You spend countless hours and dollars figuring out exactly what your users want. Then you invest even more in purpose-designed content that helps fulfill their objectives and promotes further engagement with your institution. And you package it up in a compelling, well balanced, user-centered design that’s sure to create the ideal user experience.

Then your boss has just the greatest idea ever.

The conversation may start with, “I’ve been working on this great project,” or “I saw something on another website,” or “One of our alumni can’t find information about the golf tournament,” or even “I was taking a shower when this suddenly came to me….”

But it always ends with (say it with me, now), “So I want you to put this on the homepage.”

Whether it’s an “interesting” link, a “fun” image, or an “improvement” to the way you wrote the content, if it upsets the delicate balance of your content strategy, it’s a problem. Countless hours, purpose-designed content, user-centered design, all suddenly about to be compromised. “Why-y-y-y-y-y?”

Because she outranks you, that’s why.

Three Authorities

It’s your job to protect and preserve the integrity of your web content. The only way to do that is to appeal to an even higher authority. Here are three ways to put content control back where it belongs.

The authority of governance

No content decision should come down to a debate between two people, especially if one is you and the other one outranks you. If you are asked to take on responsibility for your website content, the first thing to do is distribute the load. Put together an oversight group with the responsibility—and the authority—to make decisions about content.

And what do you tell your boss? “I’ll bring that up with the committee.” Anyone who has earned the title of “boss” will recognize that committees are where things go to die, so that should temper her expectations right off the bat, but it will also buy you the time and support you need to consider the next two levels of appeal…

The authority of the plan

Content Strategy sounds like a radical new concept, but it’s really just about having a viable plan for how you will use content to meet your objectives. The more your planning is based on actual user research, the more defensible it will be when other people come up with “even better” ideas.

So what do you tell your boss? “Everything on our home page is part of a carefully controlled plan, and we need to let it get some traction in order to measure its effectiveness.” And it doesn’t hurt to throw in, “You approved it, remember?”

The authority of the end user

There is no higher authority than end-user acceptance. So, if the first two appeals fail, put it in front of your target users and see what they think. And what do you tell your boss? “We’ll be happy to test that!” Chances are, your next conversation will be, “Turns out they didn’t want a link to the golf tournament on the home page after all.”

How not to say “no”

Keeping off-strategy content off your home page doesn’t have to mean saying “no” to your boss. With proper preparation, you can have a more constructive response ready to go.

As you develop your structure of content, think about the various types of content that users might be interested in and make sure they are represented in the architecture. When in doubt, test it with users to confirm that they can find it quickly and easily. Then, when the content requests come in, you can assure your boss—or anyone else, for that matter—that you have one or more places in the architecture where people will easily be able to find it. And because it’s not the home page, you can avoid a lengthy approval or troubleshooting process to get it published quickly.

Then everybody wins. Your website flourishes, you get promoted, you take over your boss’s job, and YOU have to start coming up with the greatest ideas ever.


  • Prepare yourself with a governance team, a plan, and a user testing program
  • Set the expectation that content requests will be vetted accordingly
  • Uninstall Photoshop from your boss’s computer