A web of shop keepers - web management explained


When you drill right down to it, everything to do with web management can be reduced to just 3 elements. These are:

  1. Activities: The things you do
  2. Resources: The things you need
  3. Scale: A metric that predicts how the components above take shape

A shopkeeperIt may seem surprising that 3 elements can accommodate all the detail of online operations - but as a conceptual model, it works. The first step is to quantify the magnitude of your management burden.

Scale

Scale is a measure of the size, technical complexity and levels of engagement of a site and can give an immediate estimate of your operational load.

In short, as each of these dimensions grow, your web management activities will expand in both volume and granularity. For reference the activities of online operations can categorised into 4 broad groups:

  • Leadership
  • Development
  • Maintenance
  • Infrastructure

Finally, to cope with an increase in operational activity, additional investment in common web resources is needed to keep the show on the road. Typically, these resources encompass:

  • People
  • Processes
  • Tools
  • Budget

The greater the operational load, the more costly and specialised these resources will become.

Web managers as shopkeepers

The good thing about this model is that it can be applied to any type of website or intranet. The core activities and resources stay the same—the only thing that change sis the underlying Scale of the operation.

When you think about it this model makes a lot of sense.

By way of analogy, consider management in a different domain—say, the bricks-and-mortar world of retail.

Read the full article "A web of shop keepers - web management explained".

Web governance - Ask 10 people to define it and you'll get 11 different answers


Many raised handsWeb governance. Such a flexible and malleable term.

Just like the old joke, if you ask 10 different people to describe it, you will get 11 different answers.

  • "It's how we set strategy"
  • "It's how we make decisions"
  • "It's how we manage operations"
  • "It's how we do ... you know ... stuff"

Part of the issue is that for a long time governance was simply a convenient label for just about any operational or leadership problem on a site.

If you had interpersonal issues on your team, governance was all about roles and responsibilities.

If your challenge was establishing high level direction, for you governance concerned strategy and leadership.

Thus, governance has been defined not in any unified way, but as a woolly catch-all for the many disparate elements connected with running a digital service.

Read the full article "Web governance - Ask 10 people to define it and you'll get 11 different answers".


Web Manager's Masterclass: 8 lessons + 5 videos + editable templates

  • Discover the structures, processes & roles a successful web team needs.
  • Learn to build senior managment support for investing in digital capability.
  • Includes bestselling Web Manager's Handbook, plus editable templates.
  • Try a free lesson now or get all-in-one for just $29.99.

In 2021, those who are best at web will be those who are best at the boring stuff


That's right. Not those who can create the slickest interface or most click-bait-y content.

Engine roomThose who are best will be those who can do all that AND everything else needed to deliver stable operations.

They'll be the ones who can react most quickly to new circumstances, in a repeatable and predictable way - and at the lowest cost.

A well-tuned engine?

Good web management is a means to an end. It puts order and control on operations so you can get on with important things, like online goals.

Good operations are like a well-tuned engine. You take it for granted that when you turn the key, it will just work.

Clunking wrecks

Rather than being graceful machines, many systems of online management are in danger of seizing up.

The reasons are twofold.

First, there has been an historic inattention to the principles of good governance.

Through no fault of their own, many teams are underfunded and left to "make do". Without senior level interest, they have to rely on informal systems of control to get things done.

Second, there has been a huge expansion in digital ambition.

A decade ago the only thing a web team had to worry about was perhaps a single corporate website.

Today even the smallest organization maintains a wide variety of digital presences (including apps, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) aimed at a growing array of devices and each with a large assortment of internal stakeholders clamouring for attention.

Strategic imbalance

The difficulty is that this growth in volume and complexity has not been balanced by a corresponding growth in resources and leadership—causing huge instability.

The scale of demands placed on many teams far outstrips their ability to deliver. There is simply too much to do and not enough to do it with.

Teams are worked so hard and have so little redundancy, that almost any problem can bring things crashing down:

  • Quarrels over online ownership
  • Shortages in skilled manpower or the right tools
  • An inability to coordinate

Yet, despite such issues, web staff remain steadfastly dedicated to the job at hand.

I continue to meet people who go above and beyond the call of duty to keep the show on the road, like working weekends or postponing holidays.

Web people want to do a great job. But just like everyone else they have a legitimate expectation that senior executives will provide the resource needed to get on with things.

The problem for many is that this expectation is ignored.

There are solutions. Explore the Web Manager’s Masterclass.

How to increase cookie consent rates on your website


Forget the virus lockdowns, the endless Brexit deadlines or the November kerfuffle in the US. The most vivid date in 2020 for many web managers was 5 October.

That was the deadline set by the powerful Data Protection Commission (DPC) in Ireland for compliance with the EU's cookie consent requirements (PDF).

No more 'Click OK to continue'.

From 5 October onwards users must be able to give informed consent for cookies—and withdraw it just as easily.

The DPC's warning was clear: 'Ignore us and we're coming to get you'.

Cue a frenzied rollout of consent management platforms—and a nice payday for OneTrust, CookieBot and others.

As the date approached, there was fear of a large scale rejection of cookies by users. This would severely impede the ability of many sites to track online activity, as well as deliver other features.

Now the dust has settled, evidence suggests that our worst fears have not been realised.

Speaking to an analytics-specialist friend of mine, 3 tiers of rejection (or acceptance, if you prefer) have emerged.

Read the full article "How to increase cookie consent on your website".


Web Manager's Masterclass: 8 lessons + 5 videos + editable templates

  • Discover the structures, processes & roles a successful web team needs.
  • Learn to build senior managment support for investing in digital capability.
  • Includes bestselling Web Manager's Handbook, plus editable templates.
  • Try a free lesson now or get all-in-one for just $29.99.

Off-topic ... Where to start with Philosophy?


About 10 years ago I began some tentative digging into philosophy. I have not emerged yet. It goes deep ... very deep.

Now it seems that after listening to me drone on about the trolley problem on long drives with the Dublin Caving Group, some of my caving buddies have developed an interest too.

More than a couple have asked me for recommendations for where to begin. As I tend to give them the same list each time, I thought I would also summarise it here for others starting out.

Now, be aware that this list owes much more to Google and Apple’s recommendation algorithms than any proactive research on my part.

Yet, there is some genuinely excellent (and free) content out there. The shows/channels below are those I keep going back to. Well delivered and often entertaining, they are great places to start.

Good luck!

YouTube

Crash Course Philosophy
Designed for US high schoolers, but absolutely excellent content and delivery. Covers all major themes. Very recommended.

John Searle: Lectures from UC Berkeley
A premier thinker on the mind-body problem and theory of language. Famous for his 'Chinese Room' thought experiment (highly influential in AI circles). These lectures were where I started my own journey and I have listened to all of them several times. Very informative and not overly academic.

Closer to Truth
A bad title for a long series of interesting interviews and discussion with top scientists, philosophers and thinkers. Regarding philosophy it focusses mainly on the problem of consciousness, God and philosophy of religion. Also covers science.

Brian Magee interview series
A series of TV interviews from the 1980s by Oxford philosopher Brian Magee. Some great guests, including a young John Searle and many now-dead luminaries, incl. Quine, Ayer and Bernard Williams. 

Podcasts

Philosophy Bites
Regular 15-20 minutes discussions on key issues. Excellent content. Hosted by Nigel Warburton and David Edmonds (more of both below).

Partially Examined Life (PEL)
Long-format discussion on major themes, publications and philosophers. The occasional interview too. Entertaining and erudite. Good for long drives/walks. Some episodes require several listens.

The Panpsycast
Play on words (geddit?) Similar to PEL, though a bit more hit-and-miss. Again long-format discussion on major themes, but with better interviews than PEL.

The Philosopher’s Arms
A BBC radio programme converted to podcast form. Very well produced (Dave Edmonds of Philosophy Bites). Each episode tackles a key theme in an entertaining and revealing way.

And lastly...

A few others that are either tangential to philosophy or have less frequent uploads.

  • Lex Fridman Podcast: Core theme is AI, so very interesting if you are into hard problem.
  • Examining Ethics: I rarely listen to this now but found one or two episodes interesting.
  • Philosophy 24/7: Dave Edmonds again. Philosophy applied to issues in news or public debate.

Reading

Most of my consumption of philosophy has been via podcasts and YouTube whilst walking or doing housework. I would like to read more but can’t seem to find the time. Those that I have read are below.

Philosophy: The Basics
By Nigel Warburton. A great introduction to all major themes. Very readable.

Philosophy, Basic Readings
Again by Nigel Warburton. A collection of most influential papers through time. Dense at times, but very good.

Philosophy: the essential study guide

Warburton again! I doubt many students actually read this but I found it surprisingly useful. Very short and I read it in an afternoon. Good scene-setting for how to approach this domain.

People!

So those are my main ‘go-to’ sources. However, I will tune in to any media if it covers themes I am interested in (consciousness, free will, ethics, epistemology, truth) or has interviews with my favourite philosophers ... such as:

  • David Chalmers – He of 'hard problem' fame. Plus, I am quite sympathetic to panpsychism (where else is there to go?)
  • John Searle – He has been in trouble recently, but his lectures and talks manage to make things so clear!
  • Roger Penrose / Stuart Hammerof – Philosophers? Probably not, but in the same space.
  • Giulio Tinoni – Creator of ITT (Integrated Information Theory) which I love as an approach.
  • Susan Blackmore – A great interviewee and interesting journey.
  • Simon Blackburn – His PEL interview about truth is one I go back to a lot.
  • Donald Hoffman – A crazy idea that just might be true. (Probably not.)
  • Rebecca Goldstein – Only 36 arguments for God?
  • Max Tegmark - Again not a philosopher, but so many cosmologists and particle theorists can't help but tackle consciousness.
  • Alain de Botton - Where as the School of Life when I needed it! Very amusing books too.
  • Colin McGinn - Being called an 'Ontic Mysterian' is enough for me.

Great websites have content that is easy to Find, Read, Understand and Action

It's nice for a website to look nice. But it's not that important.

What's important is whether your users can find, read and understand your content and complete actions easily.

That's it. Everything else is secondary.

Find, Read, Understand, Action

FIND
Can your users locate information and services or is it a constant guessing game? Good findability includes SEO, clear labelling, high scent-of-information, usable navigation, etc.

READ
Can visitors engage with ease or is information shovelled online in dense clumps? Good readability includes clear information flow, good layout and white space, suitable fonts, etc.

UNDERSTAND
Can readers absorb your messages first-time or are they full of obscure verbiage. Good understandability relies on plain language, no jargon or legalese, etc.

ACTION
Can users complete tasks easily or are they faced with awkward interactions and errors. Good actionability has clear controls, clear trajectory, clear micro-content, etc.

Read the full article "Great websites have content that is easy to Find, Read, Understand and Action".


Web Manager's Masterclass: 8 lessons + 5 videos + editable templates

  • Discover the structures, processes & roles a successful web team needs.
  • Learn to build senior managment support for investing in digital capability.
  • Includes bestselling Web Manager's Handbook, plus editable templates.
  • Try a free lesson now or get all-in-one for just $29.99.

Do something radical to your website after COVID-19. Make it better!


Just as COVID-19 has revealed that many health systems are not fit for purpose, so it has done the same for websites too.

Organisations around the world are discovering that—at the moment they need them most—their websites are too inflexible and one-dimensional to deliver.

This is no surprise. Years of institutional disinterest and under-investment made it inevitable.

Chickens. Welcome to the roost!

My concern is that COVID-19 will be followed by an over-reaction—to (once again) try to "fix" things through a clamour of expensive web redesigns.

A protest march

Sadly, these efforts are doomed to failure. You cannot redesign your way out of institutional digital illiteracy.

Sure, design is part of the solution, but it is not the solution. As usual, good content is orders-of-magnitude more important (but no-one ever tenders for a web rewrite).

That said, it would be pretty stupid for a web manager to refuse a cheque for €-half-a-million. Plus, this is an important learning moment.

Here’s my advice ... take the money, but then tell your bosses you're not going to redesign their website. You're going to do something much more radical. You’re going to make it better!

They may not understand at first, but that’s OK.

Almost certainly, many of your colleagues have a concept of digital that is stuck in the early 2000s. The massive increase in specialisation and the professionalisation of skills is likely completely unknown to them.

That's not their fault; they don't work in web everyday. But this knowledge gap is now a serious organisational risk and it's time to bring them up-to-date.

You can start by explaining why 'web design' is not what they think it is. It is only one part of a vast spectrum of disciplines and deliverables that underlie modern online operations.

Tell them it's time to stop thinking of their website as an art project.

It's not an art project. It's an engine. It's a machine for doing things!
 
And it's time they started using it.

It will not be easy. It will take time. And it will be expensive.

But think of the €-hundreds-of-millions have been spent on redesigns over the last two decades with effectively nothing to show for them. What a waste of time and money.

Don’t repeat the mistakes of the past and expect a different result.

Spend wisely. Hire the skills you need, get the right tools and focus on things that matter.

Don't redesign your site. Make it better!

It will work. Here's how.


Why digital government in Ireland is failing - & how to fix it

Underachievement is designed into digital government in Ireland. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

The symptoms are manifest. Endless ‘redesigns’ instead of meaningful action.



The cause is also clear. A near total absence of essential digital skills.

“But” you might say “look at how easy it is to renew Motor Tax online.”

Sure, Motor Tax is easy. But that’s the point. It’s easy! It’s a very straightforward transaction. What else has government done?

The answer (with some honourable exceptions such as Revenue, HSE and a few others) is not much.

Read the full article on Medium.com.

New video | Why good web governance leads to stability



In this video I talk about "stability" as a factor of good web governance.

Stability means you that you don't have to worry about things like too little authority, inadequate manpower, bad processes or simply stepping on a colleague's toes.

Rather, you have everything you need configured in the right way, so that your web people can just get on with things and focus on pursuing online goals.

In my online Masterclass for Web Managers, stability is the number 1 measure of success for web governance that I keep coming back to.

It really what good web governance is all about.

No perfectly written online standards or beautifully crafted organisational chart can be a substitute.  None of those things matter if they don't work or are routinely ignored.

In that sense we need to constantly remind ourselves that web governance is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end.

Good web governance is simply the system we use to manage digital in a controlled and orderly way in order to create stability.

Unfortunately, stability is not that common

Web operations in way too many organisations are under intense pressure.

The cause is a huge mismatch between the burden placed on web teams (including publishing volumes, customer engagement, platform management) and the size and sophistication of the resources and supports available to them (principally, manpower, skills and tools).

In the Masterclass I explored a classic example of what such a mismatch looks like and how to fix it.

Mom and Pop This is based on the story of a Mom-n-Pop's Diner – a small restaurant that grows into a giant regional chain – and the challenges faced by their web manager "Junior" (Mom-n-Pop's son) as he tries to cope with the huge increase in online activity that results from this growth.

Just as often happens in real life, we find out that Junior remains massively under resourced as scale grows.

This inevitably this leads to huge instability and ultimately an embarrassing online error which seriously damages Mom-n-Pop's brand and reputation.

The second half of the Masterclass explains how Junior and Mom-n-Pop's in general go about recalibrating their web governance (using examples from such world leaders as GOV.uk, Cap Gemini, the Altimeter Group) to create more stable operations based on a properly resourced team and following the 3 broad digital transformation steps of vision, investment and commitment.

Web Governance Tutorials: 8 lessons + 90 mins of video + supports

  • Learn the modern structures, skills, processes & tools your web team needs
  • See how to minimize conflict as your website increases in scale
  • Based on real-life examples from GOV.uk, Cap Gemini & more
  • FREE: Download samples or try now for $29.99 (incl. free extras)

The full story of governance transformation

To get the full story of Junior and Mom-n-Pop's web governance transformation, you can explore the Masterclass online. It has 8 lessons in total, 2 of which can be downloaded for free on my website.

In a recent web post, I said that I also want to publish some more videos (starting with this one) that expand on the concepts in the Masterclass in a bit more detail.

Admittedly, these videos will be a bit more informal than the Masterclass but perhaps usefully can spend more time on individual topics associated with governance transformation.

In particular, I want to tackle the key issue that Junior and Mom-n-Pop struggles with.

That is how to scale up and improve web governance and management systems at the same time as your website is growing and colleagues are demanding more and more from you online.

Is the type of instability that Junior experiences inevitable?

Or is it possible to get senior management to buy into the benefits of stable web governance as a worthy investment on its own terms, in the same way as they freely invest in web "redesigns".

After all web governance (including properly equipped team with the right skills, processes and tools) is the only that makes sure everything (UX, content, code) will all work together.

Surely it deserves attention?

Indeed, as I argue in my one of my online articles the 4 Megatrends of Web Governance, a central issue of digital is that way too often growth in online scale has not been balanced by a corresponding growth in resources.

The result is that web teams have to cut corners in an effort to get things done and which leads to a fall quality, an increase in uncertainty and often embarrassing errors.

Over the coming videos, I'll build on the story of Mom-n-Pop's diner and explore in extra detail how Junior can improve his web governance systems as online grows in size, complexity and levels of engagement.

Web Governance Framework

If you are new to my analysis of web governance or have not yet explored the masterclass, it may be worth familiarising yourself first my Web Governance Framework.

This Web Governance Framework is the conceptual model I use help put order on the many activities and resources of online operations and as a means for making predictions about the types of governance an online presence needs.

However, if you don't get to do that don't worry too much.

In the next video I'll give a brief summary of the concepts involved and show how you can use them to a stable management system - whether you are a 1 man web team or part of a giant digital operation.

Following that, we'll explore the challenges in involved in growing the scale of your online operations and sketch out the 3 factors of success you need to be mindful of.

Web traffic is a delayed signal - your site is already broken

It's always a mistake to track web performance based on traffic alone. It's perfectly possible to have high traffic, whilst suffering huge difficulties elsewhere, eg high cost, risky practices, etc.

Instead, you should measure performance across 3 broad categories:
  1. Online indicators
  2. Operational indicators
  3. Organisational indicators
Together they give you a much better idea of overall performance.

For example, online indicators measure your ability to meet the minimum expectations of your target web audience. Such indicators include:
  • Responsiveness - Does the site load quickly & consistently?
  • Content  - Is text relevant, readable, understandable & actionable?
  • Accessibility - How well can the site be used by people with disabilities?
  • Portability - How well can it be used on different devices (mobile, tablet, etc)?
  • Usability - Can it be used effectively with minimum effort/errors?
  • And many more...
On many sites, few (if any) of these indicators are tracked. Only when email complaints go up & traffic goes down, do they realise something is wrong.

That's why relying solely on web traffic or feedback for assessing online performance is such a bad idea. They are delayed signals. The site is already broken.

Happily, plenty of automated tools are available (a few of which we have) to keep an eye on things. These tools provide the immediate insight needed to maintain stability & intervene before web users start to rebel.