Kansas State University Libraries Case Study (Part 2)

by Danielle Cooley

From Hoarder to "Heave-It" in Three Not-So-Easy Steps

Part 2 of a three-part guest post from Tara Coleman, Joelle Pitts, and Harish Maringanti.

The Problem: unused, dated content on the site

Step 1:

Once a comprehensive list of the Libraries' web pages and statistics was created, the content audit began. The content audit plans were framed around the article “Spring Cleaning: Finding your lost sock. The guide to content audits.” published by Nick DeNaardis on the website .eduGuru. His article advised inventorying every page on a site and compiling a document with components such as: page title, owner, last updated, visits, and currency. DeNaardis advised that once the data was compiled, the team should inspect the data, remove outdated content and edit. The original goal of the Libraries’ audit was to identify which pages were published, remove out-of-date and irrelevant information, and update pages determined of value to the organization. The article provided sound advice, but the Web Services Librarian quickly discovered the content audit was going to be a challenge. This was the first content audit the Libraries undertook. Over 3,500 published pages were discovered (more than the number of freshman students admitted to the university every fall). Not only were there a lot of pages, many of them were unlinked and forgotten until the audit began. Because they were forgotten, many of them were out of date.

Due to the size of the organization, the specialization of the information online,  and the large number of published pages, the content audit was distributed amongst library staff. Pages were grouped together by department or content owner/expert. Pages that had no obvious content owner were reviewed by the web services librarian. Each content owner was sent an excel spreadsheet of links and statistics and asked to review each page listed on the spreadsheet. Content owners were asked to decide if pages should be kept online with the understanding that they would either be updated if necessary, or archived and deleted. In other words, the pages were taken offline but a copy of the local file was kept for archiving purposes.

On first glance, the content audit seemed an easy first step in the overall redesign process, but once begun, the challenges of the work became apparent. The review of over 3,500 web pages was overwhelming for some. The distribution of the web pages was also uneven.  The review of department and unit web pages was, of course, not a high priority for many content owners, making the review process time consuming. Additionally, while many of the pages had low usage statistics, once discovered, many content owners wanted to keep pages they did not realize were published, a decision making process made more difficult by the fact that no previous standards or benchmark for deleting old pages was in existence. These factors contributed to a very lengthy, frustrating process which prevented the website redesign team from moving forward on schedule.

Step 2: Targeted Clusters

Once we realized our content audit wasn’t working we decided to take a different path. Our User Experience team clustered similar content together and evaluated each cluster based on page hits and content, then approached the content owner with our decision. While this method was somewhat faster, it did not alleviate the emotional attachment some individuals had with content or the problem of content owners wanting to keep every piece of information online irregardless of use or value. After a few months of this process we decided it was time to try something different.

Step 3: The Scream Test

That something came (ironically )in the form of a work-life balance seminar that emphasized the Scream Test approach to prioritize projects. So we had a new plan. Our User Experience team would decide what would be migrated over and what would be archived. In most cases we didn’t consult with content owners, we just retired the pages. If someone screamed “Where’s my page?” we would work to address the concern and decide if the page should stay archived or if it should be up (and how it should look etc). 

The Scream Test method was by far the best of the three for our organization. We did it with full support of our administration and it has helped to speed along our process immensely. If you can, we would recommend that you use this process when it comes time for you to migrate over content.


Did you miss Part 1 of this case study?

Stay tuned for Part 3 (the outcome).

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