It’s the first day of spring: ‘tis the season to tidy up! Spring cleaning isn’t only for your shower tiles and dusty bookshelves — now is also a good time to spruce up your website.
Marie Kondo proposed in her best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up that we should keep only the things that “spark joy,” and discard everything else. Her promise:
“As we hone our sense of what brings us joy through the process of tidying, we come to know ourselves far better. This is the ultimate purpose of tidying up.”
The same can be said of decluttering your website: once you discard web content you and your audience don’t need, your most valuable content can truly shine.
What does website decluttering actually look like? Whether you want to make some quick fixes or tackle a deep clean, start with these handy tips.
Review key elements of your website and make sure they aren’t ROT: redundant, outdated, or trivial.
- Navigation: Do the items in your site’s primary navigation reflect the most important sections on your site? Are there items that you could add or remove? Are there labels that you could rename to be more clear?
- Home page: Are the items promoted on your home page current? Do they reflect the primary purposes of your website? Is there anything on the home page that you could delete or move to a lower-level page on the site?
- About page: Do you have an About page? Is it up to date?
- Contact page: Is the contact information correct?
- Forms: Are there any unnecessary questions you can delete
- Landing page: Does it include only the most important information? Does it have a clear call to action (such as subscribe to an email list)? Learn more about how to use landing pages and make them effective.
Review your website in-depth and make KonMari proud.
First, you’ll create a content inventory — take stock of what content you have on your website. Then, you’ll perform a content audit (a.k.a. evaluation or assessment) — figure out how well what you have is working.
1. Decide on scope.
Before you dive in, decide how many pages you want to look at. If you have a small site (around 100 pages or fewer), you can probably look through every page. If the site is larger, you’ll likely need to select of sample of pages. Just make sure your sample reflects the key content types on your site (such as a product page, event listing, staff bio, or news release).
2. Create a spreadsheet.
Your main tool for both the content inventory and content audit will be a spreadsheet of all the pages on your site and data about each page. You can create an Excel or Google Docs spreadsheet on your own and manually enter URLs, page titles, and other data, but you can save time using these online tools (most of which have free options):
- Google Analytics (content inventory tutorial)
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider (content inventory tutorial)
- Content Analysis Tool (CAT)
- URL Profiler
- SEMrush Site Audit
Bonus Download! Download our free spreadsheet template for performing your content inventory and audit.
3. Inventory the content.
Your content inventory spreadsheet should include as much of the following information as you can gather:
- Page ID (You can choose to simply do 1, 2, 3, etc. or have the numbering reflect the structure of the site, so a primary page may be 1.0, and its subpages may be 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc.)
- Page title
- Format (e.g. HTML, PDF, JPEG)
- H1 heading
- Metadata descriptions and keywords
- Word count
- Image alt text
- Publication date
- Analytics (page views, unique visitors, bounce rate)
4. Decide on content audit criteria.
For the content audit, you’ll look at each page and evaluate it based on certain criteria.
With the KonMari method, there’s only one criteria: “Does it spark joy?” That’s pretty subjective. But with your website, you’ll need to be more methodical. Well-defined criteria provide a clear focus and a shared language for the people working on your website, which means you’ll be able to get much better feedback to improve your content.
There are many types of criteria you could use to evaluate your content. These are several resources I’ve found helpful in my own work as a content strategist performing content audits:
- Information Architecture Heuristics Checklist, by Abby Covert, The Understanding Group
- Creating Valuable Content Checklist™, by Ahava Leibtag, Content Marketing Institute
- The Content Strategy Toolkit, by Meghan Casey
- How to Develop a Website Content Evaluation Plan, by GatherContent
- A Checklist for Content Work, by Erin Kissane, A List Apart
Use This Checklist
I combined these lists to make one big checklist of possible criteria for a content audit. Which criteria you choose will depend on your priorities, and how many criteria you look at will depend on how much time you have. (For your first time, you may want to choose three to five criteria, like whether it’s functional, clear, and actionable.) Here’s the list of 17 criteria, and how to evaluate your website using each criteria:
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
Is it accurate and up to date?
|–Is it free of content that is redundant, outdated, or trivial?|
Is it functioning properly?
|–Are links working properly?
–Are images and videos displaying properly?
Can the user easily find it?
|–Does it have an H1 tag?
–Does it have metadata (title, descriptions, categories, and tags)?
–Does it have at least two links in the body copy?
–Does it have alt text for images?
Is it usable for everyone?
|–Can it be used via all expected channels and devices (e.g. mobile)?
–Does it meet the levels of accessibility compliance to be considerate of those users with disabilities? (Be aware that upwards of 20% or more of the worldʼs population has a disability.)
Is it easy to read?
|–Are sentences simple and short?
–Does it avoid jargon?
–Does it use active voice?
–Does it use an inverted pyramid writing style (the most important info comes first)?
–Does it use bulleted and numbered lists when possible?
–Does it use headers, bulleted and numbered lists, and small chunks of text?
–Does it use consistent style and terms? (Style can include grammar, punctuation, usage, and spelling. For example, do you write “healthcare” or “health care”? Do you format phone numbers as 555-555-555, 555.555.555, or (555) 555-555?)
|Clear & Understandable
Is it easy to understand?
|–Does it use plain language?
–Does it have a descriptive title and headings?
–Is the information organized in a logical way?
–Does the text match the reading level of the target demographic?
–Is the navigation determined by your user decision paths, rather than your organizational structure?
–Is the path to task completion obvious and free of distraction?
Can the user see where they are?
|–Does the navigation and messaging make it obvious to the user where they are on the site and where they can go next?|
Can the user effectively and efficiently complete the desired task?
|–Is it usable? Are users able to complete the tasks that they set out to without massive frustration or abandon?
–Does each chunk of content have a specific purpose? (For example, vague purpose: “increase donations”; specific purpose: “demonstrate the community impact and evoke emotions for this potential donor type”)
–Does it serve new users as well as loyal users in ways that satisfy their needs uniquely?
–Are there a few navigation options that lead where users may want to go next? Are they clearly labeled?
Can the user trust you?
|–Is your content updated in a timely manner?
–Is the design appropriate to the context of use and audience?
–Do you use restraint with promotional content?
–Is it easy to contact a real person?
–Is it easy to verify your credentials?
–Do you have help/support content where it is needed? (Especially important when asking for sensitive personal data.)
Does the user have freedom and control within interactions, particularly if something goes wrong?
|–Are tasks and information a user would reasonably want to accomplish available?
–How well are errors anticipated and eliminated?
–When errors do occur, how easily can a user recover?
–Are features offered to allow the user to tailor information or functionality to their context?
–Are exits and other important controls clearly marked?
Is it desirable to the target user?
|–Can a user easily describe the value?
–How is success being measured? Does it contribute to the bottom line?
–Does it improve customer satisfaction?
–Does it maintain conformity with expectations throughout the interaction across channels?
Can it be grasped quickly?
|–Does it ease the more complicated processes?
–Is it memorable? Is it easy to recount?
–Does it behave consistently enough to be predictable?
How are user expectations not just met but exceeded?
|–Does it differentiate you from your competitors?
–Does it provide something unexpected or extraordinary in a way that is meaningful to users?
Will the user want to take action?
|–Does it have a clear call to action (e.g. subscribe, start a free trial)?
–Does it invite the user to share?
–Does it provide links to related content or a next step?
–Does it have a way to comment or engage?
–How many users “convert” and follow through on a desired action?
Does it have a responsible steward?
|–Does it have an owner who is responsible for ensuring the content is accurate and up to date?
–What is their department, role, or name?
–Is the owner engaged? Do they have the time, training, and support to manage the content?
Is the content targeting the right audience?
|–Based on the topic, tone, and calls to action, who is the content targeting? Is that the right audience?
–Is the target audience consistent with the characteristics of your user personas?
Does the content portray the desired voice and tone?
|–Does it clearly embody the attributes of your defined voice?
–Is the tone appropriate to the context? (Learn more about determining the right tone for the context)
5. Audit the content.
On your spreadsheet, add a column for each criteria you chose. The cell values for each page can be a number rating (e.g. 1 to 5) or Yes, Somewhat, or No.
6. Determine your next steps.
Create a column for the recommended action for each page. Possible actions include:
- Keep as is
- Consolidate (with another page)
Create a column for notes to record specific improvements you’d like to make. For example, do you need to add a call to action? Add image alt text? Assign a clear content owner? Make a note of it here.
7. Make changes and enjoy your better-than-before website.
Once you’ve taken stock of what you have and assessed how well it’s working, you can fix the things that aren’t working. You may find quick fixes, or you may decide a site redesign is in order.
A word of encouragement: Content inventories and audits are not the most glamourous or exciting task, and it can be overwhelming to uncover lots of areas you need to improve. But you don’t need to make your site perfect overnight — the goal is to be thoughtful about what is on your site and why, and to continually improve. Soon enough, your website’s before-and-after photos will be just as impressive as any decluttering venture.