What do you do when your online presence keeps expanding with websites, campaign sites and new online channels, but your resources (surprise!) stay the same? So far to most the futile answer has been to try to maintain and update the ever-growing mountain of sites and content. But that’s a battle you will eventually lose as many have found with bad and uncontrollable content; content that is forgotten, cases of no-one remembering why the site was launched initially, and no-one taking responsibility for the content.
The new and better answer that increasingly is appearing in many organisations here in 2012 is to take a more radical approach: To go from too many websites to simply 1.
Does it really make sense to have so many different websites?
In a not too distant past, each division, each campaign, and everything else with a budget, wanted their very own website, too often also on separate domains. This is what made sense from an internal point-of-view, just like it used to make sense to have many different brochures.
Now we live in a different time and with organisations facing the expensive consequences of having multiple content management systems and different agencies, the question whether this really makes sense is now not only a valid one to ask, but has also become a business critical one.
Across governments and the private sector around the world, numerous ambitious web projects are on the way, to bring down the number of websites. This will have substantial internal advantages as the number of CMS's and agencies goes down, but even more importantly, it also brings many benefits to the citizens and customers visiting the new consolidated website. In short: Users no longer need to figure out your organisational chart to navigate your website.
Raise the quality by reducing the number of pages
Another benefit of going to simply 1 website is that the overall amount of content tends goes down.
When you have too many websites, you probably also have redundant, outdated and trivial content. With some effort you can use these 3 tips to raise the content quality:
- get rid of content that should not have been there in the first place
- get rid of overlapping content - merge similar content to the same pages
- focus on adding a few lines where needed to existing pages - even though it might not fit perfectly. This is easier for the editors than creating new pages and keeps the number of pages down
One website fits all
Yes, simply having 1 website means that you need to still produce all kinds of information to many different audiences. You still have very different information about very different topics and also many different tasks that the users would expect to solve.
Yes, it requires careful planning and hard work to create a good user experience to avoid congestion and have a meaningful information architecture.
And yes, it certainly requires an easy-to-use and modern content management system that don't require that occasional editors need to attend week-long training before they can contribute to the website.
Going to one website, most likely also requires big changes in how you work and how you are organized. This tends to be the biggest challenge for most. Not information, not design and not technology.
Having said this, it can work. Some good examples are:
- rijksoverheid.nl - one website for all of Dutch government
- Siemens - one website for all the German multinational conglomerate company with 360,000 employees divided in 19 divisions
Learn more about going away from having too many websites
Last year my colleague Brian Bentzen wrote: Governments have too many websites.
Ann Priestly also wrote an interesting posting on whether everything on a website can be reduced to tasks. Read: Slash and burn: service delivery vs content