout.
    I would compare this to designing a car. Yes the look is important but you start with technology. The designer wouldn’t tell the engineer how to build it!