One of the banes of most web team’s lives is the proliferation of microsites. They’re everywhere! For a while, every time a new project or service started up, a new website would be just around the corner.

It’s understandable that teams want to get the word out, harnessing the power of digital in communicating and engaging with their target audiences, but having lots of microsites around an organisation can be a bad thing for a number of reasons, including:

● There is likely to be a lot of duplication of effort and of cost, especially for hosting

● Using different hosts for different sites means that some of those hosts may not meet good security standards, and there is lots of variation in process and cost which causes confusion

● Having many different sites on different hosts requires many more upgrades, which is both time-consuming and makes it easier for things to go wrong or to be overlooked entirely

● The sites will typically use a number of different content management systems. Each will require the company to pay for each system and for staff training, and to retain expertise in lots of different (often old and bad) systems

● There is reputational risk in having multiple websites which are not under the control of the web team, where any kind of content can be published and there may be no consistency in corporate message or brand.

In most cases, many of the microsites that a given organisation has could easily be closed, particularly if they relate to a specific project which has been completed. In fact, the vast majority could be rationalised down to a much smaller number. However, almost all organisations find that they have a select few that need to remain, raising the question: how they can be managed effectively and made better while avoiding the problems outlined above?

There are many effective ways to approach this problem, and there is plenty of technology that can help. Part of the process should be to identify tools and services that work for the sites you need to run. For example, WordPress, which is used by 25 per cent of the top 10 million websites, has multisite functionality which enables users to run as many sites as they want from a single WordPress installation. This means that the web team can maintain central control of plugins and branding for all of the sites while delegating publishing responsibility to whichever individual or department owns each site.

There are also other advantages of centrally managing multiple sites from a single installation, including:

● One system to keep updated, backed up and secure

● A common platform for content editors to learn

● A single web host to deal with, so that any problems can be dealt with once, for all sites, and with a single bill

● All sites can be managed within a single dashboard so that the web team can maintain an overview of what sites exist and who is doing what.

Of course, technology only provides part of the solution. Rationalising the number of microsites necessitates a cultural shift, and requires the web team to challenge colleagues on whether there really is a user need for a new microsite, or if another solution is best. These conversations can be difficult to manage, and a good discovery phase is often helpful so that the web team can approach colleagues with real user needs and the evidence to back up their proposals.

However, being able to bring all microsites into one place to be managed should result in significant efficiency and quality gains: apart from having a single contract to manage, the organisation benefits from a consistent publishing experience, reduced training costs and the ability for teams to share best practice and collaborate more easily. There are also benefits for company branding, messaging and reputation, which should help to convince marketing teams that a single management solution is to everyone’s advantage.


By Harry Metcalfe, managing director at dxw

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