Managing Online Content

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Managing Online Content

8 MANA GING ONLINE CONTENT www .agimo.gov .au/checklists version 3, 2004

Better Practice Checklist

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As Australian Government departments and agencies place more services online and their websites become more complex, the management of these resources becomes more complex and more critical. Effective management of these resources can help ensure that users have the best online experience possible, avoid problems that may arise if some resources are not up-to-date or accurate, and make the creation and maintenance of online services a much more positive experience for agency staff

A key role of the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) is to identify and promote ‘Better Practice’. This checklist has been created to help agencies to manage their online content in the best possible way.

The checklist outlines a number of issues for consideration when managing online content. The items in the checklist are not mandatory, but have been provided to help agencies to consider the issues that may impact on their practices in this area.

The checklist is intended to be a guide to staff responsible for web resources, including business owners, information managers, web managers and others. This checklist focuses on non-technical issues.

It should be noted that the checklist is not intended to be comprehensive. Rather, it highlights key issues for agencies. The checklist is iterative and draws on the expertise and experience of practitioners. The subject matter and issues are reviewed and updated to reflect developments. Comments about the checklist and

suggestions for additional checkpoints can be directed to:

Better Practices and IMSC Secretariat Australian Government Information Management Office

Phone: (02) 6271 1514

Email: better.practice@agimo.gov.au Copies of this and other checklists are available at www.agimo.gov.au/checklists.

Introduction

Acknowledgments

Originally published by the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) in 2001 (Version 1), and updated in 2002, (Version 2), this checklist was revised in 2004 with assistance from Australian Government agencies. In particular, AGIMO would like to thank the Content Management Community of Practice www.agimo.gov.au/resources/cop/cm.

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What is content management?

8. MANAGING ONLINE CONTENT

As more government services become available online, additional text, files, images, scripts, etc. are made available on websites. These websites are becoming increasingly complex, and ensuring that the content is managed appropriately is a growing challenge – especially in organisations that have extensive websites or have a range of areas responsible for different parts of a website. Further reinforcing the challenges in managing government sites are the growing expectations of visitors regarding the quality and usefulness of sites. From an external user’s perspective, content management involves ensuring that the information provided is correct, timely and accurate. Also, site users should be able to quickly and easily find information and navigate through the site. Content management also involves the appropriate management of sites ‘behind the scenes’, including ensuring that links are not broken, that authoring processes are working and that material is appropriately stored or archived. Failure to effectively manage site content can have a number of ramifications:

• Legal exposure if users act upon incorrect or outdated information on the site and incur a loss. Organisations may also be legally liable if statutory requirements, such as accessibility, are not met. Note that this liability applies to websites as well as corporate intranets. • Negative impact upon reputation and

branding, due to poorly designed and structured sites.

• Other public relations and political issues caused by the release of untimely, inaccurate or inappropriate information.

• Increased customer complaints and support costs, due to inaccurate or misleading published information.

• Negative impact upon staff productivity, primarily due to time spent searching for information on poorly designed or poorly managed intranets.

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IN GENERAL

Consider what type of content needs to be managed in the agency

Review how content is currently managed and the adequacy of these processes

Consider whether existing processes will be adequate in the foreseeable future

Evaluate the particular challenges the agency may have in managing content

Ensure that the agency has clearly documented and up-to-date processes for managing all types of web content

Consider the challenges in managing

intranets

CONTENT MANAGEMENT ISSUES

Identify information and services to be provided on the website

Determine end-user information needs

Allocate roles and responsibilities

Maintain a list of content owners

Focus on establishing viable content

management processes

Assist content creators to create suitable resources for online delivery

Establish testing processes

Review and remove or amend website content as necessary

Meet archiving and storage

requirements

Assess and manage any legal implications of website content

Track content approval

Manage user feedback regarding the website and other online customer services

Select appropriate content management tools

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Better Practice Checklists

IN GENERAL

Consider what type of content needs

to be managed in the agency

Content can include a wide range of materials, such as:

• text • graphics • multimedia • scripts

• applications and other software components (which may require regular maintenance and upgrades) • transactional content, used to generate

dynamic web pages

• downloadable files (such as PDF and RTF files). Appropriate management of these types of content will involve different issues and challenges. Agencies will need to consider the issues involved in managing all these types of materials and to decide on the best way of handling them.

Review how content is currently

managed and the adequacy of these

processes

In most agencies, the way in which web content is managed has developed over time, and this development may have occurred on an ad hoc basis. These practices may have been sufficient when the website was modest in size and/or the content was the responsibility of a small group. As services are added, the issues that need to be addressed are more complex, and more staff may have a stake in the content presented on the site. At this point, agencies may find that existing processes are not adequate and require upgrading.

Consider whether existing processes

will be adequate in the foreseeable

future

When planning new services or website upgrades, agencies may also consider whether their content management processes will cope with the extra workload, whether additional resources are required to support existing processes, or whether new processes are required.

As agency websites evolve, content management processes should be expected to evolve similarly. Agencies moving towards the provision of transactional and integrated services will need to ensure that their content management processes are sophisticated enough to manage this content. Similarly, as agency websites become more extensive, maintaining a consistent look and feel may become more challenging.

Evaluate the particular challenges

the agency may have in managing

content

While some challenges (such as keeping material current) may be common to most agencies, the importance of these activities, or the risks involved in not managing particular types of content, will vary from agency to agency and with the type of services being provided on the website. For example, it may be critical for an agency to ensure that pages are updated very regularly (say, hourly), whereas another agency may need to update pages only weekly or monthly. Taking a very active role to avoid incorrect information that could result in personal losses and/or legal liabilities could be critical for many agencies, whereas others may face less risk due to the type of information and services provided on their websites.

When developing their content management processes, agencies may find it useful to prioritise these challenges.

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Ensure that the agency has clearly

documented and up-to-date processes

for managing all types of web content

It is critically important that documentation is relevant and actually used by staff. Involving staff in the development and review of procedures is one way to help ensure that procedures are relevant and effective. Agencies may also assign responsibility for implementing and managing agreed processes to senior staff.

Consider the challenges in managing

intranets

Intranets present different content management challenges to websites. In many cases, the greater size and scope of intranets make content management more difficult. Further information on managing Intranets is available in Better Practice Checklist 14, Designing and Managing an Intranet.

CONTENT MANAGEMENT ISSUES

Identify information and services to

be provided on the website

Information and services to be provided on the website will comprise the content that needs to be managed.

Business cases, combined with requirements to provide information online under the Online Information Service Obligations www.agimo.

gov.au/information/oiso will determine what

information and services will be provided online.

Determine end-user information

needs

While the content and scope of online sites can be driven by internal business functions, industry experience has shown that websites are most effective when they meet stated user needs for information and tools.

Agencies should therefore consider suitable ‘user-centred design’ techniques to identify end-user information needs. This will involve liaising with members of the public for an external website, or with staff for an intranet. Useful techniques to identify end-user needs include: • stakeholder interviews

• workplace observation • surveys

• focus groups

CHECKPOINTS

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Better Practice Checklists

Allocate roles and responsibilities

Agencies can allocate appropriate content management roles and responsibilities to content creators, website managers and business area managers. This is particularly important if a

‘decentralised authoring’ model is used. A description of authoring models is available in Better Practice Checklist 14, Designing and Managing an Intranet. Agencies may also consider including

responsibility for creating and maintaining online content in position descriptions. This allows the performance of the activities to be reviewed, as well as legitimises time and resources spent on content management activities.

Maintain a list of content owners

Every page of content or piece of information published on a website should have a specified content owner. This role is responsible for reviewing the content and ensuring that it remains accurate and current.

Agencies may consider removing content that does not have a specified owner, unless there is an alternative mechanism for keeping this content up-to-date.

Focus on establishing viable content

management processes

Viable and sustainable content management processes are critical for ensuring that website content is usable, accurate and up-to-date. Agencies may find it useful to review any business processes that support website maintenance. As a part of any review, agencies may also consider any training, change management and internal communications activities that will be required.

Assist content creators to create

suitable resources for online

delivery

To assist content creators, agencies could consider standardising website content to ensure that it has a consistent look and feel, can be managed similarly and is of a consistently high standard. Agencies can assist in ensuring this consistency by creating an ‘Author’s Guide’, outlining web standards and the authoring processes required to meet them. Also, guides can be supported by appropriate training and coaching activities. As all agencies are required to have implemented a series of minimum website standards in the areas of privacy, security, accessibility, website publishing, archiving and metadata, content management guidelines also should ensure that these standards are met. Further details about the Minimum Website Standards are available at

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CHECKPOINTS

Establish testing processes

Testing content can help ensure that quality, usability and accessibility standards are met. A number of testing activities can be automated through the use of appropriate software tools, including:

• Link checking.

• Accessibility. Note that automated accessibility testing provides a partial appraisal only, full testing requires human input as it involves value judgements.

• Conformance with W3C HTML standards. Automated testing can validate whether standards have been reached or not.

• Page size, and other quantitative measures of quality and accessibility.

Content can also be assessed to ensure that appropriate metadata has been entered and that new pages are listed in site navigation and search engines. Editorial processes can also be established to review the suitability and clarity of new content. User testing can be particularly useful if it is conducted throughout the process of creating web content, rather than as a final step. Further information is available in Better Practice Checklist 3, Testing Websites with Users.

Ongoing assessment of websites can also be used to ensure quality. Further information is available in Better Practice Checklist 11, Website Usage Monitoring and Evaluation.

Review and remove or amend

website content as necessary

Content will need to be reviewed to remove or modify material that is no longer relevant. Procedures should provide guidance on how frequently different content should be reviewed, and on how the agency will ensure that reviews are completed as required. Rapidly changing material may need to be reviewed every week or month, while other content may need to be revisited only every few years. Setting inappropriately short review dates can ‘fatigue’ content owners and may lead to failure of the review process.

It may be useful to ensure that, as far as possible, information is reviewed by the original author or relevant content owner.

Agencies may also find it useful to automate the management of page reviews wherever possible, through the use of a content management system or other IT solution. By setting review dates on pages (as part of the metadata or elsewhere), automated notification messages can be sent out to content owners. This reduces the labour involved in tracking reviews and increases the currency of website content.

Meet archiving and storage

requirements

Agencies should be able to track changes to website content and to provide access to earlier versions. As with other government documentation, website content needs to be appropriately preserved and archived. Further information on preserving and archiving web-based materials is available in Better Practice Checklist 7, Archiving Web Resources.

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Better Practice Checklists

Assess and manage any legal

implications of website content

Agencies may be liable if web content results in a loss to a user. Agencies should review their website content for any risks in this area and address the issues appropriately.

Agencies should establish appropriate systems and processes to ensure that it is possible to retrieve what was presented on the site on a particular date, to be used if any legal action arises. This can often be implemented using the ‘versioning’ ability of a content management system, although simpler tools may be viable for smaller sites.

Agencies should also seek appropriate professional advice, such as that available from the Australian Government Solicitor www.ags.gov.au.

Track content approval

Over time in some agencies, it may be difficult to determine who approved particular text,

documents, etc. on the website. Ensuring that these roles and responsibilities are made clear in agencies would be expected to facilitate any necessary changes that become evident at a later date. Management of content approval may be assisted by using the workflow features provided as part of content management and document management systems.

Manage user feedback regarding the

website and other online customer

services

Agencies should establish a defined process for allocating user feedback received from the website (or other online customer services) to relevant staff for response. This should be supported by a documented process ensuring that all queries and feedback are responded to in a timely fashion.

Select appropriate content

management tools

Agencies should assess the scope and complexity of their content management needs and

consider purchasing a content management system (CMS). Further information is available in Better Practice Checklist 9, Selecting a Content Management System.

Depending on the nature of the information published on the site, agencies may also benefit from tools such as:

• a document management system – for managing files such as word-processing documents and other binary formats • a digital asset management (DAM) system

– for managing multimedia resources such as images, video and audio files.

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Better Practice Checklists

practical guides for effective use of new technologies in government SERIES ONE, VERSION 3 2004

1. Providing Forms Online 2. Website Navigation

3. Testing Websites with Users 4. Use of Cookies in Online Services 5. Providing an Online Sales Facility 6. Use of Metadata for Web Resources 7. Archiving Web Resources

8. Managing Online Content SERIES TWO, VERSION 1 2004

9. Selecting a Content Management System 10. Implementing a Content Management System 11. Website Usage Monitoring and Evaluation 12. Online Policy Consultation

13. Knowledge Management

14. Designing and Managing an Intranet 15. Information Architecture for Websites

16. Implementing an Effective Website Search Facility 17. Spatial Data on the Internet

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