Mind the Gap: Quality Differences in Your Web Presence

Key Points

  • Focus on the width of the gap between lowest and highest quality on your web presence, and attempt to narrow it.
  • Don't get too aspirational on standards — you visitors will find your lowest quality content.
Related resource
Standards Architecture | Don't just declare your standards. Architect them.

You are faced with a continuum of possible quality on your web presence, probably with some sections currently being high quality and others being lower quality. To illustrate this, let's use four circles to highlight the quality level for four main sections of a site (of course, your site would be sliced and placed on the scale differently).

You probably have a wide range of quality.

Notably, this represents the way things are on your website. You will also have some targets, with potentially some official standards as well as some proposed targets that you are considering: 

Don’t just consider your written standards and the target standards.

Perhaps that circle on the far right represents a site section run by the most powerful groups at your company, and they have the resources to develop high quality and custom functionality and content. You may be tempted to talk about the gap between that rightmost circle (the site section with all the resources) and the target since they may be trying to push the envelope. But this isn't the gap you should be concentrating on. This one is:

Concentrate on the closing the gap between the minimum quality to maximum current quality.

This gap is important for your site visitors, unless they arrive to your website at the maximum quality section and can get / do what they want from within that section (and you aren't trying to cross-sell across sections). Consider the worst case, where they arrive at the minimum-quality section. Even if from your perspective the high quality section has the content they need, they may bounce forever from your site (you also should reward site visitors for getting close). But even worse is when they actually do arrive at the right place, but the quality is so low that they cannot do what they need to.

Of course, you will have differences in quality across your site. That said, in general when considering changes on your website, look at improving the quality across your site rather than just improving those sections that are already high quality. There are several ways of handling the gap in quality, including:

  • Work to reduce the gap (increase the quality of the low end).
  • Cut out the lower quality.
  • Clearly isolate lower-quality sections for your site visitors (for example, having a clear "archive" section if you need to keep content for some reason)
  • Figure out a more systematic way of everyone "winning" when improvements are made to a site

Also, look carefully at all those site sections that are lower quality than your standards (in other words, keep an eye on the pervasiveness of your standards).

Standards Architecture Don't just declare your standards. Architect them.