Review Your Content

Web projects often focus on adding new content. New sites. New sections. New pages. Rarely do we take the time to review, reassess, refresh, and remove existing content. We can change that. Now is a great time to take a fresh look at what you have and to get your web house in order. Your audiences deserve it. 

Getting started

Action: Write down your five most important pages of content. 

How do you know your top five pages? They are the ones that matter the most to your external audiences and your unit’s goals. 

Ask yourself: What pages do I email out the most to people? What pages answer the questions I get the most? What pages provide an opportunity for my users to take an action like apply, register, or donate?

Common important pages are:

  • home page
  • educational programs, admissions, prospective students, residency program
  • research, research projects
  • for patients
  • about.

Action: Block time off on your calendar once a week to look closely at one of your top five pages. Over five weeks you will have done a thorough review and made improvements on your five most important pages.

When reviewing each page: 

  • fix what’s broken or inaccurate
  • reduce clutter
  • make improvements. 

Fix what’s broken or inaccurate

When people visit your website, they expect everything to work and find accurate information. They don’t want broken links or content that is outdated, inaccurate, or not relevant to their needs. 

Click on all links

Fix broken links or remove links if the website or page no longer exists

Check content for accuracy:
  • staff and faculty names and titles (Do they still work for your unit? Did they get a promotion?)
  • telephone numbers
  • email addresses
  • mailing addresses
  • office addresses
  • fax numbers (Is that fax still in use?)

Reduce clutter

Decrease the overall amount of content on your site so your audiences can find what’s most important. 

Ever have so much stuff you can’t find what you’re looking for? You know that flashlight you need in a blackout is around somewhere—between the size-too-small boots, stack of toys, and travel guides from five years ago—but where is it? Your website can get like this, too. Sometimes the content that’s most important gets buried. You can fix that by removing and reducing. 

Remember: Your content will go across devices and needs to travel light. You pack the same content for mobile and tablets as you do for desktop.

Action: Click through each page of your website asking: 

  • Can this be removed? 
  • Can I consolidate it with similar information? 
  • Can I shorten the language? 

If you answer yes, go ahead and do so.

Pro tip: Start an “archive document” (Word or Google doc). Anything you remove from the site you can store here for safe keeping, still accessible in case of emergency but out of the way of search and public audiences.

Items to delete

  • Events that have passed.
    • Archive event information on a separate page if your audience needs access to that information for a specified period of time. If it’s an annual event that occurs at the same time of every year, you may want to include a summary of the event and the time of year it occurs (example: Mini Medical School).
  • Deadlines that have passed.
    • If associated with a regular (annual, etc.) opportunity, replace with language that the deadline has passed and when the person can expect the new deadline to be available/the general time frame the deadline will be (e.g., fall 2014, January 2014). 
  • Names of people no longer affiliated with your unit.

Pro tip: Write a purpose statement for each page on your website. 

  • Why does this page exist? 
  • Who needs to do what on it? 

If there’s no purpose, there should be no page. And when people come with ideas for adding new content, ask if it fits the purpose.

Make improvements

Action: Take another pass through each page of web content and ask: 

  • Who is the content for and what do they need to do? 
  • Is that obvious? 

If not, make sure what your audience needs most is included first, and then go into supporting details. 

Make sure things are worded in a way your audience will understand: 

  • no jargon
  • spell out acronyms
  • clear calls to action 
  • scannable with subheads, bullets, numbered lists.
Look for these common web pitfalls and remove them:

A message welcoming people to your website – This was common in the 1990s and makes your website seem outdated. Your web content should get right to the point, for the sake of your users and search.

User Advocate Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D., had this to say about welcomes in the article "113 Design Guidelines for Homepage Usability":

"Many sites seem compelled to include welcome messages on their homepages. Cheerful "welcomes" on homepages are nostalgic remnants of the early days of the Web, when getting to one of the few available sites was a feat worth acknowledging. Don't literally welcome users to your site. Before you give up prime homepage real estate to a salutation, consider using it for a tag line instead. The best welcome you can give users is a concrete definition of what they can do on the site and a clear starting point from which to begin. An exception to this guideline is the more appropriate use of "welcome" in a phrase that confirms that the site has recognized a registered user."

Anything that alludes to the site being “under construction” – Your website should always be under construction so there is no need to advertise that. Calling attention to incomplete information makes your website seem unreliable and possibly untrustworthy.

"Click here links" – Replace the wording of links that say “click here” with meaningful text. Read more about writing effective links.

Pro tip: To test the wording of call to action links, try completing the phrase: Would you like to ___? I would like to ___, e.g., I would like to apply now. Would you like to apply now?