When the internet first appeared, many didn’t foresee the prominence it would have in our everyday lives and more importantly, how it would overtake all other channels as a source of information. So implied the article ‘over-hyped.com’ which appeared in the Guardian in the year 2000. Writer John O’Farrell explored the few uses of the internet, surmising that “the usefulness of the internet has been hyped out of all proportion.”
So it’s no surprise that corporate websites initially entailed some information thrown together for anyone who was interested. As the internet’s novelty value never wore off, over the last decade companies have had no choice but to expand their sites, adding more, adding microsites, adding new features, investing in makeovers, new skins… and the result of this gradual build-up is sometimes, well chaotic.
One almost thinks it would be easier to start from scratch then from a decade’s worth of ill-coordinated content accumulation. It is one thing to have a wealth of information out there, but having this content consistent and organized, having information together in one place in a navigable fashion is another. Many sites, due to lack of planning and haphazard growth have ended up with the first scenario.
Another issue which adds to this, is the fact that different departments may be responsible for their own sections of the site. So, while the site may be consistent in colour palette and other such aesthetic qualities, the style, tone, level of detail and so on may vary from section to section. On top of this, things like staff turnover add to this ambiguous responsibility for content. It certainly makes sense to ensure each department has designated publishers who are wise in the ways of the corporation’s communication style. It is also a good idea to have a chief editor responsible for tweaking and okaying any content before it goes live.
But these of course are preventative measures. If a website is already cluttered it can be hard to know where to begin in culling content. I’ve often thought that the only way to get rid of homely clutter is to move house (even trying to stage a pretend move), so that the question becomes what to keep rather than what to throw away.
Of course the website equivalent of this is creating a new shadow site, copying over the useful bits, and then switching over. The old junk is lost and you haven’t had all the deliberation of pressing delete.
Move house or spring-clean?