You've probably heard of Marie Kondo. Since her publication 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up', the Japanese tidying expert has made it her mission to bring joy through the art of organization.
For many people, her Netflix series that followed the book launch, has a lot to teach about decluttering and creating an easy to navigate home with everything in its place.
It's exactly what content specialists set out to achieve for university websites. And, it turns out that many of the KonMari philosophies can be usefully applied to your website, either on an ongoing basis or at the outset of a major content initiative.
In this article, we take a moment to reflect on and review Marie Kondo's six basic rules of tidying, and consider how you can usefully apply these popular philosophies to help optimize your institution's website content.
#1 Commit to tidying up
The task of tidying up your website content might seem daunting, and a gargantuan task getting rid of the content that isn't needed. Marie Kondo instead challenges us to change this mindset. She says that rather than thinking about what you don't want, instead focus on what you do want.
Every institution website uses content to fulfil a range of tangible strategic objectives. The more clarity you can direct to identify what those objectives are for your website, the better the outcomes will be for your content optimization activity.
Key take-away: Don't start decluttering until you've defined your website's strategic objectives and the purpose of your content redevelopment project.
#2 Finish discarding first
Before you embark on creating new optimized content, the first step should be to consolidate and discard any unnecessary content.
When the University of Winchester underwent a re-design project they seized the opportunity to overhaul their content starting first by categorizing the old content to aid decision making based on purpose, quality and traffic levels.
Key take-away: Some of Marie Kondo's best tips for organizing objects are just as true for organizing websites. Remove unnecessary pages, condense your page content and categorize content to dramatically reduce the size of your institution website. A detailed content audit is the right starting point here.
#3 Tidy by category, not by location
This is a staple of the KonMari methodology. Instead of organizing room by room, Marie Kondo says you should organize the entirety of each category one at a time.
Once you're ready to declutter your site content, it can be tempting to jump in headfirst, starting with your homepage and high level landing pages and then diving deeper into your other pages. This is an entirely valid approach, but projects using this method sometimes treat each page as its own island, cleaning up one and then moving along to the next without a cohesive overarching viewpoint.
The KonMarie philosophy provides an entirely different technique to assess the quality of content, thinking in terms of categories (or in this case, types of content) so that you see the wood without getting lost amongst the trees.
Key take-away: In addition to taking a top-down content overhaul approach, consider reviewing the different content types used on your site and analyse the variation in how they are used to determine which content should be retained, which content should be optimized and which content should go. You can make your content work harmoniously through this approach and the best content examples for each component could even be compiled into a content guide to support authors.
#4 Follow the right order
The KonMari approach says that it's not only crucial to tidy by category, but also to follow the correct order. In the case of the household it's clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items followed by sentimental items.
In the case of your institution website it could be landing pages, course pages, high traffic pages, and strategically important content.
Key take-away: Having a structured approach to your content re-development project is crucial to ensure your teams are focusing on the right content.
#5 Imagine your ideal experience
What is the ideal website experience for different audiences? Here you should consider how they use the website, their needs and expectations, the navigation and site structure, how user journeys play out across the site and what their experience through the content is like.
Key take-away: Map out user-journeys with examples of content to analyse in detail how your new content will combine and if it provides a coherent experience. User behaviour tracking software can bring further depth to your analysis with real user data.
#6 Ask yourself if it sparks joy
This is the question Marie Kondo's rulebook urges you to ask yourself with every object in your home.
Naturally, there will be lots of content that simply needs to transfer information that doesn't necessarily spark joy. However, your website visitors will subconsciously register the care and attention that goes into creating high quality copy that talks to them effectively, and is well structured and easy to understand, even for these less exciting pages of content.
Many of our clients have been working hard this cycle to re-develop the content for their course pages, for instance, moving away from content that is either simply factual and potentially dull or too marketing and salesy. Instead, they're developing a more intelligent model that communicates the unique differentiators, personality and values of their institution in clear and compelling language.
Key take-away: Eliminate visual clutter and find ways to connect, engage and spark joy with your audiences. Think about different ways you can add joy to each page of your site using content, even down to basic pages like broken link (404) pages.
Declutter your digital offering and spark joy with your audiences
Marie Kondo has revolutionized the way we think about decluttering and clearing up our homes. Our physical lives and emotional states benefit greatly by applying her approach to tidying up as a result.
Similarly, the approach to tidying up your website involves having an organizational plan, being mindful, and getting rid of anything that doesn't tangibly bring joy.
Your website should be confident and something you're proud is out there. A place that's refreshing to visit, and not a destination that adds stress to your audiences' busy lives.
Your university is a place that sparks joy. Every corner of your website can spark joy too.