Monday, 27 June 2011

Revamping your site? Tidy up first

Are you planning a website or intranet migration or revamp? You can save valuable project time by doing your housework first.

Migrating out-of-date, irrelevant or duplicate content can take up time and effort. Just imagine: your migration team has spent a frustrating half-day fiddling with a complicated set of graphs to make them fit into a new template in a content management system.

A week later, the person who created the graphs casually mentions the graphs are no longer useful.

Website audit
You can avoid this frustration by doing an audit of your site to see which content to keep or delete.

OK, you may end up with a huge spreadsheet of URLs, but it will prove useful as you discover what content you’ve actually got, rather than what you think you have.

Keep or delete?
Be brutal about what content you keep. Some departments have an unrealistic view of the value of their content (“We can’t delete the org chart!”). But what’s important to internal staff is not always interesting to the outside world.

It can help to get an independent pair of eyes – someone who doesn’t work for the organisation – to help you decide. The stuff you keep needs to be quality content, written in clear English.

Individual contributors become attached to their content and are less likely to agree to it being ditched. A decision to delete could be backed up by statistics on how many people viewed the page over the last year or how many incoming links there are from other websites.

Old versions
Large websites and intranets tend to grow organically with no central gatekeeper to keep tabs on what’s going live. There’s no one removing out-of-date information.

It can lead to several pages carrying similar (or worse: the same) information. A content audit can help you identify these, so that you don’t migrate duplicate or out-of-date pages.

Do you know how many pdfs and Word documents you have on your site? You probably have loads. And there may be duplicates.

Before your migration team uploads any pdfs into a new content management system, it’s vital to establish a standard way of naming pdfs.

With a standard way of naming pdfs, it will make it easier for future users of the content management system to find the right pdf to link to. And they’ll be less likely to try and upload a duplicate.

Or better still: ditch the pdfs and create html pages, as it’s easier to make them accessible to all audiences.

Keep your website tidy!
Even if you’re not planning to migrate or revamp, doing the housework on your intranet or website is essential.

You need to prevent out-of-date information popping up and getting in the way of people searching for the latest info.

So each time new content is due to go live, someone needs to take responsibility for looking at knock-on effects: will the new content make other information out of date? It’s a dirty job but ...

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