How we went from 22, 000 web pages to 469

Local authority websites are notoriously huge websites with masses of content. When I started with Monmouthshire County Council in December, 2011, we had over 22,000 pages on the corporate website. This has huge implications for users- not only was the site slow and ‘clunky’ but finding any information was very difficult.

We had thousands of pages that were very poor quality. I remember we had 12 pages about home composting (who would bother reading that?!) and 6 versions of our council tax page (which is the right page?!). There was no clarity or consistency throughout the site so we took on the content.

Our first step was to look at our analytics and see what pages were popular, and which weren’t. We found that 500 pages had no hits in the past year so decided to simply delete them- no one even noticed!

After this we grouped the content to mirror our internal teams and took the content and analytics about their content to their team meetings. Most teams were shocked, most managers didn’t know what was on the website and it was clear there was a lot of work to be done.

I worked with every team individually and delivered half day workshops to rewrite their content based on the user needs. It was an important part of the work to ensure we only delivered information users wanted, not information we wanted to tell people about.

At the end of this piece of work, we moved from JADU content management system (CMS) to Typo 3 with about 1,200 pages. The work wasn’t finished, but at least we could now work with what we had.

Having a new website, with a new navigation structure and much less pages meant we could do a full content audit and had the resource to read individual pages. It was this point Helen Reynolds joined the team and introduced a new corporate tone of voice.

Within weeks, we decided on another change of CMS and brought in Joel Hughes and Russell Britton to help us with our bold moves.

Joel helped us to shape our content audit and Russell did an incredibly valuable piece of work researching our users’ needs and developing our audience personas.

Please see the image below the content audit we did:

content audit

We colour coded each page and gave it a category. The categories were:

  • Stay the same
    This meant we were happy with the content
  • Rewrite
    We needed to rewrite the content in line with the new tone of voice
  • Needs some content
    There was a gap in the content and needed something added
  • New page ready to go
    This was where we identified larger gaps in the content and wanted to write some information that users had asked us for
  • Delete
    This page has no value and needs to be deleted

When this was finished, we launched the new WordPress website with around 650 pages.

You can notice in the image that we ensured all pages were no more than four clicks from the homepage- giving the pages a status of grandmother, mother, daughter and child- this was really important when developing the new site structure and keeping content concise with a flat hierarchy.

We developed the new site structure based on customer journeys- the website no longer mirrored internal systems. An example of this is our GP referral scheme in leisure, blue badge scheme and town centre shop mobility pages moved with social services content because this is where they added more value to the customer- it was where our analytics showed users navigating to first.

We continue to look at our data and check user journeys regulally and are now down to 469 content pages, each with a specific purpose and audience. We no longer have pages on the website that don’t get read and will never post a page that doesn’t have a clear audience.

We won’t stop there! We are continuously checking the quality and tone of voice, the accessibility of our content, updating our search engine optimisation and have just launched our new, more condense Tone of Voice 2014.

We always welcome constructive feedback on the Monmouthshire website and if you think there is an area where can get better- please tweet us!

Our website will never be perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist, but we will continue to adapt and improve.

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