Feeling bloated?

It’s time to cut some content

An article by Helen Triggs 02-11-2017

Sites with content bloat have increased maintenance costs, diluted brand and customers who can’t find what they need. Here at Edo, we’ve helped many organisations decide how and what to cut, to clear the path for their customers.

Why do we see so many websites bloated with content that meets little or no user need? It’s strange, when there are many downsides to it being there:

  • Reduced findability; the bloat gets in the way of valuable content being found
  • Increased maintenance costs; every conversation about maintaining it, reviewing it, updating it and even migrating it, costs the organisation time and money.
  • Increased hosting costs, particularly if we’re talking about video content
  • Slower page load times; not only a problem for your SEO, by lowering page rank and reducing indexation by search engine crawlers, it’s also a usability problem reducing time on page and increasing bounce rates.
  • Diluted message and brand; you’re fighting for your message to be heard in a flooded market. At least on your own site you can control the flood. Less is more.
Stack of books

It seems that few organisations properly join the dots between content and costs. Some see content strategy as a luxury and are happy to leave masses of old, irrelevant content online. 

This isn’t just the case for customer facing websites, it’s true for intranets as well. Often internal sites suffer more bloat as they take lower priority to the front of house but this inefficiency can seriously slow down an organisation’s agility.

Our work has helped us understand why this is so common:

  • A sense that the problem is too big to do anything about, it’s easier to leave it.
  • Staff are measured on output rather than outcome.
  • No one is responsible.
  • No one is measuring the impact.
  • Content blindness - “We’ve always had that content”, “It must be there for a reason”, “Other sites have it”, unquestioning the status quo.
  • Ego. My team, my work, my opinion, my bio… 
  • Bias. Personal agendas and politics take priority over user need.
  • Elephants in the room. Something so big they are worried it could derail the project but no one wants to talk about it. Left untouched it’s likely to derail the project anyway.
  • Fear. People are nice and they are scared to imply something isn’t needed.

Seeing clients not able to talk about issues in an objective way, or worse, ignoring them completely only to see those issues rear their ugly heads too late in a project, we wanted to help them talk about the issues as early as possible.

So we created a content matrix to help clients talk about the user need and the business need for content. It enables staff to have objective conversations around value and see where things aren’t balanced. It’s important to have this space where conversations can be about value to the user and benefits to the business rather than personal opinion. 

Using a content scoring matrix

The matrix is a simple spreadsheet where each item of content, or type of content, is scored by how important it is to each audience type (or persona) and each business objective. The scores are then compared. 

  • If both scores are low, question the value. Consider deleting or archiving the content. 
  • If the audience score is low, discuss how the content can be improved to increase the value for the user. Or cut the content.
  • If the business score is low, discuss how the content can be improved to increase the value for the business. Or cut the content.
  • If the business score is always low, this is a red flag. Discuss the relevance of the objectives. Look at the wider strategy - is it delivering what your customers need? 
  • Pay particular attention where there is a high difference between the two as it suggests something is not right. Discuss why this is the case and what needs to change.

When scoring a lot of content, the matrix helps to prioritise effort. The content that scores highly for both audience and business should get more of your attention.

Unfortunately, this method isn’t going to make the decisions for you, well that just wouldn’t be right. Instead it’s a tool to help you have difficult conversations with your colleagues and encourage them to cut the bloat.

You can find our content matrix template here.

Let us know how you get on.

Use it to help you decide what to cut from a site but also for idea generation and validation. We see it being used most frequently during a content audit where it reduces the cost of content migration projects.

Content migration projects are a great opportunity to cut the bloat

We run workshops to help project stakeholders understand the importance of cutting the bloat and how these principles can be applied to their site. We use Lego to help visualise the value and make it a bit more fun! Please get in touch if you’d find this useful for your project or team.