editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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Too much clutter can ruin your site

February 22nd, 2008 · 3 Comments

When was the last time that you went through your closet? Is there a chance you still have a Members Only jacket or a pair of parachute pants? Over the years have you added new pieces to your wardrobe without getting rid of the old? Are you at a point where you just don’t know what you have?

Well, minus the jacket, pants and maybe denim overalls, the same description can also be applied to many newspaper websites.

Over the years many sites new content, features, sections and even navigation are added only to be pushed to the virtual back and forgotten. The situation is further complicated by staffing churns that strip newsrooms of institutional memory, so what is old is quickly forgotten. Approaches such as site audits or even Spring Cleanings aren’t commonly practiced. So everything just builds and builds and builds.

As a reader of these sites, I’ve come across special sections for three-year-old events, coverage of previous elections or long forgotten education issues. Seeing this type of outdated content causes me to question the reliability and quality of the entire site. While I understand that in theory online space is unlimited, that doesn’t mean that you never have to thrown anything away.

To help you avoid this problem, here are some ideas for avoiding online clutter:

  • Create a sitemap for your website and update it often. This will allow you to keep track of what you have and where, on the site, it’s living.
  • Use a calendar to note when new or special sections go live.
  • Schedule periodic site audits (refer back to your calendar or sitemap) to review your site and discuss how to handle outdated content.

So those are a few suggestions from me, what are your approaches to dealing with this issue and when are you going to get rid of that Members Only jacket?

Tags: Audience Development · Best Practices · Content · Design · Industry · Online

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Pat Thornton // Feb 22, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Great advice. A good idea would be a yearly spring cleaning of a Web site. You’re right that a lot of news sites have outdated content on them.

    Another good reason to do some spring cleaning is for the bandwidth and storage savings. Print content may not seem like that big of an issue, but can you imagine outdated multimedia content?

  • 2 Greg Linch // Feb 24, 2008 at 1:22 am

    Agreed, this is very good advice.

    College Publisher has a standard “archive” page that is, let’s say, subpar: http://www.thehurricaneonline.com/home/archives.

    We know we can do better once we are liberated, and a site map is definitely one feature we plan to include. The calendar to note special sections is a good idea I had heard about before.

  • 3 Greg Linch // Feb 24, 2008 at 1:24 am

    *had not heard about before.

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