Content must rule your world

Gerry McGovern in his book ‘Killer web content’ says:

“Here lies a major irony of the age of mass communication: the more communication people are exposed to, the more they are shutting off and depending on their gut instinct.”

Web users are impatient and ignore banner ads and pointless marketing content. It’s one of the reasons twitter is so popular, Tweets are short and sweet and if you don’t like them you can just ignore them.

How many times have I heard the following excuse for creating a library of a website full of old and no-longer relevant:

“but someone may want to look at it one day! It’s better it’s on our website just in case.”

Wrong!

Every page, every document, every old press release that is put on a website makes finding the 5% of useful content held more difficult.It muddies the search results, it gets in the way of a good Information Architecture.

This is especially true for an Intranet, which is so commonly used as a dumping ground for boring content.  Remember an Intranet has a captured audience, there’s usually no alternative for the user (other than to not use it) if the content can’t be found. You put poor content into the Intranet search engine you’re going to get poor content out.

Recently I attended an UK eInformation Group seminar on ‘making search work’. The speaker said that, in his experience:

“90% of search problems are about the people”

i.e. Not the technology. Either the content is badly structured and managed or the search technology isn’t correctly configured.

Everytime we put content on a website we must ask ourselves, who is this for, who is going to use it?

Gery McGovern has the following rule of thumb for a page of content:

100 words: You’ve lost 25% of your readers
300 words: Youve lost 40%
500 words: You’ve lost 60%
1,000 words: You’ve lost 80%.

Maybe it’s time we applied something similar to the number of pages?