Content Audits Are a Beautiful Thing

My church’s website redesign moves on apace. Yesterday I met with the person who volunteered to do our content audit. I didn’t even have to pull a Tom Sawyer to get her to help. We’re both librarians by training and adore digging into information and then organizing it.

Even more tantalizing – you can do it using 3x5s – the weapon of choice for any self-respecting librarian. (Some day I should write an ode to the 3×5. Or maybe not. It would be dreadful.)

Here’s my favorite procedure for an audit:

  1. Inventory. Go through the current site link-by-link, writing a card for each page or each natural group of pages. The groups are for things like old newsletters, where you don’t need a card for each issue; instead you would write a card saying something like, “PDFs of newsletters for 2004: missing 4/1/04 issue.” Include the URL of the page and the topic on the card, and make notes about the content, e.g. “needs to be updated” or “delete this.” You can, if you wish, color code, perhaps using green for the most important pages. For a larger site, you might want to work out a rating scale. Whatever suits your fancy.
  2. Double check. After the inventory is done, have one of the webmasters compare it with the files on the server or a list of database-generated pages (depending on how your current site is set up). If there are any pages missing from the inventory, do cards for them too.
  3. Categorize. This is the most fun of all. Sort the cards into various groups, looking for both an optimal navigation and an optimal file structure (which will probably differ somewhat). Take notes on the best breakdowns to share with others later, and for usability tests.
  4. Identify gaps. As you go through the first three steps, chances are you’re going to notice some things that are missing. Make 3x5s of these items too.
  5. Draft the content delivery plan. Put all the chunks of information into an outline. You could use the outline feature of Word for this, but I think a spreadsheet is more versatile. That’s because you will be adding columns indicating who is responsible for these pieces of content and when that content is due. Here’s an old version of our Content Delivery Plan.

Once it’s done, the Content Delivery Plan is likely to become the most important tool in your webmaster toolbox. It not only can keep you on task, it will also delineate expectations for others who have content responsibilities, whether they realize it or not. In other words, all of this effort is worth it, even if you aren’t a librarian.

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