Jan 15, 2006

Visible web - red-tagging

When we began one of our web cleanup projects, there was an obvious 5S exercise to perform – sort out the useless stuff. Even if it was pretty clear to me what needed to go, the content owners had to make the decisions.

Poking around our office’s supply cabinets, I found several packs of red stickers – dots about half an inch in diameter. With the web site represented in paper, the team members could sticker any page that we didn’t need before we began any redesign. These are the rules I gave them:

1. In your judgment, does this page serve a SIGNIFICANT purpose? If not, red-tag it.
2. More than one person can add a red tag to a page.
3. In addition to content owners and Call Center representatives, “Outsiders” can red-tag pages. Content owners should invite some “fresh eyes” to participate.
4. One red tag per page per person, please.
5. Content owner reviews red-tagged pages.
6. If content owner can offer a CONVINCING justification (use sticky note), red tag is suspended.
7. If Call Center representative can offer a CONVINCING justification (use sticky note), red tag is suspended.
8. Red-tagged pages will be taken off the display and put aside. If a page is BLATANTLY USELESS, a removal request can go to IT now.
9. Before any red-tagged pages go to IT, up- and down-links must be researched and resolved. (Karen can do this for you.)
10. Pages must be archived by us. IT won’t do that. [Archiving later became unexpectedly difficult.]

The clean-up processes evolved from one project to the next. With the first team that attacked their website area, I unpinned their red-tagged pages and threw them in the corner of the cubicle we were using. Drama. With the team whose pages were posted in the aisle, I found a cardboard box and labeled it “rejects.” As a pack rat myself, I gave the team the security of knowing that the rejects would not actually be deleted before the project completion, in case something turned out to be indispensable .

Among my lessons learned was the importance of metrics. At some points in these projects I usually counted something, but I did a poor job of keeping metrics visual and a very poor job of recording them for longer-term reference. I can tell you that simply by red-tagging we removed hundreds of pages from the web site.

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