Mobile websites, management, and Long Tail content

Reducing Content for Mobile: A challenge in decision-making

Reducing web content is a problem that needs to be on the table today, not tomorrow. 
At least 50 percent of the content on higher education websites (and indeed, most websites for any large organization) is of little importance to most of the people using that site. Since the mid-1990s, constant content creation has been the usual practice. Content deletion is rare.
At the Customer Carewords partnership, we refer to that excess content as the “Long Tail.” A Gerry McGovern quote fits here: “Much of the long tail is a dead zone… full of dead and useless content.”
What problems does it create?
  • Search results are often cluttered by dead and useless content.
  • Navigation is more difficult over a landscape littered with dead and useless content.
Nobody is going to create a truly friendly mobile web environment if they try to convert all their present website content to a “mobile friendly” status.
Mobile Demands Content Reduction: Start with the Home Page
In the new mobile world, less content littering your website means a more successful experience.
How many links do you have on your home page today? Now imagine that on a mobile home page you have to reduce that number to 6 to 10 links. How will you make a decision about what links deserve space on a mobile home page?
Build Content Strategy to Support a Few Top Tasks
Mobile will increase the importance of a “top tasks” approach to web design and content strategy. Your most important content is what’s needed for visitors to complete their 3 to 5 top tasks. Navigation has to facilitate that task completion. Most websites today hide top tasks within a plethora of other less important options.
How to solve the mobile home page challenge? Limit the links to those that are top tasks for an important audience. 
  • For future students that will always include a link to a list of “Academic Programs.”
  • For current students, it is links to a current calendar of events and to course registration software. 
  • For alumni, top tasks include requesting a transcript and reading class notes.
Right away we can see how home pages on traditional websites grew so many links. Even if limited to top tasks, adding links for each audience on one page guarantees many links. Add the others demanded by the internal political process and the “plethora” results.
University of British Columbia: Mobile App Opens with 2 Links
University of British Columbia begins to get things right by creating a mobile app with just 2 links on the first page: one for “Future Students” and another for the “UBC Community.” Follow either of those to tasks links that are relevant to visitors in each group. To see the first two pages (and download the app if you have an iPhone) start at the UBC website.
UBC has as a survey underway now to help in the development of a mobile website. Let’s see if similar simplicity continues after the results are in. The survey is open until August 26.
Top Tasks and Top Management: Chopping the Long Tail
Anyone can find out what content on a website creates the useless Long Tail. Analytics will tell the tale. Chopping off as much of that tail as possible to move to a mobile-friendly website will require the intervention of top management.
Sign of leadership: presidents and deans who volunteer to chop their “welcome” messages.
I’m optimistic top management will meet the challenge. A successful online experience is critical to student recruitment. Cleaning a website of “dead and useless” content and elevating top task design priority will mean a more successful experience on both traditional and mobile sites. 
Presentations on Mobile Marketing
That’s all for now.

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