Managing and Archiving Web Content
The Government of Canada (GC) needs to ensure that the most accurate, up-to-date, and relevant information is made available via the web in order to provide Canadians with the information they expect and require.
The principles of good information management (IM) must apply to all information that is created and used within the GC, including web content. Web archiving is an IM best practice that will increase the visibility and usefulness of up-to-date web content, and will improve the long-term sustainability of GC websites.
Web Content can be divided into three categories:
- Current Web Content is information that is up-to-date, relevant, and required on a website.
- Archived Web Content is information that is no longer current but is retained on a website for reference or to provide context to current content.
- Legacy Web Content is information that has been revised or superseded by more recent web content, and has been removed from the site and moved into the corporate repository for recordkeeping purposes.
To effectively manage web content, the following considerations should be addressed:
- Before identifying web content to be archived, a thorough evaluation of the entire site should be completed. It is recommended that institutions use the Reduce the ROT process to complete the evaluation.
- A Web Content Review Plan should be developed that outlines the lifespan of all web content based on usage, relevance, and currency. This plan should establish retention schedules for current web content, and archived web content.
- Web Managers, IM Functional Specialists and Business Owners should be involved in the review and evaluation of web content.
- Clear authorities for the approval to archive content (business owners in consultation with the Senior Departmental Official) need to be established, documented, and communicated.
- Retention schedules should clearly identify the date previously archived web content should be removed from the institution's website. These schedules need to be aligned with the institution's approved records retention and disposition schedules.
- Archived web content must be clearly marked (archived) on the website as detailed in the Guidance on Implementing the Standard on Web Usability; this includes updating the metadata elements.
- Details on where or how users can access web archived content, and how long this content will remain accessible online, should be communicated to potential users via the website.
- The Web Content Review Plan should include both documented business rules that apply to specific content and rules that should be applied to content in general. Examples of business rules for the web archiving of content include:
Web content that is also available on another site should be removed, not web archived. Instead pointers/links should be provided to the other site.
e.g: DPRs/RPPs: Institutions could keep one or two years previous in order to provide context to the DPR of the current year. Older DPRs/RPPs should be accessed on the Government of Canada Publications site.
Information should not be kept on the web longer than any related source information must be kept for recordkeeping purposes.
e.g. Proactive Disclosure Reports: Source information such as contracts, expense reports and reclassification documentation has a life span of five (5) or six (6) years. Therefore, Proactive Disclosure Reports should remain online no longer than six (6) years from date of posting. These Reports should then become legacy content and not archived content.
Technical capacity limitations, recent usage statistics and relevance should be considered when determining how long to keep information on the web.
e.g. New Releases and Notices: Analytics show that the rate of online access drops dramatically after 2 years. Institutions should remove News Releases and Notices from current web content after 2 years. Institutions may keep them longer either web archived or within their corporate repositories for internal reference and recordkeeping.
- In cases where there is a legislative or policy requirement to provide long-term access to particular information, institutions need to provide a notice that advises visitors that the information has been removed and that the content can be provided to users upon request.
Information Management Division
Chief Information Officer Branch
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
8th Floor, 270 Albert Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0R5
TTY: 613-957-9090 (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat)
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