Court Web Site Guidelines – Principles 10 and 11 (Viability, Simplicity)

This post concludes a series of post on the subject topic:

  • Presentation of the CCCT IntellAction Working Group on Court Web Site Guidelines (21 Jan 2010)
  • Presentation of the Working Group selection of principles included in the subject guidelines; principles 1, 2 and 3 explained (The Right Information for Specific Audiences, Empowerment, Timeliness – 17 Aug 2010)
  • Presentation of Principles 4, 5 and 6 (Notification, Content, Security – 20 Aug 2010)
  • Presentation of Principles 7, 8 and 9 (Bilinguism, Accessibility, Interactivity – 25 Aug 2010)

As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Principle #10: Viability

Viability is a large concept and embodies several ingredients:

  • Cost effectiveness in the long run, or Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
  • Effectiveness of the web site platform in delivering the desired features and characteristics
  • Efficiency of the web site platform in delivering the desired features and characteristics
  • Sustainability of the web site platform (i.e. the underlying Web Content Management System): is it being kept up to date? Are security patches issued on a timely basis? Is the upgrade cycle regular? Is there a large base of knowledgeable developers that are familiar with the platform?
  • Flexibility of the web site platform: is it providing a way to easily customize the site to add or modify features that are not part of the core Web Content Management System? Is an Application Programming Interface (API) available and easy to leverage?

All these facets of viability need to be assessed when selecting a Web Content Management System (WCMS) to power the court web site.

Principle #11: Simplicity

Last but not least, the overriding, overarching important principle of simplicity.

In the context of the present guidelines, simplicity should guide courts when they are making the following decisions:

  • What Web Content Management System (WCMS) should the court select to power its web site?
  • How much customization of the selected WCMS should occur to address the full range of requirements and desired features?
  • How much integration between the selected WCMS and corporate applications / legacy systems should be implemented?

When Information Technology is concerned, complexity is a disease, especially when it comes to Web Content Management Systems. Courts should make technology decisions that will result in a simple environment for content creators, content consumers and web site custodians.

Customization and integration often lead to complexity. Governments and large organizations with well-funded Information Technology budgets routinely invest large sums of money to add customization and integration to their initial IT investments. This leads to several, well-known problems in the long run. For example, when a specific version of a Commercial-and-Off-the-Shelf (COTS) enterprise software is customized to provide additional features and integration with corporate systems, the requirement to re-customize and re-integrate is bound to re-occur for every release of a new version of the COTS software, often costing millions of dollars to organizations that have made those initial choices. This need for additional customization and integration typically allows the software to meet 98% of the requirements instead of 80%, for example.

Courts should carefully evaluate, before heading into the direction of expensive integration and customization, whether the additional upfront and recurring costs is worth the additional features of the web site? This question should be evaluated only after alternative means to meet the additional features have been considered. In many cases, human workflow adjustments can accommodate very well the requirements that are not met with the core Web Content Management System, in a much more cost-effective manner.

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