A great design and powerful CMS (like Drupal) make a huge difference to a website’s overall usability, but even the best features can be derailed by content that has grown without control or planning. Content bloat can be insidious and often occurs slowly and quietly over time—many users might not even realize that it’s at the root of their poor experience on a website, but it can often be one of the key factors that lead to a website redesign in the first place.
What is Content Bloat?
Content bloat stems from a high volume of content on a website, which can bog down users and make it difficult to navigate. It can occur on both a small and a large scale—individual pages can become too long and unwieldy when authors don’t edit critically, and whole websites can suffer from content bloat when pages are added without careful planning or existing pages are improperly managed.
Content bloat can result in menus and sitemaps that are crammed with pages and challenging to understand, pages that are impossible to digest, and a less accessible experience. On top of those user impacts, it can also make content management and editing difficult and time-consuming for authors and editors.
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Five Ways to Avoid Content Bloat
Luckily, there are ways to ensure that content bloat doesn’t undermine your website and your staff’s efforts. We’ve compiled some tips and best practices to help keep your content useful and usable long after your website launches.
1. Reconsider Your Process for Publishing Content
Content bloat is often a product of systems and processes that rely on various teams creating content in siloes, with limited oversight or communication. One of the first steps to avoiding content bloat, therefore, is introducing a publishing model that includes an individual or small team that can champion your site’s content strategy, and act as a hub for all content published on the site.
We often recommend a “hub and spoke” approach to publishing content, where individuals in different departments may still request and draft content, but one or more content managers oversees publication (view our news post on content governance models for more information). This will help to ensure that content is consistent, and is being added to the site in a way that is manageable over time.
2. Consider User Needs Before Drafting Content
One of the biggest culprits for content bloat is content that’s created without a user need in mind. This may require a shift in thinking for content requestors, authors, and managers, but it’s fundamental to avoiding a site that’s weighed down with content that users don’t require.
Whenever adding a new page to the sitemap, it’s important to consider whether or not it’s addressing a real, demonstrated need from users. As much as possible, avoid adding pages or content that doesn’t help users carry out a key task.
3. Consolidate Content When Possible
Before adding a new page, be sure to take a look around and make sure that there isn’t already similar information on the site. If the content is already there, consider making revisions, or if the content is related, it may make sense to add the new content to an existing page rather than a new one, to avoid bloating the menu.
Even if the information is essential to users, adding a short page with only a small amount of content to your sitemap can make it more difficult for users to find what they’re looking for, so it’s often better to add content to an existing, related page.
4. Create a Governance Strategy
As an organization, it’s essential to have a strategy not only for when to add content but also for when to unpublish or update it. Often, one of the underlying reasons for content bloat is that once a page is published on the site, it’s forgotten—there’s no plan in place for reviewing, refreshing, or retiring that content once it’s out-of-date.
Developing a governance strategy that defines when and how content is revisited and provides criteria for archiving old content, will help you avoid the risk of irrelevant pages detracting from users’ experience.
5. Use Content Types to Surface Information
Drupal’s content type functionality can also make it easier for users to access granular content, without bloating a sitemap or menu (view this article about understanding Drupal content types). By creating content type directories on your site, a single page can allow users to access dozens or hundreds of entries, without adding to the number of pages in the menu.
For example, using a Parks & Facilities directory (view Regional District of North Okanagan's park directory) allows a municipality to show a searchable, filterable list of all recreation amenities in their region, without adding a page for each one to the menu. Surfacing content in this way helps to keep sitemaps as streamlined as possible by avoiding multiple layers of nested pages and makes it easier for users to find what they’re looking for with fewer clicks.
Taking the time to create a strategy and plan to combat content bloat will greatly improve your users' experience on your website and your staff's efficiencies when it comes to creating, publishing, and managing digital content. Upanup has an internal team of content strategists to assist our clients in organizing, managing, and maintaining their website content in a way that will best serve their end users.
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We hope this article has provided you with valuable tips for improving your content. To learn more about digital content best practices view our other news posts: