The shockingly high level of errors on large-company websites points towards immature web governance processes and a general over-reliance on content management systems (CMS) for quality control.
And yet, the levels of automation and sophistication possible in web governance have never been higher...
We recently conducted a survey examining the quality of web content on the websites of large companies. A staggering 87% of the website owners polled admitted there were likely to be a significant number of errors on the websites they manage.
As any web marketer will tell you, this will have a significant knock-on effect. Website errors seriously undermine the user experience, erode trust and confidence, and impact return on marketing spend.
When asked what these errors were likely to include, respondents cited a range of issues, including inconsistent branding (55%), spelling mistakes (46%), poor usability (39%) and accessibility compliance errors (38%).
Many large businesses spend huge amounts on getting the look, feel and content on their website right. But all those efforts can be in vain if pages contain something as fundamental as even a single spelling mistake, which can obliterate customer confidence.
Website errors can create such a negative impression that they cause customers to navigate away from the page, the site, and even the brand in general.
The group of website owners polled estimated that, on average, errors of this kind put 18% of their company’s revenue at risk, a figure that’s hard to ignore, especially in today’s economic climate.
Why so many mistakes?
Procedures for effective web governance have been around for a while now, with a number of automated tools on the market. So why do we still see so many problems with live web content?
While the tools and processes have matured, the problem may be that the role and importance of robust quality assurance mechanisms as a standard part of every large company’s web operations, is not fully recognised.
Of those polled, 5% didn’t have quality-checking procedures in place at all. A further 22% relied on manual quality assurance processes, and 28.5% on disconnected toolsets such as spellcheckers, link checkers and accessibility checkers.
Overall, 71% of respondents rated their approach to website quality assurance as unsatisfactory.
In short, even the largest companies, with the most sophisticated web platforms, are struggling to keep up with the quality control challenges of this “new” medium.
You can’t just rely on your CMS
Perhaps the most telling factor is that 23% of web owners rely on the editorial quality assurance tools packaged within their content management systems.
These tools are typically limited to the production environment and have no visibility of the actual page served up to visitors (which can include page templates, third-party syndicated content, and dynamic page elements), and so are blind to a good portion of the errors on the website.
More importantly, these pre-publication checks are also frequently bypassed by editors in the rush to publication. While content management systems are great publication tools, dealing with global, multi-editor, multichannel, multi-platform quality assurance challenges, is simply not within their remit.
The only effective means of securing quality and compliance is to take a top-level approach, and complement pre-publication checks with ongoing monitoring and analysis of the live web presence, which ultimately is what the visitors actually see.
But this gap in web operations management is still not fully understood by many, and so errors continue to plague the websites of even the largest companies.
A key issue is education. People simply aren’t as aware yet of enterprise web governance solutions as they are of content management systems, or the benefits they can bring in improving the effectiveness of their digital marketing operations.
Companies need to get into the mindset of factoring governance and compliance tools into their operational architecture with the same degree of emphasis that they now place upon the implementation of a CMS.
Without an enterprise approach to the challenges of global web quality, they will continue to put significant amounts of revenue and profit at risk.