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Close Menu's Guide to Digital Governance: Organization

This is the seventh installment of’s Guide to Digital Governance, a comprehensive guide intended to help get you started when developing a governance plan for your institution’s digital communications.

A website’s organization is one of the most important factors in determining how effective and useful the site is for its visitors. Sites that are well-organized, in a manner that visitors intuitively understand, will be more effective and useful than those which aren’t. Therefore, it is important to define for your institution who will have the authority and responsibility to determine your website’s organization, and how they will make those decisions.

Here are some questions to consider with regard to main websites and subsites within the main site.

Main Website

  • Who determines the overall organizational hierarchy of the main website?
  • Who determines the top-level menu options? How are those decided?
  • Who determines the subsequent levels of navigation, order, labeling, etc.? How are those established?
  • Who determines other navigational structures, such as utility menus, topic-based menus, etc.?
  • Are there site-wide taxonomies to be maintained? Who determines and edits those?
  • What role does usage data, analytics, and user-testing play in those decisions?
  • Are there limits to the size, quantity, or depth of navigation?
  • Are there any site-wide standards for how navigation and sub-navigation are displayed?
  • Is there a process for addressing concerns or proposed changes to the site’s organization?
  • Who has the ability to make changes to the website’s overall structure?
  • Is there a review or approval process that needs to be followed?


  • Who determines the organizations of sub-sites within the larger website?
  • Are there any guidelines or services for website owners who must create their own site organization?
  • Are there limits to the size, quantity, or depth of navigation?
  • Are there any site-wide standards for how navigation and sub-navigation are displayed?
  • Are there any site-wide standards for where navigation and sub-navigation are displayed on sub-site pages?
  • Are there rules for the labeling of navigation?
  • Are there sub-site specific taxonomies? How are those determined and edited? Must they conform to any site-wide standards or rules?

These questions cover only the definition of responsibility surrounding website organization, which presumes that you have good information architecture in place already. For more information on creating good, test-driven information architecture, Optimal Workshop has both advice and tools for conducting your own card sorts (OptimalSort) and menu “tree” tests (TreeJack). We use these tools regularly in our work.


This post is part of a larger series of posts, which make up a Guide to Digital Governance Planning. The sections follow a specific order intended to help you start at a high-level of thinking and then focus on greater and greater levels of detail. The sections of the guide are as follows:

  1. Starting at the 10,000ft View – Define the digital ecosystem your governance planning will encompass.
  2. Properties and Platforms – Define all the sites, applications and tools that live in your digital ecosystem.
  3. Ownership – Consider who ultimately owns and is responsible for each site, application and tool.
  4. Intended Use – Establish the fundamental purpose for the use of each site, application and tool.
  5. Roles and Permissions – Define who should be able to do what in each system.
  6. Content – Understand how ownership and permissions should apply to content.
  7. Organization – Establish how the content in your digital properties should be organized and structured.
  8. URL Naming Conventions – Define how URL patterns should be structured in your websites.
  9. Design – Determine who owns and is responsible for the many aspects design plays in digital communications and properties.
  10. Personal Websites – Consider the relationship your organization should have with personal websites of members of your organization.
  11. Private Websites, Intranets and Portals – Determine the policies that should govern site which are not available to the public.
  12. Web-Based Applications – Consider use and ownership of web-based tools and applications.
  13. E-Commerce – Determine the role of e-commerce in your website.
  14. Broadcast Email – Establish guidelines for the use of broadcast email to constituents and customers.
  15. Social Media – Set standards for the establishment and use of social media tools within the organization.
  16. Digital Communications Governance – Keep the guidelines you create updated and relevant.

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