two developers hard at work
While developers and designers may not understand the larger business implications for your digital policies, they do know what can and needs to be done PHOTO: WOCinTech Chat

Once upon a time, a colleague — whom I had never even met before — promised the CEO a quick turnaround on a project that had always taken me at least two weeks to complete due to logistics involving suppliers, shippers, etc. When the project inevitably ran late he said, “But I promised ….” 

I think this scenario is pretty universal in corporate America. Management makes rules and policies affecting jobs they know nothing about. They may fully understand how the output of those jobs affects the business, but they know zilch about how the jobs are done.

The point? When it comes to formulating digital policies and standards, marketers and other members of the team often don’t think about including designers and developers. After all, they’re not directly involved in creating the overall business strategies digital policies support.

But they do play an extremely important role when it comes to giving the digital policy team a reality check. 

No matter how thoughtful and well-intentioned your policy ideas are, you’re not going to be on the front lines of putting them into practice. Developers and designers will, which is why they can play the indispensable role of telling you what’s possible and what isn’t.

A Digital Policy Reality Check

Let’s take a look at how that plays out in a real-life business environment.

Data Security

Data security is an area where web designers and developers can educate decision makers on both the constantly-evolving digital risks and the best ways to combat those risks. For example, when it comes to payment information, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) stipulates businesses must protect customer payment information. But there’s more to that than setting up a firewall. 

One consideration is how to verify the identities of the people trying to access that information. You can do that based on physical location, the device being used, biometrics, two-factor authentication or other means. 

And security isn’t all digital — physical access to servers has to be controlled, too. So while you're responsible for setting your digital security policies, only the people who actually do the jobs can tell you how to implement them.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)

If you asked a roomful of marketing executives whether you need SSL security technology on anything other than pages that process payment information, you’d probably get a bunch of blank stares. Sure, SSL is important for payment security, but that’s not the only consideration. 

SSL certification — websites whose URLs start with “https” rather than “http” — establishes a higher level of trust with customers. In addition, Google started flagging websites using http as "not secure" by the Chrome browser in October. 

On the other hand, certification can be costly and encryption can slow down servers. Your designers and developers can walk you through the pros and cons and help you develop SSL standards that are reasonable for your business.

Accessibility

You may know that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires a website to remain accessible for the vision- and hearing-impaired. But do you know how to make that happen? Your web developers and designers do — and, if there are multiple options, they can advise you on the approach that best meets your organization’s business needs.

Browsers

Your website won't necessarily look the same in every browser, which can impact your branding efforts. Branding standards can play as important a role for your business as regulatory compliance. Your designers and developers can help ensure that your site's appearance remains consistent from browser to browser.

And what about mobile? Should you have a separate mobile site, a responsive site that adjusts its appearance for mobile devices, or an app? Your designers and developers can help you decide.

Page Load Speed

Studies suggest visitors will wait approximately three seconds for a website to load before moving on, so having a standard for page load speed is an important business consideration. Your developers and designers can tell you what your current page load speed is and suggest ways to improve it.

Design Elements

Consistency in design is important both for branding and for reducing the amount of work required to get a new project off the ground. Whether it’s a color palette, a set of fonts, a collection of logos or the coding that defines how those elements look and behave, developers and designers can create a go-to resource for anyone working on a new digital project and make palettes, fonts, logos and more available in a design pattern library.

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

Here’s the main reason web designers and developers should be included in any digital policies and standards efforts: You don’t know what you don’t know. You won’t ask how to make your website accessible to be compliant with the ADA if you don’t know it’s supposed to be ADA-compliant. You can’t ask about the best way to optimize capabilities you don’t know you have. You can’t ask about the best way to defend yourself from threats you don’t know exist. 

So while you may be the expert on the overarching business goals, when you're setting those goals it’s critical to include the people who are experts on making things happen.