As Web sites have grown in size, complexity, and prominence, Web site management, content management, cost, and accessibility have become growing concerns for government agencies. Despite the Web's promise for ease of use and access, creativity, and efficiency, agency managers and leaders are finding that their Web sites are increasingly presenting problems of inflexibility, inconsistency, bottlenecks, and new costs. Consequently, agencies are losing the ability to be responsive and flexible in providing new content or structure. And the costs of maintaining these Web sites have become prohibitive. Webmasters and system administrators have come to realize that the technologies and strategies used to build most Web sites are designed to produce individual Web pages. They do not provide a structure to easily maintain entire Web sites, keep them responsive to changing needs, or manage the workflow involved in Web content production and maintenance; nor do they facilitate the sharing and reuse of Web site content.
What is XML?
XML is generally understood to be a technology that supports effective data exchange between applications. However, XML has another value that is much less exploited or understood – it offers a viable long-term solution to many of the shortcomings of HTML because it structures and describes Web content in a meaningful way. As a technical strategy for managing Web sites, XML and associated organizational strategies offer:
Improved workflow management from content creation to publication and maintenance, allowing various types of work to be assigned to the people best suited for them. These strategies put control of and responsibility for Web content back in the hands of the business or program units, and the technical work in the hands of technical experts.
Dramatically reduced time, effort, and costs associated with Web site management. In addition, XML creates opportunities for easier information sharing due to standardized data formats. (In CTG's own implementation, Web site management costs dropped more than 75% and were matched by other productivity benefits.)
Consistency of content:
XML accommodates enhanced version control of documents due to single source XML files. As a result, it guarantees consistency of content across multiple pages and multiple delivery formats (HTML, PDF, Doc) and devices (computer monitors, PDA's, cellphones).
XML enables consistent implementation of complementary Web standards, such as accessibility, through its standardized delivery capabilities.
Despite these clear advantages, agencies confront many obstacles to the adoption and implementation of XML-based Web site management. These include the need for technical training and infrastructure readiness, but more importantly, the need for solid business case justifications, understanding the impact of organizational change, leadership buy-in, and a firm understanding of where to begin.