They’re not cool, they’re not fun. But they are both big and clever. Content audits.
Ok enough cliches. Content audits are a super useful way of getting our heads around all the content on an existing website.
They can help us improve the content in the next iteration. A lot of the time this can be a process of ‘keep this, cut this, improve this bit’.
Websites are not always designed in a neat and tidy fashion, based on user needs. Often, they are neglected, unloved. Or it’s unclear who should be updating the content and when.
New pages and documents are added haphazardly over time. You end up with a big old Frankenstein of a website and it’s tough to make sense of it all.
We don’t know, what we don’t know. Recently I did a couple of content audits: one for our Local Offer website, which offers information for children and young people with special needs and disabilities, and one for an old version of our intranet.
The concerns were similar. On the one hand, we do not want to be migrating outdated content to our new websites. On the other, we do not want to delete an important document that legally needs to be there, for example.
A full content audit helps us understand what information is there, and how it’s currently structured. We can then speak to the relevant stakeholders who ‘own’ bits of content, to understand their intentions.
Should it stay or should it go now?
A lot of the initial content audit process is about numbers, often Google Analytics or similar. You can go really deep on this, looking at user journeys.
As a starting point, pageviews are useful, especially when deleting lots of content. For example, with the old version of our intranet, I could see many pages had 0 views over the last year. This made conversations with stakeholders easier, when deciding what they needed to carry over to the new intranet.
You can find thorough guides to this process on Gather Content: How to perform the perfect content audit for your brand | GatherContent
I did not follow this exactly, adapting it to suit my needs. A lot of the process on Local Offer was more qualitative. Reading through the content with some pageviews and noting if it meets our user needs.
If you’re unfamiliar with user needs, there’s a good intro on gov.uk: User needs - Content design: planning, writing and managing content - Guidance - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
A lot of the content was aimed more at professionals, while really it should aim more at parents and young people.
Start making sense.
Aside from the basic ‘keep, cut, improve’ verdict, this process also helped me to see patterns, to think about how to put together some recommendations for the future.
In the case of the old version of our intranet this was relatively straightforward. For example, it was clear one service was not using any of their pages, apart from one set of policy documents. So we knew we needed to consider where those docs will live.
In the case of Local Offer, this was a little more complex. We’re also changing the structure and putting together a full content strategy for the new website.
This must be the place.
One useful process was mapping out any pages on Local Offer that were a ‘keep’ and finding a place within our proposed structure.
We’d previously tested category titles using card sorts and tree testing. I needed to make sure any bit of essential content had a place to live.
This is by no means finished. At time of writing, I’ve rewritten most of the content in the ‘keep’ pile, so we’re ready to test, iterate and test again as we go into Beta on the Local Offer.
But the content audit has got us off to a decent start.
Comment by Delfina Hoxha posted on
don't mind me, I'm just over here in awe that you got this title approved. I absolutely love it!
Comment by James Green posted on
thanks Delfina, I cannot be contained!
Comment by Hannah posted on
Thanks James, interesting to hear your take.
I've found that sometimes content audits get a little forgotten in the Discovery process or superseded by top-task based information architectures – particularly on large sites. Or that the 'Keep' conversation forces a task-based IA to include a lot of subjective items. I'd be interested to read a follow-up once you're further along in the project to see how you've got on!
Comment by James Green posted on
Hi Hannah, we're having these sorts of conversations about the Local Offer project right now!
I'm on James.Green2@essex.gov.uk happy to share any findings we get from upcoming content testing and how the IA develops 🙂
Comment by Oliver posted on
Needs a like button!
Comment by Caroline posted on
Yes, definitely needs a like button!