Cleaning Up Your Online Clutter with Information Architecture
I’ve long been convinced that the old adage “a cluttered desk is a sign of genius” is fact in some cases.
Example: a few years ago, I was working with a prospect – a small fabric supply company with less than a half dozen employees and whose owner also wore pretty much every administrative hat, including overseeing his outfit’s online presence. His office nearly resembled an episode of “Hoarders,” with stacks upon stacks of paperwork on his desk and on his floor.
Watching this guy in action, though, was impressive, and that’s putting it mildly.
An employee came in struggling over a complex accounting issue and, without even looking at his calculator, the boss managed to make sense of the numbers, leaving his underling amazed. My jaw also pretty much dropped when going over the finer points and minute details when it came to his digital marketing needs. Either the guy had done his homework or he had a photographic memory.
In terms of running his company, the CEO was, if not a genius, damn near close to it. When it came to his company’s website, though, it was as disorganized and cluttered as his office. Although he might know where everything is, his clients and prospects surely do not.
Like many companies who created and maintain their website in-house or delegate that responsibility to less knowledgeable parties, the fabric company’s site’s intentions were noble. A lot of information about the company, their products and their operations was available, but finding pertinent information that would appeal to their potential clientele wasn’t easily accessible, while incidental details were given optimum space, both in terms of design and content.
In this case, the prospect’s site would benefit greatly from intelligent placement – and omission – of meta tags, which provide context to search engines about what type of information a page contains.
Smart digital marketing prioritizes metadata into three categories: crucial data, optional data and irrelevant data, and like the hands-on CEO, Leverage delves into the inner workings of our prospects’ and clients’ operations to sort out what information is of utmost importance, what may be worth including but isn’t necessarily crucial on main or secondary pages, and what should be either filtered deep within the site or left out altogether.
Well-constructed information architecture is equally important. Like metadata, determining what categories are central in best relaying the company’s services and products and which are best relegated to tiers separate from the essential categories. The separation between crucial and optional categories impacts the content, design and navigation on the site and, as with metadata, Leverage looks at all aspects of your business to find the clearest and most lucrative information architecture for your website.
In the long run, the fabric supply company opted to continue self-running and maintaining their website. In writing this blog, I revisited the company’s website and found it as, if not more, disorganized and cluttered as it was when I met with the CEO a few years back. Meta data, like invoices, memos and forms, are strewn willy-nilly throughout the site, and essential categories are buried where optional ones are given prime digital real estate.
While he is no doubt brilliant when it comes to much of his operations, the managed mess of his office translates too well to his website, and it’s a job best left to the likes of Leverage.