Spring arrived on March 20th, and with it the traditional reminder that it’s time to think about cleaning. Just like your closet or garage, a website accumulates stuff. Content and pages get added. Important messages get buried. Navigation stops making sense. Certain pages you hope nobody finds. Somewhere along the way, while everyone was just busy doing their jobs, the website hit a tipping point into clutter. Now you don’t even want to visit your own website.
Avoidance is always appealing, especially if the home page looks decent on a cursory visit. But nice colors and graphics can’t provide a good user experience if the underlying logic has fallen apart (or never existed to begin with). Disorder never fixes itself. If we had to choose, the brain of a website is more important than a pretty interface.
The Art of Website Clean Up, like any art, requires discipline. The first thing to throw out is procrastination. Plug in your mental Dyson and get moving:
- Catalog Your Content. Review and record every @#$%&! page on your website. This is the website equivalent of the KonMari Method from Japanese decluttering master Marie Kondo. To truly learn what is actually on your website, gather all your pages together and look at them in print form. Lay them out on the floor. You will discover content you never knew existed.
- Navigate the Navigation. View it like an impatient user. Note duplication, confusing labels, missing pieces. A bloated website has invariably outgrown its navigation.
- Get a Guru. There’s value in the reality check provided by someone who can look at your content with fresh eyes and say, “That page makes you look fat, toss it.” The key to successful website clean up is decisiveness. When you are too close to the content, it can be hard to be objective.
- Keep Calm and Categorize. Gather scattered items and place like with like. Being OCD is helpful. Did your dad keep power tools in the garage, basement AND backyard shed? Don’t be like that. Pick one place to put content of the same nature.
- Know Your Priorities. Not everything is of equal value. Prioritize your content according to the needs of your most important users. If you haven’t identified them, do so. Then rank them. Your website should be organized to meet the needs of your most high-value user. Everybody else is secondary.
- Fold It Up. Streamline web content into neat parcels. Cut copy and simplify pages. Make content as tidy and concentrated as possible.
- Make it Shine. A renewed website is a new place. Don’t put old furniture in it. Commission new photos, good writing. Even if it’s just a renovation, perk it up with some fresh content.
- Think Nautical. There’s a reason we call it “Navigation”. A good website is clean and efficient, like a ship. No excess. Controlled access. Debate the logic and necessity of adding even one new page. Swab the decks. Fend off the pirates. Keep watch.