Ditch the spreadsheet for content analysis.

What's Your Number? Go Wider for Higher Impact.

Last updated March 6th, 2019. First published

Key Points

  • Aim for wider impact, even if it means less sparkly improvements
  • There are tons of reason for wider change, but one key is more coherence across your digital presence
  • Extent of potential change = pages affected / total pages in your digital presence
Related resource
Change Request Flowchart | Use this flowchart when you get a change request

Any successful digital change should be celebrated, but we often have oversized reactions to what are really small changes. For instance, a revamp of a single site for a large digital presence only has a limited impact overall. By focusing narrowly we completely overlook opportunities for exponentially higher impact. 

What is your entire digital presence?

We need to anchor our discussions on the entire digital. For instance, perhaps you have (each of these categories may each have multiple domains/sites): 

  • A corporate site (your main www.bigcompany.com site)

  • Blogs

  • Products

  • Events

  • Microsites

  • Articles

You may internally consider these very different, but from the outside world this is your digital footprint. Some users may actually only see your organization through a specific section of your site, such as events. 

Consider the relative size of any proposed digital change

We should roughly think about our digital presences in terms of relative size, as if we have a ruler for the relative extent of a change. 

When considering digital change, reflect on how big a change it really is.

For instance, if we are changing just the corporate site, then the potential extent of the change is 10%. 

Start with size

There are many ways of slicing the possible extent of a change, from the attention pages get to revenue to other methods. But before getting too complex, a first step is simply looking at the relative size.

Why go wider? 

Thinking bigger is tough. Here are some reasons to do it: 

  • Capture value from deep pages that would otherwise be ignored in changes (people are arriving at your digital presence on these deep pages)

  • Easier long term management, including easier to stay up to date over time

  • Allow visitors to more easily find natural linkages between content

  • More consistent brand experience for your users

  • Actually solve visitor needs rather than changes that are narrowly technical changes

What are deeper changes?

The focus of this article is on breadth of change, but consider depth as well. Slapping a logo on the headers of all pages across your digital presence is a shallow change (not even listed on the table below). Sometimes a major effort is required just to get systems rationalized to allow for future deeper changes. But in general, some types of changes are higher impact than others. For instance, creating a new standardized site type (and moving some existing sites to this model) is a deep change. The table below, from my book Website Product Management, lists some options. 

Probable and weight of additions
Adding or enhancing ONE of these Impact to the digital presence at large Additional weight to the system
Feature High High
Standardized site type High Medium
Specific site Medium High
Standardized display template High Medium
Specific, single piece of content Low Low

When to go wider?

On a day to day basis, you aren't considering the width of a change. For instance, as I write this article I'm thinking about writing and publishing this article rather than how to make a wide change to my digital presence. So when is the time to consider going wider? 

  • Any time you're considering adding something, other than routine and standard items. Adding a microsite? Consider: I'm about to dilute my extent for future changes. Is there a way of doing this in a way that would achieve higher impact (like creating a new microsite standard offering)? 

  • During ongoing work program cycles. Hopefully you are defining a work program for routine, regular improvements to your digital presence. The ongoing work program is a crucial time to be making as broad a change as possible. 

  • Planning big change. Perhaps most obviously, whenever you are specifically planning a big plan then consider if you should perhaps go even wider (even if this is at the expense of short term, glitzy changes). 

After the RFP is too late

RFPs for digital implementations already have the general scope defined. It's too late (or much more difficult) at that point to decide to go wider. These width decisions need to be made early.

How to go wider

There are a couple items required to go wider: 

  1. A view of what the entire digital presence is. Given organizational silo'ing, this may be difficult since each individual silo's sites. You can either pull together rough counts or get a coherent and consistent view across silos (such as with the new tool Content Chimera). 

  2. The right people to have the discussion about going wider. Note that a prerequisite for even having this conversation is having the wider view (for instance visualize large digital presences), but in the end you need to be getting agreement from people high enough in the organization to help you see through broader efforts. I facilitate executive decision making workshops to decide whether to attempt higher coherence.

On a more mechanical level, the planning effort needs to be different—here are some examples: 

  • Spreadsheets → Patterns. When you're looking at content, sites, or systems at a broad level, spreadsheets become unwieldy and unhelpful. Instead, you need to be looking at the level of patterns.

  • Specific pages → Rules about pages. Similarly, at scale we need to be looking at rules about pages rather than specific pages. 

  • Monolithic → Integrated. Rather than assuming everything will be in a single system, we need to consider how to integrate multiple systems.

  • Hand-placed → Taxonomy-driven. On a small site (like David Hobbs Consulting), I can assume I have a general idea of all the content and can place appropriate links between content by hand (even that is a bit dangerous). But on a large site, manual links just don't work. Related information needs to be driven by taxonomy. 

Also watch the webinar recording Making Big Content Changes

Calculating your number

The example ruler above showed the relative size of different sections of an example site. In the end you want to calculate your number: possible extent of change = pages that would be changed / total pages in your digital presence. Are there ways of making your extent of change higher? Can you delete content to get there? Make a smaller change per page but make it across more pages? 

Change Request Flowchart Use this flowchart when you get a change request