Chitchat: Web Ownership

This debate has been likely happening since the importance of an online web presence skyrocketed: who owns websites?

The answer is easy in the case of femmewithapen: I do. I determine that content that goes up and accept complete responsibility for it.

But what about government websites? Particularly, in Canada’s federal government?

The website is an important tool for any entity – government, private, not-for-profit. Canadians are increasingly turning to online sources as their first stop for information about government programs and services, so making sure that information is accessible and readable should be top-of-mind for those behind the screen.

The jury’s still out on this topic, and while I saw how a lot of the nuts and bolts fit together in my two years working in communications for a federal agency (including being an active member of the team responsible for overhauling of a key part of their website), I’m still a little baffled as to who retains ultimate ownership. Who am I referring to? The communications team and the IT team.

Accessibility is the technical aspect of federal government websites: how can each page be accessed by a wide range of Canadians? As the new federal standard for web accessibility, WCAG 2.0, states “following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these.” IT resources are key to the successful implementation of an accessible website, as they’re continually ensuring that the code behind the pages is compliant.

But how about the dynamic content many Canadians expect to see nowadays? Interesting articles, visuals and videos, among others, are all part of a communicator’s toolbox. This is where we come in:

  • ensuring articles are written to be readable for a wide audience;
  • using visuals in a strategic and eye-catching way to better illustrate your story/point; and,
  • staying on top of new trends and producing ‘living and breathing’ content (think social media tools and shareable videos).

So, how can one team really work without the other? They each play an equally important – and completely different – role, yet both are required to ensure the success and full accessibility of Canadian federal government websites.

As I’ve said before, I like getting the job done (and done right the first time), and I believe that effective teamwork can lead to great things. I cannot stress how important this is when it comes to working on the web. Web tasks should be managed efficiently from the top down, by both teams. What’s needed here is a clear understanding of roles, the tasks at hand, and a simple action plan. Good management is fundamental for both sides; managers should strive to lead by example and in most cases, both the communications and IT folks will follow.

The bottom line? There’s really no room anymore for uncertainty – both teams must take ownership and both must work together.

Over to you: how does responsibility for the web work in your organization?

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