What is “Old Content”?

The most common question I get asked as a web expert is, “How do I get more people to come to my web site?”

That’s like asking, “How do I get more people to like me?” The answer is actually very simple, and most likely something you’ve heard from your mother or Dear Abby: you need to put yourself out there. While there are companies that claim that if you hand them over a wad of cash, they can help you do this, but the reality is all they can really do is HELP you. You need to do the rest yourself.

What is most likely dragging you down is old content. Let’s break that down. First, what is “old”?

I just turned 50, so I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. It shocks me to think that when I was growing up, this is what 50 looked like:

"Those were the DAAAAAAYS!"
“Those were the DAAAAAAYS!”

Believe it or not, Archie and Edith weren’t even supposed to be 50 yet. While we can’t all look like Jon Bon Jovi or Cindy Crawford, most people I know in their 40s and 50s don’t look anything like Archie and Edith either. People say it’s because people are taking better care of themselves physically, and using skin creams, Botox, etc. But I think it’s more than that. I think getting old is a mindset. It’s about learning and discovering things, and being interested in what’s happeningp right now. Being in technology, I don’t have much of a choice than to keep up on technology and trends in All Things Web, but I like that.

But I know people 10 years younger than I am who say they are just “done.” They are done learning. They still listen to the same music they did when they were in high school. They don’t watch any new movies or TV shows because they say it’s all crap. They don’t talk to anyone much younger than they are, with the exception of their children, because young people are annoying and stupid. And they don’t talk to anyone older than they are because, well, they are old and senile.

And then I know people like my aunt who was painting, making greeting cards, and dating (yep, you read that last one right!) into her 90s

So what does this have to do with web content, other that an excuse to post a shirtless pic of Jon Bon Jovi? Revisit your content regularly. See what’s out there in the world. Find out who your users are and what they need. Then figure out: Is your content still relevant to them? If not, find a way to make it relevant by updating and refreshing it. Search engines will thank you for it.

That begs the next question: What is content? That depends who you talk to. Writers will tell you that it’s well-written words with motivational CTAs. Designers will tell you it’s bold and innovative design that draws the users in and keeps them there.

Here’s a question: Can you have one without the other? Perhaps. You can have design that relies exclusively on icons to get your point across. But at some point, you need to go into more detail. And you can have the best copy in the world, but if it’s not laid out in a way that draws in the reader, or has a generally attractive look (on many web sites, good stories are often lost among a sea of clickbait), you will lose your reader.

So the answer is: Content is what users experience when they see your site. It consists of design and copy, but it’s more gestalt that attracts new users and keep your users coming back. It’s overall user experience.

It raises my hackles when I see job openings for UI/UX designers. I get the feeling employers are just users terminology that they think is cool without really understanding what those terms mean. But moreover, I get PTSD flashbacks to the old “webmaster” days in which there was one poor shlub (usually in IT) who had to build, design, write, maintain, analyze and market the web site.

It’s the equivalent of putting out an ad that says, “I would like to hire a house painter who can also build, decorate, and sell my house.” Some house painters have a solid knowledge of architecture and structure, and maybe even the real estate market. And believe me, you are going to pay for that knowledge, v. someone who just slaps paint on your walls.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. UX is not UI. Know it. Learn it. Live it.

In short, if your content is old and needs refreshing, you may need to work with and as a team to get it to where it works for you.