Use the O3 ('Ozone') Model to identify and fix holes in your digital capability.

A multicoloured poster with the chemical formula for Ozone O3

The O3 (or Ozone) Model assesses your digital capability across 3 domains: Online, Operations and Organisation.

If you are a digital manager, this model is superb for getting senior managers to focus on web.

First, the model itself is convincing – it encompasses all the elements upon which good digital delivery relies and organises them in a coherent way.

Second, the model's 'traffic light' grading system is so simple that its findings are hard to ignore – especially bad findings.

Lastly, the alternative title for this model (the 'Ozone Model') just seems to attract interest. 'Ozone' is a play on the three Os, as the chemical formula for Ozone is O3.


Why these 3 categories?

Why Online, Operations and Organisation? Because they represent the fundamental capabilities you need for good digital delivery. Be poor at any of them and your delivery is at risk.

Online: How good is your website versus common standards, e.g. UX, accessibility, performance, security, etc? High compliance = High score.

Operations: How good are the systems used to deliver your website, e.g. processes, people/skills, tools, management practices, etc? Stable systems = High score

Organisation: How 'digitally literate' is your organisation, e.g. strategy, governance, financing? High literacy = High score.

(The detailed criteria for each category is at the bottom of this page.)

These categories also work because of their cascading dependence. To be good at Online you need good Operations and to have good Operations you need a digitally literate Organisation.

Fail in any one of them and you will fail overall. That's why the model works so well.

Score yourself against the criteria in each domain and use that to grade your overall digital capability.

How to use the results

Most obviously you can use it isolate holes in you digital capability and create a roadmap for improvement. For example, maybe your team's content skills need a refresh. OK, time to build a training plan.

But the O3 Ozone Model is perhaps most powerful at communicating complex digital issues in a straightforward way.

The model's results can easily be presented on a single slide and the risks they represent can also be readily explained. No need to understand anything about code, content, design, ux or technology.

The Ozone Model presents a great baseline for creating a business case for investment. The results are so clear that they cannot be ignored. 

Ultimately, it puts it up to senior management to change course - or face failure.

O3 Digital Assessment Model - Detailed Criteria


This category represents your ability to deliver a good website. Key factors to assess include the following:

  • Quality Assurance: Does your site meet minimum accepted standards of quality. This includes typical things like broken links, typos/grammar issues, consistent language (style guide / controlled vocabulary), metadata, image optimisations, etc
  • User Experience (UX): Does your site deliver a good experience for users. In particular is content easy to Find, Read, Understand and Action?
  • Accessibility: Does you site meet WCAG 2.0 guidelines.
  • Functionality: Does your site operate predictably without error
  • Performance: Does your site respond with accepted time limits
  • Security: Does the side meet standards for Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability.

Explore a complete list of criteria in the Website Manager's Handbook.


This category represents your capability to deliver a successful website. Based on the Scale of your site are you able to carry out the essential activities of web management to ensure stability.

Key factors to assess include the following:

  • People: Do you have the resources in place to adequately cover all essential tasks to the right level of granularity and detail. In particular do you have
    • Manpower: The right number of people (whether full-time, consultants, contractors, part time, support from colleagues)
    • Skills: Do your people have the expertise and experience to meet required standards
    • Teams: Are people organised such that everyone knows what they need to focus on, with well defined roles an responsibilities
  • Processes: Do you have documented procedures and standards that allow delivery to happening consistent and reliable way - and also be repeatable and auditable. Can you do it whilst maintaining good relationships with your internal stakeholders
  • Tools: Does your team have access to the right tools and other supports needed to do their jobs. This includes everything from CMS, to graphic editing tools to IDEs to style guide and design patterns. Basically, anything your people need to deliver.


This category stands for the capacity of your organisation to support digital development.

In my Web Masterclass, I have written that the detachment of senior managers from web is one of the greatest risks to delivery.

The truth is that the senior decision makers in most organisations haven't the slightest clue about the effort needed to deliver and maintain a sophisticated, modern website. Yet, they consistently demand the absolute highest of standards and are amazed when their expectations cannot be met.

(That's why so many institutions are trapped in endless redesign loops.)

This appalling mismatch places huge pressure on web teams. Many Web Teams are run on wishful thinking. The only thing that often keeps the show on the road is the flexibility and adaptability of staff.

The Ozone model can helps to expose this incoherence. Ultimately, it puts it up to senior management to change course of face failure.

Some key factors to consider are:

  • Digital strategy: Do you have one. How clear is it
  • Governance: Do you have robust and informed systems for decision making.
  • Authority: Do you as a web manager have authority to direct web without undue interference - especially in design decisions (as we know, endless time is wasted on debating homepage colours!)
  • Funding: Do you have access to the minimum funds necessary to manage deliver on your strategy and manage a website of the scale you have.

If the factors above are not well founded, your organisation is 'digitally illiterate' and its online endeavours are doomed to fail.


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