Cutting Content From Your Website

A 3 minute read written by Alaine August 25, 2011

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Are you working on a website redevelopment project? Maybe you work for an agency, or an in-house web department. Either way, responsibility for the website content has fallen to you, you lucky duck.

Creating new content can be hard, but sometimes cutting out old content is even harder. Learn how to overcome internal resistance, and get everyone to agree on what has to go.

What about all the content on your current site? Chances are you have a whole bunch of content that isn’t doing you (or your readers) any good.

Getting rid of content bloat is important. But how do you decide what to keep?

And, sometimes more painfully: how do you get everyone to agree? Large sites tend to have a lot of stakeholders and decision makers involved. Getting all those people on board isn’t always easy.

Our very own Paul Bellows developed these workshops to help our clients evaluate their content. They’re a (relatively) quick, painless way to get your stakeholders aligned on what content should stay, and what needs to go.

Content Workshops: Define your audiences and goals.

1. Do your research. Know your website.

Have you done your content inventory? What about a ROT (redundant, outdated, trivial) analysis? Make sure you know your site inside and out before you start these workshops. Jeffrey Veen has created an amazingly detailed account of how to conduct a content inventory. This is a great place to start if you’ve never done one before.

2. Get everybody in the same room.

Find everyone that has a say in this project. Get them all in the same room. It’s important that everyone feels included in this process. Make sure you have:

  • Senior management (if you can)
  • Your web team
  • Content authors and editors
  • Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
  • Yourself (don’t forget that one)
  • Someone to take notes

If you have a large site with lots of different content categories, it’s a good idea to break this workshop into multiple sessions.

3. Your audiences: who are they?

As a team, brainstorm all the audiences that might be interested in your organization or content. Write them all down on a whiteboard or flipchart. Get everyone to contribute.

Be specific! “Everyone” doesn’t count as an audience. Are you targeting the media? What kind of media? Print, broadcast, television, bloggers, social “influencers” (ew)? Which countries? Which provinces/states? Which cities?

4. Your audiences: put ‘em in order.

I know we’re not supposed to pick favourites, but this time we’re going to. Don’t feel bad.

Take your list of (very specific) audiences, and put them in priority order. Who is your most important audience, really? Choose the 3–5 most important audiences. Make sure everyone agrees on the order.

5. Audience goals: what are they?

Good content should help your audiences accomplish their goals and tasks. So: what do your readers want to know or do after visiting your site? Brainstorm away. Write down everything.

6. Audience goals: prioritize ‘em.

Narrow down your big ol’ list of audience goals to the 3–5 most important ones.

7. Business goals: how about those?

Now repeat the same process for your business goals. What does your organization want people to know or do after visiting your site? 

8. Business goals: prioritize those too.

Repeat step 6, narrowing down your large list into a prioritized list of 3–5 business goals. (Hint: your business goals should probably align fairly closely with your audiences’ goals.)

9. Map your content to your audiences and goals

After you’re done, you should have three lists:

  • Your most important audiences
  • Your audience’s most important goals
  • Your organization’s most important goals

The great thing is, your stakeholders and decision makers have all agreed to these. This is the support you’ll need when proposing cuts to the current content.

Now, go back to your content inventory.

Map every single piece of content to an audience, an audience goal, and a business goal. Your spreadsheet might look something like this:

An example of a content inventory spreadsheet

Not sure? If you have to think too hard about what audience or goal a page meets, that’s the content you need to cut. This is why it’s important to have clearly defined, specific audiences and goals. This process will be much harder with vague, un-actionable goals.

Cross something you don't need off your spreadsheet. Use a red pen, if you can. See, now, doesn’t that feel better? I bet you feel (content) lighter already.

10. Witness nods of approval. Celebrate.

Once you’ve mapped all your content to the appropriate audiences and goals, and determined what to eliminate, send your new and improved content inventory, (along with the lists you created in your workshop) to the person (or people) that need to sign off on these cuts. Give them a date by which you need any change requests submitted. If all goes well, you’ll hear nothing but applause.

If your stakeholders do have concerns, you have a great document from which to start a discussion. Who is this page for? What goals does it accomplish? That way, the discussion stays where it should be: on your readers and your goals. This will help you avoid the internal conflicts that can happen all too easily when overhauling content.

Enjoy your slimmed down website!