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What spring cleaning can teach us about our websites

ElizabethRose -- Fri, 03/20/2015 - 10:17am

Spring is upon us! Animated image of Rapunzel sweepingAnd with that comes the realization that you should probably start your spring cleaning. And inevitably you end up asking yourself, "How did I end up with all this stuff?" And you vow to not buy so much in the coming year.

The same could be said about websites.

Whether your website has been live for six months or three years, it's easy to realize how quickly we can accumulate pages, text, photos, news stories, and events on our sites. Just one more photo. One more page. And one more sub-page. One more shirt. One more toy. One more gadget.

And suddenly, there are items in your closets, attic, and garage that you haven't touched in years. I'll be the first to admit that I'm guilty of it. And just like I don't always think before I buy, sometimes I don't think before adding something to a site. But in order to combat content clutter, we need to prevent it.

Before we move on, do me a favor: go to your site, log in, and click on "Content" in your top toolbar. Sort your content so you see when the last time everything was updated and you'll see what I mean — it's probably been awhile since some things were updated. Full disclosure: some things on the University's main site haven't been updated since 2012. Sometimes it's appropriate to keep the same content, and sometimes it's not. It's your call to decide what's still relevant.

Lisa Maria of the blog The Future is Like Pie poses four questions we should ask ourselves before we add content to our sites:

  1. Do I have a place to put this away?
  2. Do I have the time and energy to organize a space to put this?
  3. Am I willing to toss something to make room for this item?
  4. Will I really use this item — and if so, will it be within the next three months?

You already have space devoted on your site to news stories, events, and programs. But what about that conference you're hosting next semester? What about the information you have to have for accreditation? You have to figure out how it fits into your current site map and how it relates to other content you have. You should also ask: is my website the best place for this information? Or would it be more appropriate as a tweet, Facebook post, email, or a combination of those?

If it's important but doesn't fit on your site, we have to work to make a space for it — but we have to make sure it flows with your other content. Make sure it doesn't bury the important information, get in the way, or ultimately distract from your main goals.

If we can prevent the clutter, it will make it way easier to manage your content and actually achieve your goals, whether that's higher enrollment, retention or participation from your audiences.