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How to clean up data

Please note that while the information below is largely generic, it has been written for users of MoST software and might not apply to other software platforms.

An easy trap to fall into is using your website as a storage unit for redundant content. Just like happens with our possessions, websites can too easily become dumping grounds for content that has lost its relevance or is no longer current. Unsurprisingly, in most situations no-one has the energy to sort and remove the dross so it just sits there gathering dust.

This results in slowed-down searches, wasted disc space on your server, a generally messy website appearance and overall frustration for website visitors and staff alike.

Often, the only time a website is cleaned up is when a new one is created, or there’s a significant change in the organisation. The secret to avoid being in this situation is to manage the website’s content from the outset.

Take the Marie Kondo approach!

If your website is groaning under a pile of redundant articles and documents that are outdated and no longer needed, here’s a step-by -step approach to reduce the number of files, so that the only ones remaining are relevant. This will increase the accuracy and speed of searches enormously.

Step One

Data needs to be properly organised and structured. Try seeing the site through the eyes of your visitors to the site

  • Revisit the existing sitemap and examine and review each section
    Are they still relevant, intuitive, logical? Are they overloaded with subjects?
  • Decide what each section should contain and strictly adhere to this
    Introduce structure by defining the sections into clear and logical categories. Don’t mix different subjects up, or combine subjects that don’t fit together.
  • Create a set of guidelines around what each section and category should contain
    Again, this needs to be logical, intuitive, structured, and easy to follow. As above, don’t mix different subjects up, or combine subjects that don’t fit together.
  • Document the guidelines, follow them and monitor the process regularly.
     Be prepared that it might need to be tweaked.
  • Test that they keep working.
     Get an external (neutral) third party to conduct searches and provide feedback. Act on their feedback if it’s going to improve user experience.

Step Two

Once this has been done, remove all content that is irrelevant, for example duplicates, superceded files and out-of-date information etc, so that the search engine can find only relevant data. The relevancy of the content needs to be determined in advance of starting this process and be revisited throughout it, as exceptions are bound to occur.

Your website provider should be able to provide you with a File Extract in Excel format. This contains a list of all files that are currently on your website. It needs to be checked for duplicates and material that is no longer relevant. Once this has been done, the file names should be checked and renamed in a consistent manner (that is, key word, descriptor, version if applicable, and date - if necessary).

Step Three

The next step is to reorganise the remaining relevant content into the sections or areas of the website as selected above. Show discipline regarding the placement of data, for example ‘Newsletters’ contains only newsletters and ‘Publications’ contains only publications.

Step Four

Files need to be properly named.

  1. Make the file name intuitive
  2. Refer to the comments in the Naming Files section below
  3. Use industry-standard terminology
  4. Be consistent! (that is, key word, descriptor, version if applicable, and date)

Note: If the thought of renaming existing files is too daunting, use the protocol above to name new files from here on. Existing file names could be named retrospectively, perhaps as a student or volunteer project at a later date.

Naming Files

Accurate and succinct File Names are critical.

Name the file accurately – don’t rely on ‘auto-naming’. When creating a document in Word, ensure the document is accurately named by the creator of the document. Don’t rely on ‘auto-naming’ which is based on the opening lines of text in the document.

For example, if you are creating a Word document which will become a PDF in a section containing, say, Member Testimonials that you want to add to your website, name the Word document ‘Member testimonial - John Smith’ or ‘Member testimonial – conference attendee’ when you create the new document.

When naming your file, always consider what will be the most useful file name to the website user, not just for your own use.

The same considerations should be made when naming PDFs.

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