Too often, website content grows old and outdated and loses its usefulness for visitors and the organization. No one pays much attention to this until it is time to overhaul the website. At that point, content becomes a huge obstacle and a seemingly insurmountable amount of work. The fix for this? Routine housekeeping to make sure the content has life-long value for site visitors and the organization.
To create a process for routine content management, borrow a practice from Japanese lean manufacturing called 5S. 5S is a workplace organization methodology that consists of five Japanese words that loosely translate to sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain. In manufacturing, applying this methodology reduces errors and improves quality - the same thing you need for your web content. Here’s how to 5S your web content.
The first practice is Sort. For this, you’ll want to identify and remove unnecessary content. This can be done by making a content inventory. You can learn all about making a content inventory here, but the basic idea is to make a spreadsheet that lists page titles and links to all of your content, from pages to pdfs and videos. Examine each piece of content and indicate if anything is redundant, outdated, or trivial (ROT). If it is, delete the content or fix it.
In conjunction with the content inventory, take a look at your website’s analytics. Specifically, examine the least visited pages. What about these pages makes them so unpopular? Are they ROT, or is there a problem that is causing these pages to be overlooked? Fix the problems if the content is still valuable, or move these pages to the trash bin.
The second practice is Straighten, which is essentially the old aphorism “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Going back to the content inventory, now you’ll assess the organization of the content. Has it grown disorderly? Do the navigation or categories still make sense based on the content contained within them? Are callout features and promotions still relevant to your audience? Identify the top tasks for your website and conduct a usability test to check that everything is still functioning well for your users, or to test any proposed changes to your site’s navigation or workflow to make sure they'll solve the problem.
Next up is the Shine step. In manufacturing 5S, this is cleaning everything and eliminating dirt. For your website, do the following:
- Run a link check to find broken URLs,
- Use an accessibility tool like Wave to find WCAG 2.0 violations, and
- Look at every page for improper formatting, jargon, and outdated images.
To Standardize is to create and follow best practices for your site and maintain high standards. You might consider doing this by creating a style guide if you don’t already have one, and make sure everyone who is contributing to your website has the right tools to do their best work (such as image and video editing tools). Update documentation and training materials to make sure they are still useful, and make them easily accessible to your content contributors. Re-run trainings if you need to, or if you’ve never held training before, start now!
This brings us to the final S, Sustain. This step is to “do without being told.” Repeat Sort, Straighten, Shine, and Standardize as part of a systematic process to continuously improve. Do it quarterly or monthly - make it habit! If you do, 5S will help you improve the user experience, quality, and relevance of your content - turning your website into a well-oiled machine.