Maladapted Organizational Non-Standards

Washington State University has a marketing group who has put together a set of guidelines and templates for web site maintainers (I don’t use ‘developers’ here, because quite a few of the users aren’t developers). I’m not a huge fan of these templates, but I do completly support the idea of standardizing the web presence for the institution.

Unfortunately, it’s a non-standard. Marketing Communications has no real teeth to force the templates on anyone, and a lot of departments (the one I work for, for instance) haven’t updated. We’re in the process now, but we still haven’t finished it. However, if you follow the link to the University website at the top of the article, you’ll note that the homepage for the institution doesn’t look anything like the way a landing page is supposed to look.

Now, I don’t think anyone really thought too much of this. Frankly, the new homepage is really nice. So, when Information Technology chose to replicate it, or at least something like it, most developers thought it was pretty cool. So did the Vice President who asked for it.

Marketing Communications didn’t feel so good about it. They complained heavily, still are from what I can tell. Apparently, they feel they’re the only ones who should be able to have an interesting home page. Personally, I think it’s close enough to the home page to be reasonable, and that Marketing Communications should make the template guidelines more flexible. Hell, I’m pretty much tempted to write a similar widget in YUI3 and deploy it on at least one of our sites, just to stir the pot a bit.

Standards need to be flexible, and it doesn’t make sense to claim that a certain standard is perfectly okay for them to violate, but not others, when they could simply standardize a look and feel for this sort of landing page, and allow other people the sort of rich interaction they want to provide on the Institution’s. Standards are best when they offer the best parts of them to all the users, not just those you’ve decided to bless to break them.

Especially when the standard you’ve been tasked to create is viewed as little more than a suggestion by the people who are expected to follow it.