Glenn Gould Foundation: content inventory and redesign

Front page of the Glenn Gould Foundation

The Glenn Gould Foundation administers Canada’s pre-eminent prize for artistic excellence and innovation, produces a stand-out podcast of conversations with some amazing people, and serves as a marker of sorts to trace and commemorate the pianist, broadcaster and innovator himself.

They’ve been at it a while and, like so many other websites, have been producing a steady stream of content. Without looking back.

And where some might applaud their audacity, adventurous spirit and forward-facing outlook, the Google search index and their visitors would not.

Content inventory and audit

So first up on the agenda was a content inventory and audit. The foundation has done some amazing stuff over the years: events, concerts, street performance, the list goes on. Plus they’ve documented the life of one of Canada’s most celebrated musicians and the work of artists Gould has inspired.

I enjoyed reading through all these pieces and learned a lot about all things Gould. The site has some great content.

So the challenge was finding a way to keep the site’s content focussed on its mission, and findable without sacrificing all the gems buried in the depths of the WordPress database.

It took a strong and involved collaboration with and among foundation staff to get there. And I think it’s fair to say we did — down to about 100 pages from more than four times that many. Yet they got to keep the quirky bits, the stories, and the creative bits.

The design

The site needed a stronger visual hierarchy to allow the Foundation to draw attention to its current priorities and pre-eminent events. Its branding and colour scheme needed adjustment and it needed a clean, minimal and professional look commensurate with its stature.

As ever, the main design goal was to get out of the way and let the content shine through.

The engineering

The project sponsors were particularly frustrated by the former site’s back end which used a commercial page builder. These make it possible to turn every page into a spectacular wedding cake, but add needless complexity to the routine posting of site content. The site’s pages had all been built as static entities. So adding a new podcast episode or news item also involved adding a blurb and a link to the new content to both the home page and the content landing page. That had to be changed. And it was.

You probably don’t need that calendar

Calendar

I came across another empty calendar on a WordPress site today. It reminded me of a lot of sad meetings where someone said “We should put all our events on a calendar on our website so people hear about them.”

Someone added ‘calendar’ to the requirements list. A plugin was bought, installed and configured. The first batch of executive meetings, general assemblies, and conferences was entered. And then… nothing.

Unless your organization marches daily to its calendar — the people who come to your scheduled events bring you most or all all your revenue, for example— you probably don’t actually put on enough events to bother.

Maybe you have a couple of important events a year. They could even be essential. But you don’t have to have a whole hoo-ha of a calendar to display those on your site. And in fact — if those events truly are important — it’s better that they’re not on a calendar plugin anyway.

Calendars are off to the side. They’re a separate content stream that gets its own visual treatment, has its own metadata and lives in its own space. To bring events to the fore, site editors have to write posts about events or similar editorial shims, hard-coding a link to a time-sensitive bit of content and setting up a broken link in the near future.

And then, after the event passes, you have instant outdated content — a news item pointing to an already-happened event.

What to do about the passage of time

So skip the calendar. Use a plugin like PublishPress Future to give the post announcing your event an expiration date. If the notice of the event needs to stay on the front page despite having newer items, make it sticky or put it in your carousel. Or make it your hero image CTA. The event organizers will probably want that anyway. And they will be happy when they don’t need to remind you to take down the post about the event that just happened.

Or, use something like Toolset to create a calendar where ‘events’ can be folded into the regular content stream while maintaining their date-sensitive display settings. This will be expensive in terms of developer time, but it might be the most elegant solution for a site that needs to display ‘a few important events’.