It’s a basic question that gets to the heart of what content managers do, and it's important for organizations to know, too, for resourcing and staffing purposes. In a 2009 CMSWire article, McGovern asked the same question. Based on his experience, he wrote that we’re “still in the early stages of web management” and that “200 pages is a lot for one person, especially if you're going to be continuously reviewing and improving these pages.” Although it made sense to me, I wanted to know what other content managers thought. I opened a survey last month to find out.
Administered online using SurveyMonkey, the survey consisted of five questions and one open text field for comments. I announced the survey through Twitter (@WebsiteGov) and postings on several LinkedIn groups related to website management and governance.
The survey opened December 3 and closed December 30, 2012; there were 100 respondents. The five questions and responses (in graphs) with discussion are below.
1. Responses indicated most content managers work on small or medium-sized websites. The single largest category was sites with less than 1,000 Web pages.
2. The single largest category of managed pages that content managers are responsible for is less than 100 pages; but half of all content managers are responsible for 1,000 pages or more (up to 100,000 or more pages). Five different page count categories had 10% or more, indicating a good range of responsibility for numbers of Web pages.
3. And content managers don’t seem to mind the page load. More than a third said that a content manager could effectively manage more than 1,000 Web pages.
(Two respondents balked at the 1,000 page limit in this question; their feeling was that the choice of numbers should have been identical from question 2 to question 3. I set the question up as I did because I did not think anyone would actually claim that they could effectively manage 1,000 pages, or 10,000 or more.)
4. And most said that the number of Web pages they are responsible for is not interfering with their ability to manage their content.
5. Of the 41% who did say that the number of Web pages they are responsible for interfered with their ability to effectively manage their website, 59% said this happens “very frequently” or “frequently.”
A few respondents added comments in the open text field. Themes included:
- IT manages the content ("sadly")
- Technical issues interfere with the ability to test and optimize content
- Static content is easier to manage than changing content
- Technology can get in the way of site management
- A “post it and it’s done forever” mentality hurts the organization
How many Web pages can One Person Manage?
Some said 100 or 200 pages, others said 1,000 pages or more. I think the answer you give may depend on three important questions:
- What is the “content” being managed?
- What do you mean by “managing”?
- What does the organization need to accomplish?
By managing I mean all the work necessary to run a successful Web publishing effort. My research has shown that there are many common elements across any size website, among them content, design, information architecture, systems administration, social media, user experience and analytics. (See "Development and Assessment of a Website Governance Modeling Tool" [PDF, 32 pages] or just download the Website Governance Modeling Tool [MS Word, 1 page]).
Of course, not all elements come into play all of the time. Part of a manager’s job is to juggle the various elements into a cohesive whole.
And we can’t forget that defining a “Web page” is getting more complicated. The static Web pages of just a few years ago are giving way to database-driven content, community- and user-driven content, and an ever-growing number of Web page objects.
Content ain't what it used to be!
Still, there’s a recognition that managing website content takes time. Forty percent of respondents said that the number of Web pages they are responsible for interferes with their ability to manage their content. And of those, 60% said this happens “very frequently” or “frequently.”
It might be that the people feeling the most overwhelmed are doing the most and varied amount of work on a website. If you’re managing Web pages that don’t require much upkeep and checking log reports once a month, that’s different than developing content, working on IA, participating in usability testing, developing workflow policies, coordinating social media messages and channels, working with site designers and developers, etc.
Other factors might include a person's experience in a field, experience in a job, education, dedication, natural abilities, knowledge, and range and depth of skill sets.
It might also be that the differences in responses in the survey are a reflection of the different types of websites out there. There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to “How many Web pages can one person manage?” because, in the end, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to “What type of website does my organization need?”
But what we do know is that content ought to be run by… content managers. Not technologists (IT staff). And technologies should improve our functioning, not impede it.
It’s really all about the form your website needs to take, and the form your website takes should follow from the functionality your organization needs.
What do you think?
Editor's Note: Hungry for more from Robert? Then read his Website Governance: New Modeling Tool Puts You in Charge