The Secret to An Extraordinary Website? It Starts With the Team Behind It

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Remember when a “webmaster” comprised an entire website team? In the early days of the internet, these folks — who typically took on everything from web development to design to IT and technical maintenance — truly held the keys to the company’s digital presence. Of course, websites were simpler then (the Wayback Machine shows just how far we’ve come), and a single person could feasibly develop and maintain what were essentially digital flyers.

Fast forward to today and websites are much more complex: business results turbines that drive organizational velocity and performance, integrating everything from brand storytelling and ecommerce to communication, data collection, content, customer communities and more. While some organizations still have brochure websites, most run “essential websites” — an online hub for customer activity. Essential websites drive leads, product trials and purchases. They direct traffic to articles that generate ad revenue, facilitate enrollment for schools and persuade donors to contribute to social causes. Essential websites are core to most organizations’ go-to-market strategy, and while technology has come a long way in facilitating these web functions, so too have the roles needed to support a digital experience with multiple sites and stakeholders.

Case in point: the proliferation of the WebOps (Website Operations) director, who oversees a cross-functional team that shares responsibility for co-creating a website. As websites have become the center point for an organization’s online presence, building a team that is highly invested in advancing web work is a critical part of the formula for digital progress.

Here’s what I’ve learned about optimizing a website team (and what other marketing leaders can learn, too).

Related: How Good Website Content Helps You Earn Potential Customers

Get the right people doing the right work

You don’t need a large team to get big results, but you do need the right people doing the right work. This comes down to establishing clear ownership of tasks: getting people aligned and empowered to make the changes they need. For example, content creators need to be able to publish content and campaigns — without having to wait for IT or web developers to give them access.

I’ve seen this scenario play out numerous times: a new head of marketing needs to boost leads, conversions or sales, but their hands are tied because they can’t make timely changes to the website. This was the case with one of my company’s clients, B2B insurance company Zelros. After its new CMO realized the dev team couldn’t prioritize the changes she needed, she shifted website ownership to her marketing team. Armed with the right tools and tech, they could control their own projects and timelines — freeing them up to create landing pages, campaigns and sales features that helped grow web traffic by 82%.

So who are the “right people?” The best web teams include people who are passionate about advancing the site and able to take the reins. While three is often the minimum number needed — usually a developer, designer and content specialist — the web team should be the organization’s most inclusive and collaborative team. And these people don’t need to be marketers.

In fact, a recent survey we conducted revealed 63% of marketing leaders say less than half of their company’s web team is part of the marketing organization. Website stakeholders often come from IT, HR and other departments in the form of subject matter experts, or from external agencies who bring expertise in areas such as SEO, paid ads and app development. The best thing a CMO or WebOps director can do is to give these stakeholders ownership and empowerment. With solid style guides, many stakeholders can be empowered to design extraordinary, on-brand experiences that are executed seamlessly.

Related: Your Website’s Success Depends on Collaboration. Here’s How to Get It Right (and Make More Sales in Return).

Leverage tools and partners that alleviate the load

Web work can be fast and furious, as was evidenced during pandemic lockdowns when many companies were faced with a quick pivot to digital-first offerings — including a web presence that could withstand increased demand. At one Japanese research institute, media coverage of its pandemic shifts caused a spike in web traffic that could have taken the site down. But because the institute had a partner in place to monitor demand, the website kept ticking while its teams focused on other projects.

The kinds of tools and partners you need will depend entirely on the size of your team — and your site. Our survey revealed that, on average, in-house web teams handle 11 of the 16 most common functions, including data analytics and customer support, but often outsource more technical functions — 53% outsource UI/UX design; 45% outsource infrastructure development; and 42% outsource web development. This allows internal teams to be agile and keep the momentum going while big builds and routine tasks are taken care of externally.

If your developers or web teams are consumed with tasks like security patching, which can be tedious and time-consuming, they often don’t have the capacity for creative work. But the right tools and partners can support internal efficiencies — and automate tasks like site security — so team members can focus on more strategic priorities like hosting online events or developing personalized customer experiences.

Related: How to Develop a Great Business Website

Define and measure success as you go

The success of your website depends on more than people and tools. The goals you set and track are critical to your team’s understanding of whether they’re hitting the right marks.

There are many standard web metrics marketers like to track. Our survey respondents favored traffic and click-throughs, but many teams also consider search rankings, leads and conversions. I prefer to divide WebOps success into three categories: credibility (the peace of mind of core website performance), productivity (the ability to deliver on time and within budget) and impact (achieving results that are essential to the business). Too many web teams get caught up in vanity metrics, like the number of visits. But a website’s success is only relevant if the results are meaningful in the context of your business. Focusing on metrics such as form completions, quality of leads and conversions is far more valuable from a business perspective. It can better inform web teams as to where they need to focus their energies.

There’s no formula for a perfect web team, but the most successful teams I’ve worked with empower their members with clear goals, valuable data and tools, encouragement to experiment and the ability to move quickly. Ultimately your customers will decide whether your website succeeds, but the right web team should be able to respond to their ever-changing needs.

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