Redesign in Process: Overview of a Content Audit

We're currently in the process of redesigning and redeveloping our website and I'm documenting bits and pieces of that process here. The first post about the redesign process is here.

e're currently in the process of rewriting our site content, a process that's happening in parallel with the redevelopment and design aspects of the process. Early in the redevelopment process we undertook a content audit, undoubtedly not the most fun or engaging part of a redesign process, but actually doing one (and being responsible for doing the necessary content rewrites/updates that follow the audit) has reminded me just how valuable the process is for a website project. While it's very easy to focus on things like how a new site will better integrate with social media, useful new features that will be included or simply the updated look and feel the new site will bring to reenergize your organization, at the end of the day, most non-profit organizations use the web to share knowledge and ideas. Websites, while vehicles for taking action, building communities and    are also houses for knowledge. And, although websites are, more than some other forms of communication, by their nature media that should be being updated regularly, we all fall victim to letting content get stale, out of date or simply lost in the growing index of our site content.

What is a Content Audit Exactly?

A website audit, for those that don't know, is really what it sounds like, an inventory of all the content on a website. It's a methodical process that involves cataloguing every page on the website (or for some organizations across multiple websites). When we do a content audit, we then house the results in a spreadsheet that notes the title and URL of each page, assigns it a Content ID, and, if relevant also lists the template used along with any relevant notes. The spreadsheet then also includes two columns to be completed by the organization:

  1. “Owner/Maintainer” (i.e. who is responsible for the content?); and,
  2. “OUCH” (which is an acronym for “Outdated, Unnecessary, Current, Have to Write” -- so that you can track the value and status of your content as you engage in the redevelopment process of the website.

The inventory spreadsheet is a key tool for redeveloping a website providing you with a snapshot of exactly what content you have, where it resides, who manages it, and how it supports your organization (or doesn't).

Why Do A Content Audit?

The content audit helps organizations to really see what assets they have in the way of knowledge and resources on hand. When paired with an overall strategy — what is it we're trying to accomplish as an organization and how will the website help us do it? — and reviews of feedback from your target audiences and analysis of your site statistics we can then start to put together a sense of how effective your existing content is, and what will need to be reworked for the redevelopment. The results and benefits are many:

  • A big picture sense of how the website's content all hangs together as a whole, instead of focusing on just individual components;
  • A better sense of how much staff time/resources will be required to gather and write new content for the new website, which leads to more realistic timelines for a redevelopment process;
  • A strong sense of where there are holes in the website's existing content, which can help the organization's project owners to reach out within the organization to different departments to help ensure their work and knowledge is being shared on the new website;
  • A deeper understanding for everyone involved in the project -- both the firm you are working with and your internal team -- about what the knowledge assets being shared online are.

What Next?

The content audit should be shared with all the project team members, and then someone in the organization will need to be responsible for looping in content owners who may not be a part of the site redevelopment team, to ensure they know what content is expected of them. Note that these days a lot of the content that will need to be rewritten will include interactive content for sign-up forms and engagement tools, including error and success messages, so you may need to coordinate with the development team to make sure that all the necessary content for the different steps in an interaction process has been accounted for. It may also include content for your presence on Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media. Finally, a realistic schedule for finalizing the content will also need to be set, and communicated to the project manager so it's accounted for in the launch planning.