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The Critical Path of Website Content

As we enter our seventeenth year of designing and developing websites, there are very few clients that aren’t on at least their third generation websites.And with the average website needing a refresh after three years, our clients’ websites are accumulating lots of content. From an SEO perspective a lot of content can be good, from a user experience angle it can become a problem. To make it easier upgrading websites with a growing body of content, we engage our clients in a collaborative process we call “Website Triage.”

Website Triage

Every website has four kinds of content: content that needs to be expunged, content that stays as is, content requiring editing and content that needs to be created from scratch. The first thing we do is engage our clients in a “Bottom-Up” approach to managing their content. We start at the “bottom,” by asking our client to examine every piece of content that exists in their website in order to create a “Content Inventory.” The first step is to assign a person or team to scour all of the documents on the site, html, pdf’s, jpeg’s, etc. With a simple content Inventory form we provide, content can then be divided into the, Expunge, Keep, Edit, or Create categories, and be assigned a team member to perform those functions by a specific date and within a defined review cycle. In tandem, we look at the content from the “Top Down.”

Top Down Approach

The Top Down approach is in effect the creation of the Information Architecture (IA); it’s the aspirational site map that represents the desired, relevant taxonomy of documents that support the current business goals and brand. The content needed to populate the IA will be a combination of existing, edited and new documents. By comparing the Bottom Up Content Inventory to the Top Down IA, we can see if there are stray documents that don’t have a home, or new areas needed in the IA. When the two are in sync, the design and development phases will follow smoothly.

Bottom Up / Top Down Approach

The Bottom Up / Top Down approach is at a tactical level about a structured, collaborative, team approach to mapping out the critical path for website content; essentially establishing order from chaos. Strategically it ensures that business goals are being met by the website and visitors will be rewarded with valuable content that is easy to find.