Feb 21, 2017

Website Content: How Much Should You Migrate?

So, you’re thinking about a new district website. Your design is dated, the site is not not mobile friendly, and it’s hard for everyone to find what they need. It’s definitely time for a change.

But what about all of your content? Over the years, you and your team have invested countless hours in creating and curating content for your community. Shouldn’t all that great content come along? Maybe some…but probably not all.

Content creation takes a lot of time. No wonder many schools and districts would like to simply port over all of their existing content to the new website, and worry about making substantial changes later on. However, unless your website is unusually current and organized, it’s probably a mistake.

It’s better to think of migrating to a new website in much the same way as preparing to move to a new home. When making a physical move, you don’t just throw everything in boxes willy-nilly. Rather, you spend some time deciding what stays, what goes, and how your existing possessions will fit into your new space. A similar vetting process can help you make effective content migration decisions for your website and avoid replicating old problems in your beautiful new online home.

How Content Bloat Happens

If your website is more than a couple of years old, you probably suffer from some degree of “content bloat.” And the older your site is, the bigger the problem. Without a ruthless and systematic method for weeding out old content, school and district websites tend to accumulate a lot of content that is outdated, inaccurate, or simply no longer relevant.

In most districts, website content creation is a collaborative and cumulative process. Some content is added by webmasters, some by department heads, and some by administration. Parents, teachers, and students also have a say in what they want to see on the website.

Over time, all of this content adds up. Everything from the principal’s message, staff directories, calendar events, announcements, photo galleries, and the like was added to the site for a specific purpose. Often, this content hangs around long after that purpose has ended and participants have moved on. Little Bobby, who has since graduated, loves visiting the site and checking out the picture of himself from the 8th-grade dance—but should that photo gallery still be there? Didn’t Mr. Coster retire last year – why is he still listed in the staff directory? Is it really that important to keep all calendar events dating back to 2007?

Moving to a new website is the perfect chance to start with a clean slate.

Keep, Toss, or Revise?

Before you start thinking about content migration, look at your entire website with fresh eyes. How is your website navigation changing? What really needs to be on your homepage? How will your new pages be structured? Only when these questions are answered can you start thinking about how to migrate content to your new site.

With these things in mind, you can now start slotting your content into three buckets:

  • Keep: This content will be migrated over “as is.” (Ask your new website provider if they can help with this process—eChalk can!) Content in this bucket may include basic enrollment information, legal notices or school board minutes you are required to keep, and other static resources.
  • Revise: This is content that you want to keep, but could use some freshening up. This is a good time to take another look at the superintendent’s or principal’s message, your “about us” information, your mission statement, and other similar content. As you update your design, you should also take the opportunity to update your message!
  • Toss: Old photo galleries? Long-past calendar events? Blogs or news feed posts? Be ruthless here. If content has outlived its usefulness, no matter how engaging or compelling it may be, let it go. You’ll have plenty of new photo galleries to add!

District personnel should be very involved in deciding what to migrate to the new site. Here are a few tips for getting started:

  1. Form a small committee of stakeholders and evaluate your current website together. Get a consensus from the group. What is important to each stakeholder? Should that important piece of content be updated before it is migrated? What can you do away with for now?
  2. Keep what matters – figure out what is an absolute must keep. Typically this is going to be the most common information that your website visitors are seeking when they search your site. Directories, upcoming events, links to 3rd party applications, important documents, and so on. Reducing the amount of content on your site and the number of pages just may make it easier for your constituents to find what it is that they are looking for.

Time spent up front on this process will save you a great deal of frustration later on. In the end, you’ll be rewarded with a new site that is fresh, up-to-date, and much more usable for everyone in your community.