The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Your Website: Part I

Last year, my husband and I read Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. To say this book was life changing isn’t an exaggeration. Besieged by clutter, we went about decluttering our books, clothes, papers, kitchen accessories, and on and on. We gave away over 1,000 books, I donated 60% of my closet, we shredded mounds of paper, and we can finally see the floor in our garage. Are we done? Absolutely not! But I’m not overwhelmed by the clutter, the master bedroom is a sea of calm, and I love everything in my closet.

Like closets and homes, websites need regular tidying as well. If you hear this from your members, “I can’t find anything on your website” or “I can’t find what I”m looking for because I get too many search results,” it’s time to tidy.

Why The Clutter?

First, let’s examine why our websites have become the equivalent of cluttered homes and self-storage units. This is what I hear from my clients:
  • We need a place to store our archives
  • Someday we might need that study from 25 years ago
  • We don’t know what’s valuable to our members or the public

What Members Really Want

And yet, in interview after interview with members, this is what we hear:
  • Just give me the best stuff when I do a search
  • I need my association to curate all the information on “x” topic
  • Tell me what I need to pay attention to
  • The navigation is overwhelming with too many choices
  • I just don’t know where to start looking

Take the First Step Toward Tidying: What Are People Trying to Do On Your Website?

This blog post is NOT about the art and science of information architecture. I can go on for day about that. This blog post IS about decluttering. If you want your website to be high performing, ask yourself questions like these:
  • What are people trying to do on my site? If your audience includes researchers who need the historical data, then please include a comprehensive library AND create an effective search. If you want to make the case for membership, chances are you need to do that in six pages or less.
  • Why do we have archives of the conference pages from the last 15 years? If people need the handouts, perhaps you’re better off creating a database of the presentations and creating a great search. If it’s just the staff that find the archive useful, take it offline and make it easily accessible on your local network.
  • Why do we have news and newsletters from the last 25 years? If people need the archives for research purposes, great. If legislative updates from even last year are irrelevant because Congress has a new set of priorities each year, ditch the detailed updated but do keep a list of your legislative priorities and what you’ve done over time.

Over the past year, Matrix Group has completed about a dozen website redesigns. In almost all cases, the client, after reviewing the content inventory, looking at the analytics and discussing content strategy, ditched more than half of their old content. Tidying made content migration easier and less expensive, the information architecture is more streamlined, and site search is more effective.

In the next blog post, I’ll talk about love. What’s love got to with your website and clutter? Stay tuned.