Improve your content by pruning your jargon

By Will Scott

Having a garden sounds like a whole heap of fun. Hosting barbecues, sniffing roses, playing football. Lovely stuff. But what you — okay, I — didn’t really think about was just how much growing nature likes to do. So you really have to keep tabs on things — pruning, mowing, weeding, binding… You need to get busy with your secateurs.

It feels strange at the time — almost a bit wrong — to take out living stuff, but you soon realise the benefits. Everything looks neater, it promotes the growth of the things you want to grow, and you have a better sense of what’s going on in those beds.

I love an extended metaphor. I should have been a vicar.

Looking for useful patterns in our lives is part of a design process, and that includes what we’re talking about here: dealing with digital stuff that grows organically. You’ve built your site, your community is up and running, everything is tickety-boo — until you realise that a few years have passed and everything’s getting a bit unkempt.

It’s completely natural. Content checks can fall off the to-do list once you feel that the machine is running smoothly. But as time moves on, audience needs may change, or you may begin to hear reports of poor experiences — incorrectly labelled content, information rabbit holes — and you realise it’s time for a re-think.

So now you just have to work out which bits should get put on the compost.

This is where the content strategy process generally starts — with a full-on audit of your content. There are some wonderful aids to understanding what’s involved in a content audit, such as:

We’re building Trim to make the content auditing process simpler. 
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But that’s not why I’m writing this — because once you get into it, it’ll become pretty clear why you’re undertaking the audit; you’ll be into the detail of the process. I want to just consider the reasons why it can take some persuasion that the thorough auditing of redundant or trivial content is an intrinsic part of maintaining a web project.

I wonder whether the very idea of wrangling words and pictures into ‘strategy’ and ‘audit’ straitjackets can be daunting, or off-putting, or even a bit dull. Hence the metaphor — I think we need to look at behaviour elsewhere in life to help us get to grips with the reasons why staying on top of the content on your site is important. So think of yourself as a content gardener. Gardeners never look at a garden and think, ‘Eurgh, too many weeds everywhere. Can’t be bothered.’ They’ll focus on one bed, then move onto another. Maybe the week after, they’ll pull some dandelions from the lawn.

It’s an accepted process. As much as they might love their plantus magnificus or what have you, they’ll still corral it into a specific area, and not let it overwhelm other flowers equally deserving of sunshine and fertiliser.

That’s your job right there, person in charge of allocating resource for content:

  • Accept that the pruning/weeding tasks is as intrinsic to the process as actually creating content
  • Take it one area at a time — don’t overwhelm your people, or yourself, by viewing it as one enormous task
  • Make it ongoing

And don’t use a watering can near your laptop.

To be the first to find out when Trim’s ready to make your content audit simpler, and to help you keep on top of the pruning process, sign up here.

This blog was originally published on the Trim website.