GC Web Usability Resolution 4: If you’re the only one who is going to read it, don’t publish it.

(part 4 of 5)

In the early GC web days we were still very much about providing an electronic version of print publications (e.g. brochures, fact sheets, etc.). But what usability experts have learned in more recent years is that we don’t read the same way online as we do with paper. Instead, users generally like to scan quickly, looking for bold headings and keywords that stand out. Think about it this way: when was the last time you read a web page from top to bottom, left to right, in entirety?

Even though web writing skills have improved, we find that GC institutions are still prone to posting unnecessary content simply because they already have it. There’s a desire to showcase everything an institution is doing, regardless of user interest. These publications may be very well written and informative, and may have been worth posting at the time of publication, but how many of your users are really going to read that content now?

Generally we advise clients to remove guidance documentation and reports that are 2 years old or older. This is by no means an unbreakable rule, as some content published 10 years ago is still as relevant today as it was then and still accessed by many. Apart from the age of the content, we also promote re-writing old or outdated content, where some of the content is still worth publishing, in a web-friendly way. If the information is relevant to users, it should be re-written for the web. When given the choice between a 40 page publication and a 5 paragraph overview, which would you choose to read first?

It’s also important to stop looking at the web as a repository for content describing everything your institution says and does. GC websites should be about the user first and foremost. Yes, there are transparency requirements – but why not make the effort to be transparent and relevant? It’s good to promote the activities of a department, but efforts need to be made to create content that a user wants to read, and web teams should look at everything from the lens of the user rather than the content creator. In the end, this not only helps users, but also the web team as well.

So when you’re looking for ways to spruce up your website, or thinking of adding an old file-folders-worth of documentation to your website that you just stumbled upon, pause for a moment and consider the 2015 web user.

We all know the true GC new year starts April 1st, but regardless, we thought we would take this opportunity to take stock of the past year in usability across the NCR and bring you five GC web usability new year resolutions. This blog series tackles the following resolutions:

Usability Resolution 1: Work on governance before you work on anything else.
Usability Resolution 2: Think by topic, not who owns the topic.
Usability Resolution 3: Stop trying to pigeon-hole your IA into action-based tasks.
Usability Resolution 4: If you’re the only one who is going to read it, don’t publish it.
Usability Resolution 5: Test for failures, not successes.


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