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On the Importance of Web Editing Access and Content Creation
August 22, 2012 - 9:14pm

Content management systems (CMS) allow administrators to update webpages without having to be extremely fluent with HTML, CSS, or JS. WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors, while not always perfect, offer up a familiar interface that looks very much like a standard word processor. All sorts of information can be created, uploaded, edited, and modified via a CMS. With a quality CMS, administrators are not forced to vet web resources through various communications channels. Content creators (e.g. academic advisors) can edit their department's web resources in a timely fashion that most-assurredly benefits their students.

Timeliness matters. Whenever I hear how a school's marketing / communications (MarCom) department is trying to oversee all web content, I cringe. It's understandable that MarCom wants to have a certain aspect of control over all of the communications originating from an institution. However, there are a couple of issues that need to be addressed when MarCom tries to engage in comprehensive web vetting. First, institutions are far too large for MarCom operations to check, edit, and update everything on the web for everyone. Communications are multi-channel and distributed. There is no way that MarCom (or IT or whoever isn't the direct content creator/owner) can oversee such a massive amount of web communications in a timely fashion. Second, whatever happened to empowering people? Why not educate various content creators across the spectrum of an institution in the art of web communications? Sure, it would be less advanced than the core MarCom initiatives, but sometimes you have to give up control in order to gain something far greater. The gains in this case are that each administrative unit could control their own web destiny within the confines of the CMS. A great example of this type of shared governance are the web standards at Oregon State University (OSU). At OSU, the community is invested in creating frequently updated quality content that stays within the overall brand identity guidelines of the institution. It's a win-win for everyone.

Back in "the day," editing web content was a supremely technical task. You had to know code. Now, I'm not saying that knowing code isn't still preferable. If you know a bit of HTML, CSS, JS, etc, that's usually helpful…especially with troubleshooting. However, the modern CMS has made it possible for content to be separate from technical prowess. So, my advice for MarCom is to work with your content creators. Teach them how to be good stewards of the web. Your institution's students will benefit greatly.


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