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Transition Spreadsheet

One of the last tools I use to help with operations is the transition spreadsheet. This is a spreadsheet with several tabs to track a few items that can be part of retiring or deleting content. It may seem like you can just delete content and move on, but we have several features integrated into content. If we don’t examine pages and how they connect to these features. Also, we like to give visitors a smoother transition when content goes away.

The first tab on the spreadsheet lists pages that will go away and what we plan to do for visitors. Some pages have quite a bit of traffic, so we tend to redirect visitors to another place for a while as content comes down from the site. It’s better than just deleting it and hoping visitors aren’t too annoyed by page not found errors. We also prioritize higher traffic pages when there’s a lot of pages to manage. The amount that constitutes “higher traffic” is arbitrary, but we try to take care and think about how many potential visitors we are affecting with such a decision.

The second tab on the spreadsheet lists any redirects to pages we already have in place. If a page is going away, we don’t want to keep sending people to it using another link. Typically, the alternate link is a short version, similar to a bitly kind of link. They can be used for a variety of purposes, including print materials that direct people to a website page. It really helps to review any possible short links that may be in place and make sure we know what we want to do with them when pages are going away.

The third tab on the spreadsheet lists highlighted search results. These kinds of on-site search results are manually entered and managed. If any of these go to a page (or pages) that are going away, we need to decide what to do. We either change the link to another page or just delete the result at the same time the page goes away. Either way, it’s important that we track this change.

The transition checklist is whatever helps you and your team manage features that connect to content that is going away. It’s always a good idea to make intentional decisions around these transitions than merely assume everything will take care of itself if anything is out there. Without knowing how visitors interact with your site, you may end up alienating significant amounts of visitors with careless deletions. Instead, consider developing and using a transition checklist that allows you to make thoughtful decisions about how to remove content from your site.

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