What it is
Reviewing live content to make improvements is an important part of the content lifecycle and will make sure users continue to get what they need.
Removing content which is no longer helpful to users is just as important as creating new content. This is also known as ‘unpublishing’ content.
Users should always be able to access previous versions of your content through an archive, and there are different ways to treat content that’s no longer current.
Having an archiving policy means you can clearly provide the most recent version of information, while directing users to previous versions.
Why it’s important
Outdated information means users won’t be able to complete the tasks they’re trying to do, which means your service or product is failing.
In cases where there’s a legal requirement to publish certain information, regularly reviewing content will make sure no-one can be misled by factual inaccuracies.
Ultimately, helping users achieve their goals through a good user experience will help build and maintain trust with your organisation.
How to do it
To make sure your information continues to be useful, you should have:
a review process that’s agreed with content owners
a process to review your information architecture (making sure the big picture works by checking your content is organised, structured and labelled in a way that makes sense to your users)
Agreeing a review process
Before you publish any content, you should agree with your stakeholders:
how and when the content should be updated and maintained, and who’s responsible for this
how you know the content is successful - for example, a 20% decrease in phone calls about a specific query or a 80% task completion rate
how you’re going to review it - this could involve looking at analytics and on-page feedback to see how the content is performing or conducting user testing
when you’re going to review, remove or archive it
The amount of time you give a content item before it’s reviewed should be standardised (as specified in your content strategy), with the understanding that some items will need more frequent updates.
If your Content Management System (CMS) allows it, set a review date when you first publish content. This will remind you to go back and review content at an appropriate time. You should ask the relevant content owner or subject matter expert (SME) if they know of any upcoming events which might lead to a change in the content sooner than the date you plan to review.
It’s the responsibility of the content owner to inform you of any unplanned changes which may affect the accuracy of the content (for example, the removal of a funding opportunity or the premature end to a campaign).
When it’s time to review a content item you should:
contact the SME to check if the information is still needed and correct
make any necessary updates
check the analytics data of the page to see if it’s performing well
make changes to improve the page, based on analytics data and feedback
set a new review date
Depending on the type of information you’ve published, showing when you last updated your content can reassure users that they have a current version.
You should remove content when it comes to the end of its life. For example, if it’s out of date or stopping users finding what they need.
Before you remove any content, get approval from content owners or any other stakeholders first. This might mean presenting evidence and data to show why the content needs to be removed.
Agree if you need to communicate the removal to any external stakeholders or users.
Plan how you’ll manage redirects. These make sure the existing links take users to a new destination.
You should establish rules so you’re consistent on how you remove or archive different content types. For example, news would be treated differently to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
Make sure you follow your organisation’s archiving policy. For example, the Scottish Government uses the UK Web Archive to archive information that’s been published online.
It’s important to let users know how they can access content that’s been archived. This could be a dedicated page on your site explaining your archiving policy and linking to archives of your site. Or it could be a link from the content on a page to link to previous versions of this content in a web archive.
Keep looking at the big picture
Looking at your information architecture as a whole (how everything fits together) as you create new content means you’ll understand how users are finding and navigating to your content.
This makes sure your content can scale over time and every content item answers a distinct need.
- The 6 stages of the content lifecycle - Digital Scotland
- Using the content lifecycle - Australian Government Digital Transformation Agency
- Remove content - Australian Government Digital Transformation Agency
- Who, When, and Why of the Content Production Process - Gather Content
- The A to B to content: Planning website content - Gather Content
- 2i checklist - Government Digital Service
- Unpublishing and withdrawing (‘archiving’) - Government Digital Service
- Web Continuity Service - National Records of Scotland
- Managing content in a project environment - New Zealand Government
- What is the UK Web Archive? - UK Web Archive
Digital First Service Standard
This article offers guidance relevant to the following criteria from the Digital First Service Standard:
- Continuous improvement
- Data driven