Keeping your content tidy using minimalist approaches
How many of you are told to write daily copy, increase blog posts, and share more on social media? More content is often seen to equal success.
“We must be doing well, we’ve published six blogs, tweeted 60 times and published 25 news articles this week”
Stop. How long did it take to write those, a day, two days, more? What was the goal associated with publishing that content?
We know from experience that university websites are vast. Having the “publish more” mentality only makes the issue worse. If you keep publishing without removing anything you are in danger of having out of date and incorrect content that brings legal and financial risk to your institution.
And worse, it gives your site users a bad experience.
I read the books of The Minimalists (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus) a few years ago and applied their approaches to my life back then. With Marie Kondo causing a sock-rolling, joy-sparking revolution in 2019, minimalism is on my radar again.
Is it possible to use minimalist ideas and approaches to physical decluttering when managing your digital content and strategy? I’ve taken a look at some key approaches to find out.
Focus on quality over quantity
A core concept behind minimalism is that anything you own should be the highest quality you can afford. The idea is that you are not going to own 15 pairs of jeans, therefore invest in the ones that will last and that make you look great.
Apply this approach to the content you are producing. It’s better to plan and follow up five tweets in a week than churn out 20 generic posts. Choosing what and why you publish more carefully means you can effectively measure what you are doing and prove the worth. Who knows, next time you might get some budget to do something even better.
Stop doing the stuff that doesn’t serve you
What are the things you do just because you always have? We all have habits or routines that sometimes make you wonder where all the time goes. Removing these anchors to the day to day repetitive behaviour frees you up to be creative.
In terms of content strategy, you might always be called upon to sign off something in the workflow.This role was probably established years ago when the person responsible for content creation was very junior.The situation has now changed and you can fully trust the content designer you work with.Take yourself out of the process and free up your time to think strategically.
Have a packing party
Imagine you were about to move house. Get your friends round for a packing party – all your things need to be in boxes. Then imagine only unpacking the things you need, when you need them.
After a month, what might be unpacked: your kettle, a plate, some clothes, your laptop? These items are the possessions equivalent of a website top task.
Potential students want to know about courses, how to apply, what it costs to study and where they will live. So, if you are planning a large scale web redevelopment with a content management system migration included, this is the content you prioritise (unpack first). Long gone is the ‘lift and shift’ model where everything gets moved and unpacked with no review.
Of course, there will be seasonal items that you might not have unpacked straight away, for example a winter coat if you moved in summer. It is still an important item but like university events like graduation, clearing or an open day, it isn’t needed all the time.
This is where you get clever with your content and only serve this information when it’s needed. There’s no point cluttering up course pages with information about preparing for clearing in December, but once you hit June, your audience is starting to expect that content available to them.
Play the Minimalism Game
The Minimalists challenge their readers to a regular game. Choose a month to play and through that month you get rid of ‘stuff’ every day. You get rid of one item on the first, two on the second, three on the third, and so on until, yes, you guessed it, you get rid of 31 items on the last day of the month.
How could this approach apply to university content? Consider using this following a site audit that has identified content that is no longer needed. Often audits are left to stagnate and there are no follow up actions. Associating an audit with the Minimalism Game approach would create momentum and healthy competition to reach the targets.
On day one, remove a superfluous page from your website. On day two, remove two archive folders from somewhere. On day three replace three PDFs with more accessible content. Be creative with your Minimalism Game plan.
Approaching your content in this way makes it fun and no longer a huge undertaking. By the end of the month your site will be free of 496 bits of noise you would otherwise have left. Aligning it to an audit keeps it planned and part of your strategy, not just a random exercise.
I challenge you to try this and let us know how it goes. I played the Minimalism Game once. And by day 31, paper clips totally count.
So, the next time someone asks you to create more, write more, publish more. Take pause and be more minimalist.
I would love to explore how we could apply these approaches to your next project. Get in touch to find out how we could look at your content through a minimalist lens.