Ongoing role of a website manager

Paul Boag

Although there is a general acceptance that a website manager is required to “make the site happen” (as in go live) there is little or no conception in many cases that there is an ongoing role there.

Many organizations and individuals simply underestimate the enormity of the job faced by website managers/owners, failing to grasp that it is an ongoing commitment. It is our job as web designers to make clients aware that running a website requires somebody to be responsible for it over the long term. Every website requires a website manager.

This lack of understand about the role of website manager probably explains why it is often a fairly unrecognized position despite the fact that the website itself is considered an important asset. Although there is a general acceptance that a website manager is required to “make the site happen” (as in go live) there is little or no conception in many cases that there is an ongoing role there.

It is almost as if there is a “build it and it will run” mentality, where the organization fails to grasp that a website manager is needed throughout the entire lifecycle of a website to ensure that it evolves and remains successful.

A good website manager need to be constantly fulfilling three roles…

  • Evaluating site objectives
  • Refining the site
  • Promoting the site

Evaluating site objectives

A website manager should be constantly evaluating the objectives of his website and asking if changes need to be made to its overall vision and direction. This kind of assessment does not need to occur on a daily basis but should be done at least every six months (more often if things in your organization move quickly).

These reviews should consider questions such as:

  • Have the underlying objectives of the website changed?
  • How is the site performing against its success criteria and do those criteria need to change?
  • What is the competition doing and how are we performing against them?
  • How has the target audience changed and what response are we getting from them in regards to the site?

Refining the site

On a more practical level the website manager should also be refining the site in response to changes in these objectives. If the success criteria for the site are not being met, then steps need to be taken to address the problem. Equally, if the competition is luring away your visitors then the site needs to be altered to encourage them back.

This continual “tweaking” of the site can manifest itself in three different ways:

  • Changes to the front end interface of the website
  • The addition, deletion and editing of written content
  • The introduction of new functionality

For example a luxury holiday booking service might respond to increased competition in the sector by adding a flight price comparison tool to the site (new functionality). A tool like that is very appealing to some users and will draw them away from the competition. Equally, they might look at adding regular reviews of existing destinations (new content) to encourage users to keep coming back. Finally, they might refine the design based on user feedback to make it easier to navigate and improve legibility (changes to design).

Responding to user feedback is often the best way of refining the website, which is why ongoing usability testing, polling and analysis of site stats is so important.

Site promotion

Although it is possible to get online marketing specialists to help with the promotion of a website I have seen some organizations fail to allocate budget to this task. As a result it often falls to the website manager to pick up the promotion of a site.

Site promotion needs a definite ongoing commitment. The number of visitors coming to your website will slowly decline if you do not actively promote it.

You can promote a website in a number of different ways.

  • Offline promotion – Offline promotion includes letterheads, business cards, signage, phone systems and other marketing collateral.
  • Email marketing – Email can be a powerful marketing tool to drive new traffic but also a good way of encouraging existing users to return to your website.
  • Search mechanisms – Search mechanisms are more than good placement on Google. It also includes pay per click campaigns and social networking tools.
  • Guerilla marketing – Guerilla marketing is a catchall term for lost cost marketing methods. It includes techniques like forum speeding, viral marketing, blogging and even podcasting.

Site promotion requires more than mere lip service. It needs dedicated resources (either internally or externally) on an ongoing basis. It is important to decide early in the process who is going to be responsible for this work.