For better content curation, think about seahorses

Image of a seahorse

Content is like seahorses: Feature the best ones keep visitors' interest

Over the weekend, I visited the stunning California Academy of the Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. It’s a jaw-dropping experience every time, even after the umpteenth visit: a living rainforest, an aquarium, a natural-history museum, and a planetarium all under one (living) roof.

But one thing I really noticed this time out was what an amazing job the Academy folks have done of whittling down all their options to present the best, most interesting exhibits and specimens. For example, take the seahorses at the Steinhart Aquarium. They’re fascinating, super-cute, and a huge favorite of my kids. But while there are at least 32 species of seahorse known to scientists, only a handful of varieties are featured here.

Why? Because, while seahorses are pretty cool, people don’t come to an aquarium to see three dozen different exhibits showcasing one type of animal. So the biologists practice curation — deciding which species would best represent seahorses while capturing the attention and interest of visitors.

In a way, your content is like a bunch of different seahorses. All of it has some value, but some of it will be more interesting to your audience than the rest. I think many websites value quantity over quality without thinking about curation. Overwhelming your visitor, or sales prospect, or reader, with tons of redundant content — or content that’s a mere variation on a theme — doesn’t make you look more complete or current or savvy. It just makes things confusing.

Or even…boring. Just imagine visiting an aquarium with 32 different tanks of seahorses, and gazing into them one at a time. By the end, it’d be really hard to distinguish what made one seahorse different from the other, wouldn’t it? And you’d probably be pretty sick of seahorses, too.

So when you’re deciding what content is essential to your web experience, whatever it may be, think about seahorses. Pick the brightest, most interesting, most compelling content to feature, and let the rest float away.

image courtesy of Ellen & Martijn Rietveld via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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