Mastering the Basics: Four Steps to Successful Content Audits

Mastering the Basics: Four Steps to Successful Content Audits

Content Audit
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Thought byRay Saltini
January 17, 2017

Content auditing must be part of any overall content planning process, and is an important step in a project’s Discovery phase. A well-planned audit of your existing content and content development practices will help ensure successful Design and Development phases.

For this post I’ve teamed up with FFW User Experience Architect Jim Doria.

In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of having a solid content plan to ensure the success of any web project. That post is a great introduction to some important topics, and in this blog I will expand on how to build your content plan by conducting a content audit.

Auditing must be part of any overall content planning process, and is an important step in a project’s Discovery phase. A well-planned audit of your existing content and content development practices will help ensure successful Design and Development phases. Like the overall Discovery phase, the content audit seeks to understand the needs and pain points of your project’s stakeholders, define who’s on the team, and determine the scope of what the project will and won’t include.

Content Audit Goals

  • Determine content goals for your site(s)
  • Establish rules about content priorities and formats
  • Support and inform the design and content migration processes
  • Lay groundwork for a new content map so that content is findable and correctly situated within the information architecture of the new site

Step 1: Stakeholder Kickoff

At the beginning of your content audit, make sure you meet at least once with project stakeholders to understand any rules about content formats or migration plans.

Make sure the process that your organization uses to create and manage content is understood so that different user roles can be identified. This will help you ensure the process will continue to meet the needs of the content team in terms of simplicity, robustness and overall usability.

Key takeaways from this step should be:

  • Use this step to create a summary document detailing what was learned about content goals and overall migration strategy
  • Make sure each team member has access to content collaboration tools as needed

Step 2: Map The Existing Site Structure

In the next step, you’ll create a preliminary map of the initial site based on planning material. If you’re auditing an existing site, this map will help you understand the current Information Architecture.

Ask yourself what the levels are within each information category. What types of pages aggregate other pages? Is there content unique to those aggregators? Does the menu structure differ? Are there special requirements?

Also address any questions regarding content roles. Is all content equally accessible to every user, or is some content protected behind a login or by other means? How many types of users access the site, and do any of them have unique content requirements?

By the end of this step, you should have completed the following tasks:

  • Build an annotated site map / spreadsheet outlining the structure of the current site with notes about proposed migration strategies
  • Create a table of user roles relating to content, applying to both site visitors and site maintainers

Step 3: Map Page Structure & Establish Commonalities

Mapping the existing site structure provides a high level first layer -- and the next step is diving deeper into the details.

When mapping page structure, you’ll focus on of the many different elements that reside inside each page. How do these elements serve as the basis for individual site pages? Is page content divided into tabs or other containers? Do pages contain interactive elements? Are there any auto-populated sections? This step should help you understand how pages are set up, and what they have in common -- or where there are inconsistencies.

Your goal for this step is:

  • Build a catalog of page elements and the high-level rules that govern their behavior
  • Make a list of preliminary page templates

Step 4: Catalog of Content Structure & Required Repurposing

With priorities understood, rules established, and a catalog of the content that will populate the new site, the next step is determining the workflow that will move that content. This may include the authoring of new content. It may include the combining of content from multiple pages into single pages, or alternately, breaking single pages into multiple pages. It may include converting content from one format (such as PDF files or document files) into a more search-friendly, user-accessible format, such as site pages or multimedia presentations.

During this step, make sure you:

  • Generate a complete content migration plan consisting of the origin, destination and transformation rules for every piece of content on the old site
  • Create a resource and implementation plan of the work required to accomplish the migration and the resources who will complete that work

Once the content audit process is complete, the stage is set for content migration and testing. The material generated through the process should be used first in test scenarios and should be thoroughly vetted. Using these five steps as the foundation for your content auditing process will help you understand and implement the type of data and feature rich web applications that can be built with the open source Drupal platform.

Happy building.

For more information about content audits, feel free to reach out to @raysaltini or contact us if you have question or would like FFW's help.


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