When you have a dense, information-rich website, it can be a useful resource. Sites like Gov.uk or Wikipedia show how you can get lots of information across to a wide audience without overwhelming them.
But with so much information, multiple contributors and countless stakeholders, it can be a challenge. Here are 3 common problems users have with information heavy sites and some tips to help you overcome them:
There's too much content – what should I read?
Either you don't have the right content on your site, or you've got too much. When there's a blizzard of information users can struggle to complete the task they came to your site for.
Take a step back. Put together an inventory of your content and carry out a thorough content audit of your website to get a look at the whole picture. For each page, ask yourself if it's really needed - does it map to a user task, is it well written and does it fit with your content strategy?
Only then can you decide which pages to kill, keep or edit.
And with all your content laid out, you can identify any gaps and start creating any content you need to fill them.
I can't find your website
It might sound obvious, but you may need to look at how to improve your search ranking. Ask yourself when was the last time you visited a site that appeared on the second page of Google?
There are many factors involved in search rankings and the good news is, many of them are content fixes.
First, think about what your users are looking for (there are plenty of tools to help with this) and check to make sure you have the content on your site to meet it. Your website audit should come in handy here.
Of course, you'll still need to make sure you have the SEO basics, like keywords - aim for the title and then once or twice on the page, but don't over-do it. Plus, other factors like links to other pages on your site – that's great news for information-heavy sites where you can create 'webs' of interconnected content. Again, your audit and inventory will be useful here.
The content is too dense, I'm struggling to read it all
We all know keeping things short is best on the web. But when you're tackling complicated subjects, you sometimes need to give your users lots of information.
But without the right structure, it can come across as a dense block of content, forcing users to read through hundreds of words to find what they're looking for.
Edit your content and make it breathe. Use bullets and bold to break it up and highlight the key points. Subheadings too can provide signposts for the user and guide them to the right information.
Other devices like anchor links at the top of the page, summaries of key sections and concertinas can also help users navigate their way through it all.
In the long term, you can guide your writers with new copy templates and formats. These set in stone the structure of your key pages and allow you to build in elements like quick summaries, anchor links, bulleted lists and box outs.
Your writers will thank you too – a repeatable structure gives them a template to work from and allows them to easily identify what information to include.