In Part 1 of this three-part series, Katy discusses how to determine when your website migration project requires a more in-depth content clean-up versus migrating content “as-is.”

If you’ve ever remodeled a room in your home, you can attest to the fact that the process is daunting. Taking inventory of everything at once and making countless decisions on where each thing will go in the updated space (or whether to leave it behind) is a big undertaking. The same can be said for website content. In both instances, the help of an expert can ease the process. Much like expert builders help you make decisions about the best way to lay out the new room, content specialists are equipped to guide you through the steps to migrate or transform the content of your new (refreshed) website. There are just a few key points to consider when deciding whether a content migration makes sense for your organization or if you should be gearing up for a total content transformation. Let’s walk through that thought process.

Part 1 Outline

Consider your approach

Your big picture parameters should serve as your guide. Budget, timeline, resources, and project goals are going to determine a lot of what you will be able to do and not do. For example, one of your goals might be reaching a new audience. If you have the budget, timeline, and resources, a content makeover might be the most effective approach. Side note: auditing your current website content should also be part of this initial process. If you know how much you need to change (even if it is everything), you can determine the best course of action as a result.

After thinking about it holistically, these are other factors you’ll want to consider before finalizing the ultimate approach you will take.

You may need a total content makeover, if…

These are some situations that will call for a total content makeover.

Your users have trouble navigating your website

This is how users navigate to information on your site’s pages. Do you plan to reorganize where content is located? Have users been contacting your organization to ask questions or complete tasks that they can access on the website?

A common way to figure this out is by reviewing your site’s Google Analytics. If your site traffic is being facilitated by search engines to land on specific internal pages, for example, your site menu may be too confusing. Users are having trouble navigating through it to find relevant content. You could now identify fixing a confusing site architecture as a project goal. Your best solution? Likely a content makeover.

You would like to reach a new audience

As mentioned before, a project goal you might have for your site is to gain a new audience. This is also an instance where you would want to review your analytics. Only this time, you would review the demographic data as well as referrals (meaning what search terms led them to you). You should also focus on your current content and how it relates to your audience. These data points can provide a clearer picture of who is finding your site most useful. From there, you can determine how to use your time and resources to curate your approach over time – so again, this would be a content makeover.

You have more than one digital property

If the new site will be incorporating additional website properties, a content makeover will be the best way to reduce the risk of duplicate content. Incorporating multiple websites into a single, cohesive domain requires a big picture view of how content is organized. There must be a full understanding of where a user may expect to find certain information. It’s tempting to just add a main category when folding in a separate website or content from multiple sites; however, investing the time and planning upfront to refresh the content and blend it into the rest of the site more cohesively will make the site much easier to update and use in the long run.

You have a new process for content creation

How your organization generates content and how that content eventually becomes public facing can vary widely from one organization to another. One website might be managed by a single website administrator who creates, edits, and publishes content to the site as needed. Other organizations may have silos of departmental review and approvals in which content is sent to a centralized communications department or IT team for final approval and publishing. If a project goal is updating the fundamental processes around how content is generated, then a content makeover is necessary. Changing the content creation process without doing a full audit and overhaul of what you currently have will make things very confusing for whomever must take over the task of creating and publishing web content on the new site.

Steps to makeover your content

Once you have decided that a content makeover is truly the best approach, you’ll want to consider two things to make sure you are setting up your project for success:

  • Who will be transforming your content?
  • How will this team be successful (what tools are necessary to stay organized and productive)?

Identify content creators

It is important to fully understand your team’s skills in this department. Someone who is well-versed in the Content Management System or the code may not have the writing skills needed to target your new audience. Someone with expertise in writing for the web may not have the deep subject knowledge that your new content requires.

Putting together a team is crucial to getting the new content in order. Having a point person in charge of content strategy, a content director so-to-speak, is the best way to ensure the project stays on track. This person should be a strong writer and skilled communicator, but also able to delegate, manage a team, collaborate with various stakeholders, and report project statuses to any level of the organization.

Along with a content director, you will need to determine whether your subject matter experts have the bandwidth and skills to write new content for the website. Website content differs from other types of content since it can be consumed on different size devices and must conform to the page layouts and data requirements (for instance a summary paragraph may have a 256-character limit). If you decide that your SMEs are not the best people to write for the web, hiring professional writers for the project may be the desired route.

To ensure your new content organization is an improvement over the old site, a UI/UX Expert will also be a welcomed addition to your team. This UX specialist or content strategist will provide best practices when it comes to organizing your content, determining user-friendly terminology for page titles, URLs, menu links, etc., and planning the best way for users to move from one piece of content to the next in your new site.

Find your tools

Once you’ve figured out who will be doing the transformation of your content, you will need to make sure they have the tools needed to migrate, edit, or create content in the new site. There are 3 tools that will make this process much easier:

  1. Site Auditing Tool: this can be a site-crawler like Integrity (available for free in the Apple Store) or a web-based site-auditing tool with additional content features like Screaming Frog (500 or less URLs are free).
  2. Content Matrix: a tracker or spreadsheet for managing the status of each piece of content in the new system – Google Sheets, Excel, or can be excellent options for creating this.
  3. A Content Repository: options like GatherContent or Google Docs can be useful for organizing  drafting, reviewing, and storing content edits before the site is ready for staging. These can have varying fees and setup costs so it’s good to consider long-term goals for this tool beyond the scope of a single project when evaluating which one is the best for your organization.

Ultimately, there are any number of external factors that will play into whether a total content makeover makes the most sense for your organization and your public-facing website, but if a lighter content refresh simply will not meet your content goals, you can set your organization and your project team up for success with a clear Information Architecture (IA), dedicated team, and several web-based collaboration tools that enable your content team to do their best work from anywhere.

Katy Franzen is a Principal Consultant at Clarity Partners.  Much of her project work focuses on project management, content strategy, quality assurance, and user acceptance testing.