Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.

Prune the Content ROT

It took years to accumulate your current content. If you plan to migrate all your pages, you may find the process quite labor intensive. And don't forget to consider that maintaining a lot of content over time can become a continuous heavy burden—and a liability. ROT—or content that is redundant, outdated, and trivial—can not only increase your workload, it can also negatively affect the UVM website’s user experience and the institution’s reputation.

ROT is bad for website visitors. ROT confuses people. It spawns distrust in UVM, complaints, site abandonment, and potentially legal issues.

ROT is bad for UVM. Most industry experts say unstructured content—and most UVM.EDU web content is unstructured—grows around 40% each year, a lot of this is due to ROT.

ROT means more website maintenance. It can bring about department-wide productivity loss, slow accessibility audits and future migrations, and increase complaints and privacy compliance issues.

With all this in mind, the Digital Team recommends that taking time to address your content ROT issues. Here are some things to look for and some strategies to reduce current content ROT. 

Redundant Content

Redundant content is arguably the biggest ROT issue on UVM.EDU. It results in more pages, cluttered pages, and often makes a typical visitor journey long and confusing. Common redundant content examples:

  • The same or similar content is repeated on multiple pages. This content can be burdensome to maintain and makes content more prone to broken links and future inaccuracies. Try to avoid copying the same (or similar) text, links, and groupings. 
  • The content can be found in other areas of the UVM.EDU website. If the content already exists in another location on UVM.EDU and that location is considered the "source of truth" for that content, you should not attempt to replicate that information in your pages. It is also highly unlikely that your visitors need that link to UVM admissions, "About UVM," or the academic calendar in your content, as this information is very easy to find through UVM.EDU's primary navigation, a UVM.EDU website search, or even Google. Strive to post only post content that you are wholly responsible for or content that is critical to the journey of the primary audience for that page.

Outdated Content

Information becomes outdated for several reasons. Outdated information is easy to overlook, as it is often forgotten or not time-sensitive nor a high priority and consequently does not get addressed. Outdated content can also outperform more recent but similar content in Google searches, which can become the source of frustration for you and web visitors. Common outdated content examples:

  • Information that is no longer correct or has been replaced by a newer version. Avoid retaining public-facing copies of old newsletters, meeting notes, conferences, policies, and other dated material. This material can be archived or saved to an internal space, if you might need to reference it in the future. This also applies to PDF and Microsoft documents. 
  • Time-sensitive information that becomes obsolete after its deadline passes. Content for past events or deadlines can create visitor confusion or frustration. If you must keep a public-facing archive of past events, pare it down to a bare minimal amount of information that still has high intrinsic value to your primary audience.
  • Contact information—phone number, email address, office locations, or social media handles—that have changed or no longer exists. Think hard before compiling long and exhaustive lists of students, staff or other individuals. Accumulating and maintaining this information is time consuming and it can be annoying or embarrassing to have people continually point inaccuracies out to you.
  • Lists of "helpful" links. Links to "outside" content, whether within or outside UVM.EDU, also requires maintenance. Ask yourself if the value of providing that list of links outweighs the ongoing maintenance cost of assuring that the links continue to function and the content at those links is not ROT itself.

Trivial Content

All of your information should be useful, and if it doesn’t really communicate anything, it’s probably trivial. The hardest type of ROT to deal with is trivial content, because you will face disagreement over what is trivial. Typically, trivial content can be found on listing pages and landing pages. These pages are notorious for presenting a barrier or extra step for users trying to access the content or resources they need. Before deciding to include a piece of content on any page, think hard if the content is truly meaningful, unique, and useful—especially with regards to your primary audience. Common trivial content examples:

  • Infrequently accessed content. Analytics measures how frequently content is accessed. If you have a page that has not been accessed frequently, it is likely a candidate for removal. Chances are the content offered on that page is not of high value or is available in a more accessible area of the website.
  • Content that is insignificant to your visitors or unrelated to your group’s purpose. This means it is important to ask whether a piece of content supports one of the top two or three objectives of your unit. Supporting some minor unit objective is not enough.
  • Content that doesn't say anything unique or meaningful. Your audience can easily recognize fluff, filler, or overly wordy content and it will likely negatively impact their trust in you. If you are having trouble avoiding this kind of content, you probably need to consider consolidating or restructuring your pages.

The Clean Slate Approach

If you have hundreds of pages, dealing with ROT can feel intimidating—or even impossible. Do not dismiss a clean slate approach out of hand, it may turn out to be the fastest and most efficient way to clean up the ROT and start off in Drupal 10 with a streamlined, efficient, and impactful web presence. A smaller, streamlined website is easier to navigate and is more appealing to your target audiences. 


Collect and Prepare Image Assets

The new designs come with some new image dimension and composition criteria. That means that the images you currently use for banners or in other locations on your pages may need to be replaced with newly cropped versions of the originals—or new images altogether. In the new designs, images are often cropped or masked depending on screen size (e.g. laptop, tablet, mobile), so it is important to take that into account when selected the images you'll use. Here are some important general guidelines for preparing images for the new designs.

  • Banner images
    • Full width banner images. These can be used on any basic page or home page in Drupal 10. On a wide screen, these images take on a panoramic sizing. The left and right side of the banner image on a mobile screen is "off screen" so this needs to be considered in your photo selection. The optimal pixel dimensions for this image are 1920x630 pixels. Group home pages only can also opt for a "deeper" banner image with optimal dimensions of 1920x950 pixels.
    • Other banner image options. All pages can also include an image (or set of three images) with a 1:1 aspect ratio (800 pixel square optimal size).
  • In-page images
    • Component/paragraph images. Many of the new design components include images. These also may be masked or cropped at various screen sizes. These images are usually displayed in a 1:1 or 16:9 aspect ratio. See: the new UVM.EDU page elements
    • Inline images. Images of any aspect ratio can be included inline in any Full HTML field. These aspect ratio of these inline images are usually not effected by screen size.
  • Logos, charts, and other images that include text. Because images in the new design can masked or cropped acorss various screen sizes, images incoporating text are highly discouraged. Words may get clipped resulting in some undesired consequences. Select complimentary photography over using logos or other text treaments "baked into" images. Consult with the Digital Team on best practices and strategies for incorporating mixed text/image content on your pages.
  • Image collages. Image collages, as were popular in the previous design, are discouraged in the new design. The cropping/masking effect across various resolutions is not compatible with most image collage formats. UVM Studios can provide further guidance for finding imagery compatible with the new designs.