Dealing With Redundant, Out-Of-Date and Trivial (ROT) Content

Publishing content to the web is expensive. I know what you’re thinking: no, it’s not; it costs nothing, especially when compared to print. And you would be right, from a certain point of view. The problem is that publishing is cheap. This seduces you, encouraging you to put more and more content online.

Dealing With Redundant Out-Of-Date and Trivial (ROT) Content

In fact, the cost is so cheap that many organizations let almost any employee put content online. They install a content management system and give staff free rein. Even those who enforce standards for consistency and accuracy still produce a lot of content. After all, somebody might find that piece of content useful.

But you will soon discover hidden costs. Costs that are crippling larger organizations.

The Hidden Cost Of Content

Although there is a cost to producing this content in the first place, there is a far higher cost in maintaining that content over time. It costs huge amounts of money and time to review content on a regular basis and ensure it is still accurate and relevant. This is especially true when some organizations have millions of pages online. In the end, many companies just give up. We often forget content once we hit “Publish”, unless it is a particularly prominent piece.

The hidden cost is not just limited to maintenance. It also impacts the usability of sites. With so much content online it can be hard for users to find content that is useful. For example, at one point had over 10 million pages online, over 3 million of which a user had never visited. This clutter only succeeded in damaging findability and lowering customer satisfaction.

Large sites like have millions of pages, many of which are ROT.

Large sites like have millions of pages, many of which are ROT.

But there is a final hidden cost: a cost to an organization’s ability to evolve its site over time. Take, for example, a company that wants to make its site responsive. In theory we can do this with some updates to the CSS or, at most, the templates in the content management system. But when you have millions of pages produced over an extended period of time this is often not the case. Content producers will have marked up content in a variety of different ways making design changes hard.

Many digital teams give up on the idea. Instead, they redesign the core site and leave legacy content alone. This leads to a fragmented experience as users struggle to adapt to the changing user interface across the site.

How can this enormous challenge be overcome? It begins by addressing the ROT on your site.

What Is ROT?

ROT stands for redundant, out-of-date and trivial. Much of the content on our sites falls into one of these three categories. ROT is a huge problem on many larger websites.

The European Commission recently undertook a content audit. It removed a staggering 80% of its online content because it was ROT. This created a better user experience while reducing costs. It also allowed them to evolve their digital offering.

The European Commission removed a staggering 80% of its content.

The European Commission removed a staggering 80% of its content.

Much of the content that organizations put online is trivial. It caters to edge cases that most users do not care about. Yet it takes time and effort to maintain and makes finding important content harder.

But even important content can become ROT. As an organization evolves so should its online content. Yet it often doesn’t and that content becomes redundant.

Finally, a lot of the content we put online has a limited shelf life. Events that have come and gone, or news stories from years ago that clutter up search results.

Sooner or later this ROT will need addressing. But how do you do that?

Read the full article at Smashing Magazine.

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