You Oughta Audit

Content Audits are a Key Stage for Web Projects

When you think of website planning, you might envision site maps, flowcharts, wireframes, and pictures showing a home page design in all its graphic detail. There are many tools of the trade, but one key step is paramount for the success of a web design process: the Content Audit.

PHOTO: Some Rights Reserved CC BY-NC 2.0 Beanbag Amerika
PHOTO: Some Rights Reserved CC BY-NC 2.0 Beanbag Amerika

Too often, website owners and designers want to jump to the new thing—a redesign of the graphic identity along with adding bells and whistles like sliders, scrolling parallax effects, video backgrounds, opt-in pop-ups, and more. The problem with stressing design elements is the risk of losing sight of your content and how visitors find and use content that’s of value to them.  If you ignore your legacy of content and don’t plan for future content, you might wind up with a big bowl of content soup that drown users trying to swim through it.

The beginning stage of a content strategy project is the evaluation of the existing state of content, users, and other factors. Content audits are a key step at this stage and can provide a preliminary analysis to determine how to proceed with a project. They help answer questions like: How does our content relate to our goals? How are users accessing our content? How is our content structured? What channels are we using?

But, not all content audits are the same. There are quantitative and qualitative approaches, there are online and offline tools, and the metadata about the content is just as important as the content itself. Collecting, reviewing, and analyzing all this data about content can be quite a challenge, especially with legacy websites lacking good documentation and support systems.

Luckily we have best practices for content strategy processes along with new tools to help. This presentation on You Oughta Audit—And How was delivered by David Skarjune for Word & Image at the Content Strategy – Minneapolis/St. Paul Meetup on January 19, 2016.  Skarjune reviews the elements of the content audit stage for content strategy, looks at several approaches for performing content inventories, and considers a business case using online tools to automate the process.

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