In a decentralized system, individual departments and teams have the power to maintain pages and sections of your site. The content is owned by subject matter experts dispersed across your organization.
Why this is good
Subject matter experts can update their own content whenever they need to without waiting in a queue for a central team to get back to them.
Where it gets tricky
- People with no web expertise are forced to become web specialists in addition to their full-time responsibilities.
- Entire sections of your site may be hopelessly out of date because no one has the technical expertise, time, or responsibility to maintain them.
- You will lose voice and tone consistency, or brand and messaging consistency across your departments.
- These individuals and teams can spend as much or as little of their departmental budgets as they want on “their sites.”
- Parts of your organization may appear to be larger or smaller than they are in real life.
For some organizations, allowing business units to do whatever they want online is a badge of honor. It gives departments freedom, flexibility, and control over their own content. If this resonates with you, stop reading here.
As designers devoted to building consistent user experiences, we hate to see you lose control over your brand and lose the trust of your customers with outdated or inappropriately marketed content. And we cringe over wasted budgets when we feel we are being asked to rethink messaging and recreate designs from scratch that could be reused from past projects for the same organization. That’s why in most cases, for medium-large organizations, we recommend the following hybrid approach.
Optimal Web Content Management—the Hybrid Approach
The best approach we’ve seen in organizations with multiple verticals, business units, departments, etc. is a combo option that includes a central web communications team that manages (at a minimum) all of your top-level pages.
A central team can set standards for style, tone, brand, messaging, design, usability, and accessibility. They can also provide fee-based consulting services to departments, offering help with content and design for pages outside of central management’s control. Meanwhile, detailed, department-specific content is managed by the subject matter experts who understand that content best.
This allows your colleagues to work within their professional comfort zones and keeps money for web projects inside your organization.
This post is part of Black Pepper’s series answering commonly asked questions about technology and web user experience for non-profits and like-minded organizations.