The more you delete, the more you simplify. The more you simplify, the more you increase the chances of your customers succeeding on your website.I recently worked with an organization that had managed to delete a substantial quantity of content from its website. It was not an easy process. In fact, it took years of effort to build up an internal consensus that actually deleting content was a good idea. "You can't delete that," people would say, "because you never know when someone might need it." Even content that had become out-of-date and was now actually misleading was defended. "I don't have time to review or delete," was another excuse. Working with another organization I found a page that was old and contained content that was now clearly wrong and misleading. "You can't delete that," the web manager said to me tersely. "Why not?" I replied. "It will hurt our search engine optimization." It will what? This web manager--to call him a manager, I know, is stretching the meaning of the word--had become a search engine optimization fanatic. (There are quite a few out there.) Blindly, he believed that the more pages he had, and the more content he had on each of these pages, the more likely he was to get found in search engines. (As if getting found was the Holy Grail of web management.) Bringing customers to a page with wrong content is like bringing customers into a car salesroom to show them your cars that won't start and have scratches all over the paintwork. Back to the website that deleted lots of its content. It was hard going. It took leadership. Compromises had to be made. Some content was not deleted but was changed so that it would not be found when customers used the search engine. The results were more dramatic than anyone could have imagined. Customer satisfaction with the website had remained stubbornly low for several years despite many other initiatives. Well, when they deleted the content, customer satisfaction shot up. Why? Most customers come to your website to complete top tasks. The more irrelevant and out of date pages of content you have, the greater the chances they will arrive on these pages. There is simply nothing worse than presenting a customer with useless content. It infuriates them, wastes their time and drives them away from your website like a plague. Every time I hear the word "redesign" I shiver a little. The website has grown more and more useless because of badly managed and out-of-date content. Management should have mandated the boring, politically difficult and thankless work of regularly removing poor quality content. Instead, many web managers-particularly the newly appointed ones-want to do a redesign. This is much more fun. It involves hiring latte-drinking, cool-haircut web designers, who will eulogize the brand and dress up the first couple of levels of the website in shiny new graphics. But the rot of out-of-date, badly organized content remains. The organization feels good because it has 'done something'. But what has it done? It has engaged in the classic, ever-popular pastime of putting lipstick on a pig.

About the Author

Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.