At the end of the March “Writing Right for the Web” conference with Academic Impressions we asked the people attending to select from a list of 25 web content management principles the 5 each person thought was most important.
- This was also the top principle in our international survey. To see one university home page unlike anything you’ve seen before that is based on top task research, visit the University of Ottawa.
- For student recruitment, top tasks will vary throughout the recruitment cycle from first visit to orientation. One of the best examples of how to present top tasks quickly and clearly is at the admissions page for East Stroudsburg University.
- Accepting the top task principle is daunting for some. It means a reduction or elimination of welcome messages from presidents and deans as well as “marketing speak” claims to a “dedication to academic excellence” or a commitment to be “a university on the move.” Content like that too often just gets between visitors and top task completion.
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short, as if you were writing a news article for a newspaper. If you feel the need to use a semi-colon you just might be writing a sentence that’s going to be too long.
- People need to be able to scan your content in 5 seconds or less when a page opens for the main points. Long blocks of dense text prevent this. Strive to keep paragraphs less than 5 lines long.
“Make sure everything has an owner who takes responsibility for ongoing review and improvement.”
- This is a special challenge in organizations with content creators acting independently in departments across the enterprise. Too often people who have this responsibility do not have on-going access to a web editor for advice and assistance. And too often people who lead departments don’t give those assigned web content responsibility the time to actually do the work.
- At a minimum, make sure content creators in a decentralized system have a monthly opportunity to meet to present challenges and review solutions found by others.
- “Evidence and facts” can be elusive and are often challenged when “facts” clash with personal “opinion” on what content should be highlighted on a web page.
- You need research on “top tasks.” You can hire someone in the Customer Carewords partnership to do it for you. We’ll be happy to do that. But you can also learn much on your own. Start by reviewing the “How To” guide from the Government Services Agency in the U.S.
- Analytics can help. Do presidents and deans know how many people visit their welcome messages? And how many visitors actually stay long enough to read them?
- Review is fine, removal is even better. Content creators and editors should have responsibility for removing as well as adding content. “Websites always eat, they never poop” says my partner Gerry McGovern.
- Consider this argument with your president: Google will penalize in search rankings websites that have large amounts of content that is seldom if ever visited. Find that content on your website. If you can’t kill it, Google recommends moving it to a new domain for which search standing is irrelevant.
June 25-27, Orange County, CA: “Building a Strategy Recruitment Communication Plan,” sponsored by Academic Impressions. Review the agenda and register.