Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Before rewriting any website, I like to see what content is currently there. Often my clients don’t know themselves, or have no understanding of how their content is linked or related. There are currently two popular ways to do a content audit:
1. Quantitative audit—a basic list of the content on your site, including URLs, page titles and downloadable documents. This is really an inventory of the content on your site.
2. Qualitative audit—a more in-depth accounting of the content, including an analysis of the writing, accuracy of the content, value for the organization, etc.
Kristina Halvorson details how to do both kinds of audits in her book Content Strategy and Jeff Veen writes about a content audit that’s kind of a bit of both.
The number one problem I have with both of these types of audits is that they don’t really allow the client (or the writer--hey, that's me!) to understand the relationship between the content. Yes, with a quantitative audit, they (and me)can see HOW MUCH content they have. With a qualitative audit, they (and again, me) get HOW BAD it might be written or displayed.
If you have a content management system, you might be able to have your software produce a map of your content. I don’t have access to that function, so I actually use Word, mostly for smaller sites of about 50-100 pages. This is so my clients can actually visualize the way the content lives, as well as where there might be gaps.
My content mapping audits are really just a series of boxes (looking very much like an IA), with the name of the page title hyperlinked to the actual Web page. When I go through this excercise, I can really see how the content is organized and what might be missing, or what can be combined, or how I can make it easier for users to find what they need.
This content mapping audit process really works well when I need to make a case for creating new content, or for changing certain parts of the IA. The best case scenario is when I have the time and budget to do both a qualitative and mapping audit. It gives me the best handle on what I'm dealing with and what step to take next.
I'm rewriting and redesigning my own website, so for an example, I've given you the very short and sweet mapping audit for that site. Laid out visually, I can think about how to change labels, move the order, add, delete or change anything. I also know that I need to write 3 pages, because I've marked them in red. All the other page labels are blue hyperlinks, so I know those pages exist-- but that doesn't mean I won't rewrite them as well.
I'm interested to hear if others use something like this: if you've found a good software program for it, or if your CMS does it, all on its very own.