Last summer, a few months before the birth of my second son, I realized that I had to do something about my house. The house felt overrun with kids’ toys, there was mail everywhere, and I couldn’t find things. At the suggestion of several mom friends, I hired a professional organizer. C. Lee Cawley of SimplifyYou came to my house, spent 3 hours with me on two occasions and changed my life. I learned that organizing your house is a lot like organizing your website. Here’s how:
Sometimes, you need a professional to do the work or help you out. Of course I could have tackled the job of organizing my house myself, but I had been trying to get my house in shape on my own without much success. C. Lee didn’t just get the project jump started, she gave me a framework to work with. Organizing a website is no different. You can do the work yourself, but a good website Information Architect (IA) will help you understand user flows, and get you fired up when the task or re-organizing your website has stalled.
A good organizer gets to you know YOU. Before making recommendations, C. Lee walked the entire house with me, asked a ton of questions, and got to know me, my family, the rhythm of our life, and our priorities. For example, C. Lee came to respect and understand that my photos, my son’s artwork, and art from our travels are some of the most important things in my house. So she made recommendations for storing and showcasing them, rather than trying to convince me that I don’t need to keep CJ’s masterpieces from preschool. A good IA figures out what makes each client unique, who their audiences are, their most valuable services, and their goals for a redesign. He or she will geek out on your site’s usage reports, interview staff and outside stakeholders, create a content inventory, get a handle on all content, and strive to understand how visitors should navigate your site, for maximum impact, traffic and conversions.
Who is going to use this? C. Lee and I came up with a plan for organizing the house that worked for me, my husband and my son. For example, we created an area in the coat closet for my son that has low hooks so he can put away his backpack and coat himself. On your website, be sure to take into account your target audiences, their demographics and psychographics, what they are looking for, what they call things, and the transactions they want to make. For example, avoid insider terminology if you have a general audience and add a prominent way to resize text if you are targeting a senior audience.
A good organizer has a repertoire of tools. When it came time to find a home for all the “stuff” in my life, C. Lee gave me a multitude of options so I could select solutions that fit my budget and design aesthetic. She suggested different ways to store all of my shoes (Hey, I’m Filipino, after all!) and CJ’s trains and Legos. A good IA will explore different ways to organize your content (by topic, function or audience, for example), and present options for navigation and featured content.
Everything needs a home. C. Lee says that clutter happens when you don’t have a permanent home for everything. So mail piles up on your dining room table, kids’ games get stacked in a corner, and small electronics end up everywhere. But if everything has a home and you make a commitment to putting it back after use, clutter is less likely to happen. So too with a website. We can take the latest news item, recent publications, and the membership application form and feature them on the home page , the footer or the right rail, but we need to know where they live permanently so they can be found from anywhere in the site, not just specific pages.
Do you really need all that stuff? When I finally went through the mounds of toys in my living room, I found toys that my son never played with or hated, broken items, and games he had outgrown. Good grief! Why was I holding on to this stuff? The short answer is I hadn’t taken the time to review, weed, edit. When you create a content inventory of your entire site, you might be surprised at what you find. Ask yourself which content is old and dusty and needs to be archived, which content should be updated, and which content is compelling and necessary. And you should schedule a time (I recommend twice a year) to go through content on the site and determine what stays and what goes.
How about you? What have you organized lately and did anyone help you along the way?