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.
unused, dated content on the site
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data, remove outdated content and edit.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audit was to identify which pages were published, remove out-of-date and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of them were out of date.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
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
Did you miss Part 1 of this case study?
Stay tuned for Part 3 (the outcome).
Have questions? Post below or contact the authors directly: