“Out of Date Content Should Be Deleted”

The title of this blog is lifted from Gerry McGovern’s latest New Thinking article ‘How to manage out of date content’; it’s got a real scary example of the damage out of date content can do. Like, a 76% drop in share price for United Airlines after an old news story about bankruptcy from 2002 got picked up as current, scaring the hell out of an already shaky market.

Check out the recent review I did of the research pages of the university. Of 2500 pages, 51% of the pages had not been updated or had no date at all – probably another reason why the experts from the recent research exercise had nothing good to say about the university’s research pages.

And, as Gerry’s article shows, it’s not enough to simply update the page date (either intentionally or not). The content needs to be up to date, to reflect what the person looking at it is trying to do. If that person is wondering what research we did 10 years ago, then fine – let it stay but archived appropriately. But if that person is looking at research we did 10 years ago, but thinks its what we do now, then that’s a big problem.

Meeting the Students

It was arrival day for the International Masters students in Lund today, and my visit to the registration room found me quickly hijacked by the organisers into processing students. Which was very cool, and fits in rather nicely with Gerry McGovern’s latest article ‘Too close to your website, too far from your customers’. Why was it useful? Because to meet students gives me some insight on the person really using our website. If nothing else, it gives a face to the visitor statistics. Why bother creating a persona when you can just go out and meet the real thing?

Research Pages Review or ‘Professors Don’t Read’

Summer’s over and I’m back at my desk – there’s a lot of cool stuff coming up in the Autumn, not least the results of an expert review and usability test I’ve commissioned a consultancy to do of the english web pages. I’m looking forward to it with constructive apprehension – watch this space…

I’ve recently completed a review of the research pages of the university – principally just to find out how many we have…We’ve got at least 2500 pages which directly describe research and there’s probably another 5 000 to 10 000 describing, among other things, researchers, equipment, services etc etc. This review will be used to focus further development work.

One issue I saw immediately, in some cases, is the sheer volume of text. Many pages had at least 300 plus words – which is a problem. Why? Here’s some facts:

- Gerry McGovern, in his book Killer Web Content, says that after the first 300 words you’ve lost 40% of the readers.

or, if you want something a bit more empirical (and we are talking about research, after all)

- Based on the work of Weinreich et al. (2008) Jakob Nielsen showed that most visitors to a web page will look at only 28% of the text (on a page with 300 words, users are on it for around 30 seconds)

Ah wait, but the research pages will be read by Professors and such, who have much more patience than the rest of us time starved hunter gatherers of the web. Sorry:

- A study by the British Library (2008) showed that both undergraduates, and professors, exhibited the same tendency for shallow, ‘flicking’ behaviour in digital libraries. Yep, just like the rest of us, professors don’t read.

So too many words, and you’ve lost the reader. Which is a problem if the most exciting stuff is in your last sentence. And this is now 341 words, which means, according to Gerry, that only about 40% of you ever got this far.

”The portal is an entry to the graveyard” – Careword Webinars from Gerry McGovern

Two great webinars from Gerry McGovern are available for download from his Customer Carewords site. One deals with Government websites, the other with intranets.

If, like me, you’re switching your brain back on after the summer break these are just the thing to provide inspiration.

Gerry’s main point is that it’s all about managing the tasks people are trying to do on your website. What is your website for? What are the people trying to do who come to it? Can they actually do the things they want to do? Because, if they can’t, they’re probably not coming back.

They are each about 40 minutes long and cover carewords, organization vs. customer centric thinking and the way to measure the success of content; all good stuff.