Why web managers (mostly) don't care about traffic

An antique TV set

It's a common misunderstanding. Web managers often have trouble explaining it to colleagues.

You see, we (mostly) don't care about traffic.*

That's for Marketing or Communications teams to worry about.

Our focus is delivery.

Delivery über alles!

A web team's number 1 responsibility is maintaining a stable online presence.

We do this by ensuring the site meets minimum standards (UX, content, loading, accessibility, etc) and is supported by effective operations (publishing, QA, analytics, etc).

Think of us like the production team in a TV studio.

We do everything we can to make sure things go smoothly - the cameras are in place, the lighting is on, the scenery is up, the scripts are proofed, the teleprompter is loaded.

Yet, we mostly don't care if anyone is watching.

That's not our concern - our job is delivery.

Business-as-usual is enough

Modern websites are so large and complex, that simply keeping the show-on-the-road is a huge undertaking.

Any sensible web team will have its own strategy to steer activity. For example:

  • UX: Improve the readability standard for the top 5 content topics to grade 6 by end of year.
  • Resourcing: Hire x2 full-time content designers by mid-year.

This web strategy is agnostic on marketing or communications priorities. It is only concerned with optimising delivery for users and the business.

Confusion about web strategy

Did you know many websites (far, far more that you might think) operate in the complete absence of marketing or communications goals?

It's true.

They may have vague aspirations about being "world class", but they are totally silent on actions, resources or outcomes.

Annoyingly, web teams are often asked to fill-in and to produce goals/targets for sites like this. That exposes the confusion about web strategy.

Goals for what? Targets for what?

At its core, web strategy is about delivery.

"But what about traffic, reach and engagement? What about communications, marketing and business goals?"

Sure, they are also important and they can be included in the strategy. But first someone needs to decide what they are - and that is not the web team's job (or at least not their job alone).*


* In practice, web teams are usually highly involved in developing communications goals for web and are very interested in traffic. But that is only because web is such a dominant channel. No-one expects the print department to set marketing goals - they focus only on high quality printing.

"Sleeping in your car?" - why most web teams are in penury

Man sleeping an old car

You might know the story.

You are introduced to someone at a party.

They are very engaging, seem amazingly successful and drive an immaculate car.

Only later do you discover that they regularly sleep in that car and the tank is usually empty.

The car looks great because it's all they have - and they work very hard to keep up appearances.

It's a wretched state to be in.

In a strange parallel, the situation for many web teams is the same.

You probably agree that most government and institutional websites look great.

They have slick designs, beautiful images and gorgeous, florid "about us" text.

At first glance they seem amazing!

Only later do you discover that's all they have. There is nothing else.

It's almost impossible to do anything useful with them.

Their web teams are in penury. There is no budget for meaningful development.

The tank is empty.

The philosophy of website governance

Statue of a philosopher

Stability.

That's why we do it.

Just consider the incredible complexity involved in managing a modern website.

Consider the array of activities, people, skills, teams, tools, technologies, processes and procedures. Consider the ever changing needs, moving parts, critical dependencies, growing volumes, evolving drivers and competing demands.

The reality is that in the absence of a system of governance, things soon fall apart. The examples are endless.

So the purpose of website governance is to deliver stability.

Stability means a web team doesn't have to waste time on fights about ownership, unclear priorities, dodgy processes, etc.

Instead, you have everything you need configured in the right way.

You can just get on with things—and focus your effort on pursuing online goals.

A utopia? You bet it is!

Learn more about it in my Website Management and Governance Masterclass.

(Yes, I love philosophy and ways it can connect with digital.)

(Image credit: Dove on J-J Rousseau's hand. Knoten2010 on Flickr.)