The old adage ‘content is king’ originated from an essay written by Bill Gates in 1996 and is specific to the content found on websites and company intranet pages.
Users rely on visual clues to confirm that they’re in the right place and viewing content that’s relevant to them.
If your intranet (or public website) has out of date logos, old photos or documents that reference a date from 4 years ago, users spot the old stuff and immediately assume that everything else on the site is also old, useless and out of date.
That sounds a bit harsh eh? Not everything that’s old is useless or no longer relevant, but where systems usage is concerned, perception is key.
Old content can be confusing and off-putting
Take the example of my client who utilised their SharePoint really well.
All staff used their intranet to access templates and forms and the Sales team stored their proposals in a Sales Team doc library – generally they had great uptake and staff were engaged. However, an old YouTube video had been embedded front and centre on the Home page.
Unfortunately, the video’s title was also the date it was created, so when users landed on the intranet’s Home page, the first thing they saw was a piece of media content that displayed “April 2012”.
An engagement survey later revealed that even though many aspects of the intranet were well used and useful to them, most staff admitted that they had little to no trust of the content specific to the Home page – all due to the unfortunate naming of the YouTube vid.
The video itself (a humorous reminder about the importance of safety in the workplace) was still relevant, despite being a few years old. But the fact that a date, that by the very nature of dates and time passing, was ageing by the day and so prominently displayed on the Home page, was giving the perception that all content on that page was from 2012 and therefore must be outdated.
Users expect new content
Another example a client shared with me demonstrates how users have an expectation of fresh content.
The intranet administrator had displayed a Dilbert comic on the Home page of their intranet. He’d change the comic strip weekly, so every Monday the users expected to see a new Dilbert strip.
User’s expectation and anticipation of a new week/new Dilbert was so high, that if the administrator ever forgot to update the strip, users would start logging help desk calls reporting that “the intranet is down”.
My client complained that he had created a rod for his back, and that the users were too reliant on seeing a new Dilbert every Monday. I disagreed and told him I thought he had created a wonderful ‘problem’.
In this case, he had created a reason for the users to use the intranet. He felt it was “just to see a stupid comic strip”, but I maintained that he provided a meaningful reason for staff to visit the site, and that Dilbert was acting as a low-tech visual clue that everything was ticking along as it should be; the intranet was up and running, and as long as the new Dilbert cartoon strip displayed every Monday, everything was working well.
Staff enjoyed reading the weekly cartoon and felt reassured that a new comic strip each week meant that all the other content was also reliable and current. Staff were drawn to the intranet and could reasonably expect all other content to be ready to access and action/read. One user gave feedback that Dilbert started his week, after reading the new comic on the intranet – he’d then get stuck into work.
So, what are the lessons you can takeaway?
- If content is king, fresh content is the bee’s knees. It speaks to users, assists in perceptions of the quality of other information and builds trust that folk have landed in the right place. The audience can be assured that what they’re looking at is real, relevant and current.
- Sell your older policies and docs to users – reassure them that just because it’s a few years old, it’s still relevant. You can ‘sell’ by creating an informative wiki page and link to it in the newsfeed. Set up a ‘policy of the month’ and communicate to users that old policies are still current.
- Create (and manage) the expectations of your users – the Dilbert comic strip story I relayed above is a great example of this. Think about what you can add to your Home page that can be changed on a regular basis to help bring users to the site, engage them, give them a laugh and set them up to work.
- Be aware of titles or content that shows its age. If your content displays a date, ensure users don’t make negative assumptions based on that. Reassure them that the content is still fresh or make edits to the title and modified date to bring the content up to date.
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