Why What’s New sections are like puppies

Before my latest post, I’d like to send greetings to the schools that came to my Catholic Schools web writing workshop last week. Looking forward to seeing you all in the coaching sessions next week and overhauling your sites!

Now, today’s tip: What’s New sections. It seems to me that a standard inclusion in any web site structure is a ‘What’s New’ section. I’ve had this conversation with 90% of the web sites I’ve worked on in the past two years. Organisations want a ‘What’s New’ on their web site because it will show them to be dynamic companies living in the moment.

What’s New sections can be great and I like the ethos of them. They provide an impetus for writing up-to-date content and draw regular information out of the organisation.

Well, at least they’re supposed to.

In a lot of cases, What’s New sections turn into What’s Old sections. There are some web sites out there that ask the reader ‘What’s New?’ while giving them information about an event to be held in the future … six months ago. So they actually do the complete opposite job to the one they intended to do.

I tell my workshop participants that What’s New sections are like puppies. Great fun to start off with, but over time they grow – as does the work in keeping them. The RSPCA often does an advertising campaign warning people that puppies are forever, not just Christmas. The message there is you need to realise that you’ve now got a responsibility to look after this animal over time. What’s New sections on your web site are exactly the same.

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