Monday, July 14, 2014

Effective Evaluations: Tips for Handling Large Content Migration Projects


Any site can benefit from a periodic content evaluation to review and refresh its information. Without effective content management, your site can gradually hit a critical mass of content clutter that impedes findability, muddles search results and bogs down site performance. Many organizations avoid confronting this issue as long as possible, until it’s time to update the technology that drives their sites. During a content migration project, it becomes imperative to evaluate a lot of content in a little time.

What Is Content Migration?

“Content migration” means moving information from one location, such as a content management system (CMS) or digital asset management (DAM) system to another.

This process may be:

· Manual. A manual content migration requires pasting text and/or uploading files from the old site into the new CMS.

· Automated. Leveraging an automated process (sometimes via a third-party vendor) to transfer information from one system to another.

· Hybrid. A combination of the two. For instance, using an automated approach to move a subset of content and manually migrating the rest.

Regardless of which approach you choose, you must eventually decide which content should journey to the new CMS. This requires rolling up your sleeves and taking a deep dive into your content.

How Do You Evaluate Content for a Migration?

First, you will need to inventory your existing content. This will provide the foundation to evaluate and prioritize your content. It will also reveal content gaps—important information or tools missing from your current site.

Your Content Evaluation Toolbox

To prepare for your content migration, you will need to document a significant amount of information over several weeks or months. The project will likely involve subject-matter experts and stakeholders from across your organization. Standardizing your tracking tools and processes will promote consistency throughout the project.

Content Inventory

Before you can evaluate your content, you need to know what you have. A “Content Inventory” captures such information as page titles and URLs in a spreadsheet format. It supports informed project estimates (e.g., scope, timeline, resources) and documents your existing content.

Content Audit

The inventory spreadsheet will also facilitate evaluating and prioritizing your content. It should include a column that subject-matter experts can use during a content evaluation (a.k.a., “content audit”) to indicate each item’s status:

· Migrate. Suitable for migration without changes.

· Revise. Requires reformatting or rewriting for length, tone, etc.

· Omit. Contains outdated or irrelevant information and should be excluded from the migration.

Content Matrix

The decisions that you make will inform your “Content Matrix.” This spreadsheet will provide a framework to manage and document items during the migration. It provides a consistent format to:

· Create a categorized listing of all pages within the revised site map.

· Indicate how content from the old site corresponds to the new site.

· Track the migration status for each page.

What Criteria Should You Consider?

Remove the ROT from your site for a leaner, more focused experience. A ROT analysis identifies content that is:

· Redundant. Identify areas of overlap and duplication. This may include similar information repeated across multiple departments.

· Outdated. Look for content with a limited shelf life, obsolete information and archaic visuals or messaging.

· Trivial. Make sure you understand your audience and whether your content fits their needs. If content doesn’t support your strategy, get rid of it.

Furthermore, you should make sure that your evaluation places appropriate emphasis on information that is highly visible, strategically important and/or subject to organizational or governmental rules. Also, keep an eye out for basic errors that erode your credibility, such as broken links, missing images, formatting errors, and grammar and spelling mistakes.

Why Evaluate Your Content?

Inventorying and evaluating content enables you to effectively plan and manage your migration process. It assists you in filling gaps and revising outdated information. Also, moving only the best content means that you have less to move. And what you do move will be more valuable to users.

Removing the ROT improves your site’s quality and usability going forward. This is often especially apparent in internal search results. I’ve seen many organizations that blamed their search engines for an overload of irrelevant results. In reality, this was a symptom of poor content management.

Thoughtfully reviewing your content provides you with the tools to understand your current site and your future direction.

Recommended Reading

Content Strategy Term of the Week: Content Matrix, Sarah Beckley

The Content Inventory is Your Friend, Kristina Halvorson

Is your content ROT-ting?, Elena Plaiter

How to Do a Content Audit, Hilary Marsh

Website Migration Handbook, David Hobbs (Version 1 available for free download)