Who owns the process

One of the first areas to be defined should be the overall process for updating the site. But who agrees this process? For the large company it will be necessary to bring together all the interested parties such as those within the marketing department and the site developers - who may be an external agency or the IT department. Within these groupings there may be many people with an interest such as the marketing manager, the person with responsibility for Internet or new-media marketing, a communications manager who places above-the-line advertising, and product managers who manage the promotion of individual products and services. All of these people should have an input in deciding on the process for updating the web site. This is not simply a matter of updating the web site; there are more fundamental issues to consider, such as how communications to the customer are made consistent between the different media. Some companies such as Orange (www.orange.co.uk) and Ford (www.ford.co.uk) manage this process well, and the content of the web site is always consistent with other media campaigns in newspapers and on television. In Ford this has been achieved by breaking down the barriers between traditional-media account managers and the Internet development team, and both groups work closely together. In other organisations, a structure is adopted in which there is a person or group responsible for customer communications, and they then ensure that the message conveyed by different functions such as the web site developers and the advertisement placers is consistent. Options for structuring an organisation to integrate new and old media are given in Parsons et al. (1996).

What, then, is this process? The process will basically specify responsibilities for different aspects of site management and detail the sequence in which tasks occur for updating the site. A typical update process is outlined in Figure 9.9. If we take a specific example we can illustrate the need for a well-defined process. Imagine that a large organisation is launching a new product, promotional literature is to be distributed to customers, the media are already available, and the company wants to add information about this product to the web site. A recently recruited graduate is charged with putting the information on the site. How will this process actually occur? The following process stages need to occur:

1 Graduate reviews promotional literature and rewrites copy on a word processor and modifies graphical elements as appropriate for the web site. This is the write stage in Figure 9.9.

2 Product and/or marketing manager reviews the revised web-based copy. This is part of the review stage in Figure 9.9.

3 Corporate communications manager reviews the copy for suitability. This is also part of the review stage in Figure 9.9.

4 Legal adviser reviews copy. This is also part of the review stage in Figure 9.9.

5 Copy revised and corrected and then re-reviewed as necessary. This is the correct stage in Figure 9.9.

6 Copy converted to web and then published. This will be performed by a technical person such as a site developer, who will insert a new menu option to help users navigate to the new product. This person will add the HTML formatting and then upload the file using FTP to the test web site. This is the first publish stage in Figure 9.9.

7 The new copy on the site will be reviewed by the graduate for accuracy, and needs to be tested on different web browsers and screen resolutions if it uses a graphical design different from the standard site template. This type of technical testing will need to be carried out by the webmaster. The new version could also be reviewed on the site by the communications manager or legal adviser at this point. This is part of the test stage in Figure 9.9.

8 Once all interested parties agree the new copy is suitable, the pages on the test web site can be transferred to the live web site and are then available for customers to view. This is the second publish stage in Figure 9.9.

Note that, in this scenario, review of the copy at stages 2 to 4 happens before the copy is actually put on to the test site at stage 6. This is efficient in that it saves the technical person or webmaster having to update the page until the copy is agreed. An alternative would be for the graduate to write the copy at stage 1 and then the webmaster publishes the material before it is reviewed by the various parties. Each approach is equally valid.

It is apparent that this process is quite involved, so the process needs to be clearly understood within the company or otherwise web pages may be published that do not conform to the look and feel for the site, have not been checked for legal compliance, or may not work. The only way such a process can be detailed is if it is written down and its importance communicated to all the participants. It will also help if technology facilitates the process. In particular, a workflow system should be set up that enables each of the reviewers to comment on the copy as soon as possible and authorise it. Content management systems are now commonly used to help achieve this. The copy can be automatically e-mailed to all reviewers and then the comments received by e-mail can be collated.

The detailed standards for performing a site update will vary according to the extent of the update. For correcting a spelling mistake, for example, not so many people will need to review the change! A site re-design that involves changing the look and feel of the site will require the full range of people to be involved.

Once the process has been established, the marketing department, as the owners of the web site, will insist that the process be followed for every change that is made to the web site.

To conclude this section refer to Activity 9.1 which shows a typical web site update process and considers possible improvements.

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