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Close Menu's Guide to Digital Governance: Web-Based Applications

This is the twelfth 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.

Web-based applications typically add some functionality to your website that it otherwise would not be able to support on its own. These applications tend to come in two varieties:

  • those that have been developed internally by your own organization, and
  • those that are a service provided to you by a third party (typically a paid service)

Generally speaking, it is likely that internally developed applications are hosted and supported by your organization. When you have an issue, you probably talk to your IT team about it.

Some common internal applications:

  • User authentication
  • Organizational profiles or staff database system
  • Image database system or repository
  • Document database system or repository
  • Enrollment or student application forms
  • Programs and courses database systems
  • Products database system

Third party applications are probably accessed via the internet by your website and your users. You (or someone at your organization) probably maintains an account for that service, which you probably pay for monthly or annually. When you have an issue, it is likely someone contacts the third party’s support team for help.

Some common third party applications are:

  • E-commerce or an online shopping tool
  • Donations tool
  • Events with RSVP and ticketing
  • Appointments, room scheduling
  • Live chat

Technically speaking, tools like YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, etc. are third party application services as well, but they are so easily integrated into your site, often with little or no costs or maintenance, that they require little attention. Still, they may be worth examining when considering governance.

Given the landscape above, your organization likely has several web-based applications – whether those are custom-built applications or third party solutions – which are used to perform specific functions and tasks. Here are some important questions to consider about all of these applications when defining an ownership and governance plan:

  • Who owns each application?
  • Who is responsible for its technical maintenance and support?
  • How are new custom applications developed?
  • Is there a process to follow for making functional changes to internally developed applications?
  • How is content in the application edited or changed?
  • Who is able to change content?
  • Who is responsible for maintaining content in the application?
  • Is there a process to follow for making content changes?
  • How are new third party applications, solutions, or services acquired?
  • Who controls the account, if it is a third party application?
  • How are third party services expanded or scaled across the organization if needs grow?

There are certainly many more considerations to make based on the specific application or service, and the functionality it offers. We recommend evaluating each application that is a functional part of your website to determine the appropriate governance policies for each.


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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