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 In Web Design

Web content writing is never done. If you’ve been entertaining a “set it and forget it” mindset, it’s critical to start making the time to refresh your content. After all, your site is your online pitch, and if you aren’t talking to your audience effectively you can bet you’re losing users out of sheer frustration.

But where to start? Before you log into your CMS and make changes, it pays to analyze your site for content ROT, or content that is: Redundant, Outdated or Trivial.

While a ROT analysis is not the end of the story, it can help you identify the places that require urgent attention. Something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet can help you map out your pages, their purpose, and what needs updating or removing on each. The other great thing about a ROT analysis is that while you’re thinking about how these problems should be solved, it can get you started on the big picture items like a full-scale content reorganization.

What to Look For in a ROT Analysis

A good rule of thumb when reviewing content is to ask yourself why the information is there. If you can’t give information a definite purpose, then seriously consider removing it.

1. Common Redundancy Offenders

  • Home pages are supposed to give readers a good idea of what you do, but it’s important to remember it’s not the About page. Keep it short and sweet, and provide a link to the full details.
  • Avoid overview pages that just make the user have to do extra clicks to find what they’re looking for.
  • Separate Products and Services sections can get tricky with some companies – if the line is fuzzy, consider combining them.
  • Who We Are and What We Do sections can similarly involve a lot of rehash.

2. Outdatedness – The Usual Suspects

  • News or events that are seriously outdated but are highlighted as though they are new, especially on the Home page. News archives should be weeded for articles that are of no further interest or value. If you won an award in 2007, keep the article announcing it, but otherwise consider removing most of them.
  • Broken links really frustrate users. There are lots of online tools you can use to identify broken links on your pages.
  • It is essential to update your contact information immediately if it changes.
  • Discontinued services or products should definitely be weeded out.

3. Why Bother? Triviality Offenders

Deciding what’s trivial and what’s not can be tricky; some users will be looking for detail and some won’t. Consider your audience (are they technical or not?) and remember that people do scroll down the page IF they are interested in your content. As a general rule, be as brief and engaging as possible while meeting your users’ needs.

Here are some of the first things to look for when looking for trivial content to remove:

  • Welcome to our website messages.
  • Splash pages where all the user does is choose a language. If there are only 2 – 5 languages, a set of links at the top of the page will work.
  • Unsupported claims like “we’re the best” or “we care about our customers”. If you can’t back up these statements with exactly how you care for your customers, then don’t use statements like this.
  • Information about company history that is not on a page called “History”. Definitely tell people you’ve been in business since 1943, because it will show them you’ve got longevity and will help build trust. But save the full story for a dedicated page.
  • Glossaries should only contain specific or technical definitions, not terms that everyone will know already.

4. Please, No!

Even when your goal is to create a friendly tone, there are some things you should definitely avoid if you’re writing for a company site:.

  • Trendy buzzwords – they’ll be fun for five minutes, and painful forever after.
  • Reference-based humour – what if your reader doesn’t watch that TV show? Even if they know the show, movie, or song, it can really date your content unless handled properly.

There are going to be exceptions, the most obvious one being blogs, but it will still pay to consider your audience before using these.

What are some of your favourite examples of Redundant, Outdated or Trivial content?

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