Feedback for web authors

Jennifer Hamrick
Thursday 10 December 2020

At St Andrews, our team works hard to manage existing content. Because we are very small team, we delegate out content management for many sections to colleagues in other departments. These authors are usually managing web content in addition to their main role, and many have no previous web experience at all. Therefore, it can be a challenge to motivate and support these authors to keep improving their sections.

In 3 Ways to Inspire Intranet Content Authors, the Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) suggests that web authors need feedback, and that web teams often fail to provide this. The article says that ‘even the most motivated authors can be demotivated if they never get any feedback about the value of their writings’. But what does feedback for web authors look like, and how can we implement this at St Andrews?

Provide analytics

One way to provide feedback is to gather analytics information about the readership for authors’ content. However, the NNG cautions that web teams need to provide this information in context: whether a page is a success or failure will depend more on the intended audience and user story than page views alone.

We have recently been working on creating interactive Google Analytics dashboards using Google Data Studio for certain sections of the website. It might be worth providing these dashboards to our authors to review their analytics on a more regular basis.

We could also set up bi-annual meetings to review analytics information with our authors and discuss whether the information shows any areas for improvement. If so, we could provide training to help authors make their content better.

Build a community

The NNG says that in their field studies, content contributors often say they “feel isolated in their roles, either because the intranet team only contacts them occasionally, or because they have no close peer writers to communicate with”.

It is often the case that we will only contact our authors during our annual editorial review, or when things have gone wrong. But we can and should be doing much more than that to help support them.

St Andrews has quite a few authors on the website. It would be great to build a community of these authors to help support each other. This community could be physical (for example, a group that meets up once a month) or virtual (for example, a Microsoft Teams channel).

Some ideas for community support include:

  • community review sessions where an author shares their works and receives feedback and helpful criticism
  • show-and-tell presentations where authors can share tricks or tips for creating effective content efficiently.
  • brainstorming sessions where a question or problem can be posed to the group to come up with creative solutions.

Praise good work

Another area we could improve on is acknowledging good work. Too often we only get in touch with authors when things have gone wrong, but by showcasing successes, we can help authors know where they have succeeded and also help their peers learn by example.

Here are a couple of ideas for how we could start focusing on success stories:

  • lunch-and-learn meetings (virtually for now) where authors can connect with their peers and also discuss successful areas of the site
  • showcase section of the digital newsletter where we highlight good writing or content that gets a lot of engagement.

Summary

Our authors are integral to the success of the University’s website. We can support them by providing useful data about their readership, building a community of support, and acknowledging and showcasing success stories.

What do you think? If you’re a content author at St Andrews, would you be interested in any of the ideas in this post? If you’re part of a web team at another university, what have you done to inspire and support your authors?

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