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Browse through our posts on content, design, and code, or get the latest updates around Sector and our roadmap for 2018.

  • Content Audits - where to start

    A content audit is an inventory of your site. Content units are listed with related metadata, assessments, and actions to be taken. An audit can help you on your quest to publish useful and usable content that meets both audience and business needs. But, content audits are hard - so, where to start? 

    If you have ever carried around a spreadsheet with thousands of rows through a government department in New Zealand and tried to find the content owner of line 20,186 - your tears might have blurred the ink on the printout. This can be, and should be easier. 

    1 - Why are you doing it? 

    First, decide what you want to achieve. A content audit can help you to

    • Understand the content on your site,
    • Improve the validity and quality of your content, 
    • Identify gaps and create a feasible content roadmap, and
    • Schedule and manage content resources.  

    Are you preparing for a migration? Is your content, or parts or your content, redundant, outdated, or trivial? Has the amount of content become unmanageable? Is your content not performing? Not meeting your audience needs? What does success look like?

    Choose your tools and tailor your audit process to generate the outcome your project needs.

    2 - High-level numeric assessment 

    Keep these spreadsheet people at bay!* Sort and count first. Think: how many apples are between the pears in the gift basket, and why is there no chocolate? 

    A high-level numeric assessment

    • Separates the content into content groups (resources, news, events, staff profiles, etc.),
    • Counts the units in each group,
    • Provides a high-level assessment per group, 
    • Makes a high-level assessment on the future of the content in each group, 
    • Sets priorities per group (or parts of a group), 
    • Decides how each group is audited. 

    If you're looking at an audit with over 1000 unique URLs, this is the time to start thinking about automation. Your Content Management System (CMS) should be able to export a sitemap and list content per content type. In Drupal, filtered and customisable content views can export data to be crunched in Google Sheets or Excel. Remember - you are assessing the challenge, so keep it high-level.   

    3 - Chose a tool 

    Now that you know how much content you need to work through line by line, it's time to think about tools. As a minimum, export the list of URLs to be audited using your CMS or an external online sitemap tool. Get as much meta data exported as you can. For example: 

    • Unique ID 
    • URL
    • Title 
    • Summary 
    • Last edited 
    • Page views 
    • And anything else that helps you to meet your objectives

    The line-by-line content audit can be conducted using 

    • Google Sheets or Excel spreadsheets (keep it sortable and filterable),
    • Using cloud-based services like Gather Content
    • Or - in our opinion the best scenario - inside your CMS 

    Content managment systems are in existence to manage your content. Your system should support your editorial processes, and support your editorial team to create and maintain useful and useable content. Moving content or managing meta data in a third party tool that is optimised to do that specific job might look easy and promising, but a content audit should not be a one-time exercise. Think about creating a sustainable and maintainable process that supports your content needs now and in the future. 

    Most CMS systems allow you to add editorial workflows and editorial metadata to content. Meet with your developers and push for a content-focused system. Building Sector, one of our main aims was to create more than a technology platform. Sector allows you to treat content as an asset with a lifespan longer than one website. We want to help you get your content in better shape, and build value in knowledge assets and information over the long term. The Sector Content Audit add-on is a flexible and customisable starting point to audit your content in-system. 

    4 - Get the job done 

    Again, your audit should focus on and enable you to make better, informed publishing decisions.

    More about this coming soon! 

    To sum up...

    Content audits aren't easy, but they are important and shouldn't be one-offs. Before starting, you need to work out what you want to find out from your content audit, so you can decide what success looks like and how you get there. You can use external tools to export your meta data into a spreadsheet, but your content management system should really do this for you.

    Want to know more?

    Check out our content strategy series on our blog

    * I am one of them, so I know what I am talking about. 


  • Getting your Content Strategy to work (in the real world), Part 1 tl;dr

    The tl;dr problem - a short hand for 'too long; didn't read' - is not only a reality you face with your online audience, your teams will be 'offenders' as well. 

    The problem is two-sided - your Content Strategy might actually be too long, and too inaccessible; and your team members might just not get the rtfm (read the fine manual) approach.

    Make it shorter 

    Making things shorter takes effort. 

    I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.

    Mark Twain

    The rules on how to make your documentation shorter are the same as for writing for an online audience. 

    • Know your audience 
    • Do less (Kill your darlings) 
    • Frontload. Front. Load. Period. 
    • Ask for feedback.
    • Continuous improvement. Publish fast; never stop making it shorter and better.

    Maybe the best way to improve your documentation is to read it aloud to somebody who has no time to listen to you. Don’t get stuck inside your own head or document. 

    Make it more accessible 

    • Find a space in the open - let others see your work. No paper, no PDF; write in the open and online. 
    • Switch the focus from you to your audience - make your message relate to your team.
    • Accessible writing is useful, usable writing. Make it so. 

    Win your team over

    • Ask for feedback.
    • Give feedback. Positive and negative. If you want things to change 'feed back'. 
    • Stick to your own rules - set a precedent. If you put it in the strategy, use it!
    • Convince, cajole, get face-to-face in workshops and training sessions. 
    • Pick your battles. You can't win all the time on all fronts. Pick the top 3 things that would make your content or publication process better and focus on them.    

    Want to know more?

    Check out our content strategy series on our blog

  • What is a content strategy and why you need one

    A content strategy helps you to provide the right content to the right people at the right time by planning content creation, delivery and governance.

    Why you need a content strategy

    Your content is your site. Period.

    In our experience, the number one missed opportunity in website projects is to validate existing content or to create useful, usable new content.

    Putting content centre stage when you are planning a site means that throughout your project - from design to technology - the outcome will benefit your business and meet your users expectations. You will be able to identify and consider the opportunities, constraints and implications of actual content throughout the building of your site.

    A content strategy is not only useful during the building of your site, but is also a valuable reference for continued content creation and curation once your site is live and, together with your content style guide, it ensures content is consistent in its voice and structure.


    When it comes to creating and governing content, it’s easy to forget what we want, or even worse, to settle for less.” 
    Kristina Halvorson - The Discipline of Content Strategy 

    What should go in your strategy

    Your aim should be to enable your team to make better, informed publishing decisions and to focus resources on what is actually needed. One way, and there are many, is to centre your strategy around answering the following questions:

    • What is your content about, who reads it, and why?

    • How is the content organised and displayed?

    • What people and processes are needed to support content creation and management?

    • Who is authorised to make decisions now and in the future?

    To sum up…

    A content strategy is an extremely valuable resource, whether you’re building (or rebuilding) a site, or adding content to it. A strategy should have clear guidelines for substance, structure, workflow, and governance - the combination of these defines a process that will help your writers and editors to create high quality, consistent content.

    Want to know more? 

    Check out our content strategy series on our blog or, for expert help, contact the Sparks Interactive team


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