Like any other technophile out there, I’m constantly finding new ways to clutter up my virtual space with gadgets, feeds, and bookmarks. But recently, after a weekend of spring cleaning at home, I decided that maybe it was time to do some geeky spring cleaning as well.
With an approach similar to cleaning out a closet, I began sorting through the clutter around me in my virtual space. Asking myself questions like, “I know you like the author, but do you ever really read this?” or “Can you even remember the last time you used this application?”, I may as well have been standing in my closet pulling tattered jeans off of the hangers. After a while, I finally had widdled away a large chunk of hard drive space, and I reveled in my new freedom to focus.
I realized in doing this that there are a lot of analogies between the closet content and website content. For example, news websites like BBC.com are the little black dress of the web world; the styles may vary, but every woman needs a good one that she can turn to. Conversely, websites like The Hampster Dance are the Zubaz of the web world. We all loved them at some point, but their relevance was short-lived. (Wait, we ALL loved them, right?)
There’s nothing wrong with the difference – in fact, people often underestimate the value of the quick, topical website. As consumers, we generally understand our responsibility to sort through these different types of information consumption and figure out which one matters the most to us. But as producers, do we always understand our responsibility to figure out what our sites’ purposes are and to create that experience for our consumers? The answer in a lot of cases is no.
How does this apply to your organization? Do you think visitors can tell what type of website you are trying to be? If you think you have a handle on this with your organization’s website, give it the friend-link test.
First, take a few minutes to really think about what the primary goal you want people to achieve is on your site, and how you want your site to be perceived. Now, go to your site and click around it the way you would if your friend sent you a link to a site you’d never been to before. Ask yourself a few questions as you click around, approaching the content like any clutter-cleaning project: Is there a consistent theme in what you have on your site, or does it seem slightly frenetic? Are you trying to be too trendy in some sections? Has the content evolved with your organization? Are there areas of the site that never get updated? If so, is this because you simply have neglected them, or is it because they are no longer useful? These are basic questions, but their answers can reveal a lot about your site.
Like keeping a closet orderly, keeping your website clutter-free is not effortless. But neither is finding information on a site that’s in disarray. As a producer, the greater responsibility of creating the order, theme, and consistency falls on you. And the final product – a neat, organized, website where everyone can find what they are looking for – is well worth the effort.