I am sitting here on a Friday at 4.23PM in…
Earlier this week I had the good fortune to meet with a new client partner who we’ll soon be collaborating with on a massive digital customer experience transformation. The high level goal of this project is to redesign an existing website serving the needs of hundreds of thousands of potential and existing clients and then redeploy it on a new customer experience management platform.
As we discussed the project over lunch, the client partner asked my favorite question: What’s the best way to prepare for the content challenges we are about to face? I love this question because it gives me an opportunity to discuss one of my favorite subjects: Content Strategy. But also, by asking this question, the client partner signaled a deep level of thoughtfulness and understanding about the journey we are about to go on together.
The truth is, throughout the project there will be lots of content strategy related activities and deliverables that will help us be even more successful. But today we’ll focus on three things you can do before the project starts to get prepared.
Understand the scope of the opportunity with a content audit
The content audit is a multi-step process, beginning with an automated content inventory, a review of any other inventory documentation, and the website. The result of the first step is a spreadsheet which lists the content by address, and includes a number of other important details for each resource, such as type of file, size, and description. My favorite tool for completing the automated content inventory is Xenu’s Link Sleuth.
Once the inventory is complete, the next step is to convene a cross-functional team including a Content Strategist and a User Experience Architect to analyze the aggregated inventory against click-stream analytics and a selected matrix of comparative online experiences. When this analysis is complete, the team should meet with the client partner to discuss their insights and make collaborative decisions about the content going forward. The output of the content audit includes:
- A detailed inventory of the existing website content.
- An insight report on the content inventory with recommendations regarding the future state.
The benefit of the content audit includes:
- A deeper, more complete understanding of the existing, overall content inventory.
- An opportunity to discuss the value of content against clickstream analytics and other data-driven considerations.
- The basis to make decisions about the sitemap and inventory of the new customer experience.
Get a feel for quality with a content assessment
Once the audit is complete, I like to spend some time focused on the quality of existing content. In this step it is best to work collaboratively with the client partner to come up with a list of key pages to review. During the content assessment we’ll review the selected content through the lens of a variety of measures including:
- Content structure
- Overall clarity and readability
- Ease of navigation
- Brand alignment
- Consistency with business objectives
The output of the content assessment should include a report of overall findings. To increase the value of this report, each finding should be paired with insights and recommendations. To bring the report to content Jedi status, include an explanation of why each recommendation matters. The benefit of the content assessment is a much deeper understanding of your client partner’s content creation capability. This knowledge will help you collaboratively make many decisions as the design and development of the new customer experience unfolds.
Although a content assessment should be lead by someone who has professional-level competency with content strategy, it is possible to do some of the work with automated tools. We’re currently experimenting with Visible Thread’s Clarity Grader but we’d love to hear more about tools you might like to use.
Plan and design a content contributor enablement program
In most cases, a site-wide redesign and re-platform is going to trigger soul-searching around the content being served. As a result, it is very likely a lot of new content will be created, while other items will either be ditched or re-written. It’s quite easy to underestimate the additional effort associated with the content workflow that will now be running parallel to the complex design and technology project already taking up everyone’s attention. We can improve the odds of successfully executing a content integration on this scale by creating a lightweight program that serves as a central hub for the various content contributors while communicating helpful information such as:
- Content style guide
- Editorial calendar
- Content integration ‘help’ documentation
The purpose of this information is to ensure everyone associated with the content generation and integration effort is aware of what’s expected of them while simultaneously providing information that should make their lives easier during execution. However, this is also going to reduce friction for the parties responsible for managing the process by providing a single, centralized repository of information including the contact data for all the individual content contributors!
The output of this planning is a design or specification of the enablement program including means of delivery, individual components, and a communications plan. By the way, depending on size, this enablement program may be delivered via its own intranet based micro-site so it’s important to think carefully about requirements. At the very least, a third part extranet such as Basecamp will be very helpful.
How do you prepare?
In review, we think it’s necessary to properly prepare for a content focused project by conducting a content audit, content assessment, and by planning a custom content contributor enablement program. We’d like to know more about how you’ve prepared for content driven experience overhauls so please connect with us on twitter and share the love with the hashtag #PrepareForContent