The Microsoft Office Online team that manages the Excel website has five people and looks after about 1,000 pages. That's 200 pages per person.
We are still in the early stages of web management. Many web teams lack authority and resources. This generally results in very large unmanaged websites.
In a choices-overloaded world, it is not what you do but what you don't choose to do that really matters. In an information-overloaded world, it is not what you publish but what you don't publish that really matters.
The cardinal rule of quality web teams is: Publish the website you can professionally manage. 200 pages is a lot for one person, especially if you're going to be continiously reviewing and improving these pages.
Some people will say: 'Hey, that's Microsoft. They can afford such resources. We can't afford that.' So what can you afford? At what point does the number of webpages overwhelm the web team? On your website, how do you define quality?
I know of web teams that have one person per 30,000 pages. I know of web teams that don't even know how many pages they have. I know of web teams that don't even know how many websites they have. Is that quality? Is that management?
I know a company that has roughly 200 pages on its public website. It has one full time person managing this website. It takes quite a bit of effort, I'm told, to keep 200 pages fresh and up-to-date.
One of the worst things that can happen to a website is let everybody publish everything they want. But what about Wikipedia, I hear? Wikipedia has about 3,000 extremely dedicated editors who actively monitor pages. The idea that you can publish whatever you want on Wikipedia is simply not true.
There is a limit to the amount of pages one person can professionally manage. It will, of course, depend on the type of pages, but the limit still exists. In your organization is the limit 200 pages, 300 pages, 500 pages. At 1,000 pages—even for low maintenance webpages—you are certainly reaching an upper limit. Can one person professionally manage 5,000 webpages. Very unlikely.
Some web teams are based on a distributed publishing model. In such a model the web team is often not responsible for any pages, but merely facilitates other parts of the organization to publish. This model has failed miserably in every organization in which I have seen it implemented in.
Some organizations maintain central editorial quality control, but the content is published and managed on a day-to-day basis by publishers throughout the organization. How many publishers can you professionally manage? 20? 50? 500?
It is simply impossible for a managing editor to professionally manage 500 publishers. Managing 50 publishers and achieving basic quality standards is very demanding. Now is the time to start establishing quality standards for your website.
As Microsoft has found out, simply adding content to your website does not add value. Indeed, in some situations it actually destroys it. There is a real danger that the more webpages you add the worse your website becomes.
A quality approach to website management will benefit your customers, your organization, and it will certainly benefit your career.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.