Tuesday, July 22, 2014

3 Evaluation Approaches: How to Use Them for Large-Scale Content Migrations


Moving a mountain of content during a site migration requires strategy, organization and communication. Previously, we discussed inventorying and evaluating content during a site migration. These seemingly straightforward steps can become substantially more complicated depending on your site’s size.

This is largely a matter of scale. Spending five minutes to review a single page isn’t a big deal. But what if you multiply that time commitment by a thousand? Ten thousand? A hundred thousand? Suddenly, you have some major logistics to ponder.

One of my early migration projects required me to assess more than 200,000 pieces of content, including web pages, articles, publications and events. I quickly learned that, as with any complex task, breaking down a large site project a manageable level is all about organization and communication.

1. Hack and Slash

Use a process-of-elimination approach to chip away at the amount of content to inventory and/or evaluate. Cutting out content ROT (Routine, Outdated, Trivial) is a basic goal of a content evaluation. Always remove ROT at the highest level possible.

If an entire branch of content is ROT-ten, there’s no need to inventory each item within it. Save surgical precision for when you really need it. Never use a scalpel when a chainsaw will do.

It may be easy to spot outdated or irrelevant content. For example, you can probably safely remove information on a discontinued product line or service.

In other cases, creating new business rules can cut through the clutter. For example, you might decide that the shelf life for your newsletter is two years. This will eliminate the necessity to fully inventory the 10 years of back issues you’ve archived on your current site.

2. Divide and Conquer

Often, distributing responsibility for inventorying and evaluating content is the most efficient approach to large-scale migration efforts. It’s especially useful for complex organizations where organizational subunits operate their own subsites.

This places the project team leader in a supervisory role. You’ll spend less time doing grunt work, but you’ll still need to train, support and communicate with your extended team leaders. For example, this will include:

· Distributing a standardized content inventory template to maintain consistency across teams

· Setting realistic expectations about how much time employees can contribute to the project addition to their regular responsibilities

· Scheduling regular meetings with team leaders to monitor progress, answer questions, etc.

· Providing additional oversight on content that is highly visible, strategically important and/or subject to organizational or governmental rules

3. Move It or Lose It

Your worst-case scenario is when the sheer accumulated weight of ROT dwarfs the amount of useful material present on the site. A more radical approach is to ask business units to identify only the valued information that they want to move. Otherwise, content will not be migrated. (Note: Most content migration projects include an archive of the old site’s content. So, the material isn’t truly lost.) That puts the onus on business units to define what they need. This assumes that they know their material and their audience well enough to make these decisions.

Putting It All Together

These approaches are not mutual exclusive. Depending on the size of your site and the structure of your organization, you might use a combination of them. But they all have a few things in common. No matter how large the project, you need to have “buy in” from the leadership, participation and people that know the content. I often tell clients that you are the final expert about your content. Finally, communication is key for every stage in the process. You need to be able to explain the steps in the process and how they relate to each other.

Recommended Reading

Effective Evaluations for Content Migration Projects, Christopher Leporini

Let’s Talk About Migration, Hilary Marsh

Web Content Production Calculator, Shane Diffily

Rethinking the Content Inventory: Site Inventories, David Hobbs

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