With almost every new client, Creek Content recommends a content audit or content inventory as the first project. Sometimes, we have to explain the methodology behind that, though. When you know your stuff is bad, it’s awfully tempting just to throw it all out and start again without a second thought.
Perhaps our viewpoint is inspired by the Santayana quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We’ve found that content is rarely broken arbitrarily. There’s often a reason why your stuff is bad. We want to figure that out to prevent it from happening to your shiny new content, too.
If you’re working on a content project and analyzing what you have, here are some things to look for as you evaluate your existing content:
Content-Design Mismatch: Sometimes we see problems that stem from a design that doesn’t work with current content needs. Many organizations find it’s difficult with systems or budgets to continually adapt their site designs, and as a result, content creators figure out ways to shoehorn content into old templates. The end result isn’t pretty or very useful for your customers, unfortunately. The fix usually involves both design and content — everyone has to agree on the goal and on how to get there. Ideally, you also figure out how to make incremental updates part of your process, to prevent this from happening again.
Training and Staff Orientation: We don’t mean orientation in the sense of new employee orientation; we mean, is your staff all oriented in the same direction? Often, organizations make great decisions about new initiatives and operations, but they fail to communicate them well [or often enough] to everyone who needs to know. Organizations that communicate well with large teams internally have a better shot at doing so externally, too. If your website reads like 10 different people wrote it, and everyone does things a little differently, you just look sloppy to your customers. This is preventable.
Poorly Handled Complexity: This is the most intractable, but it’s still possible to fix. An inventory and audit can often reveal the places where you don’t have the right metadata on the back end, or where you’re conversely over-organizing, and making it too hard for customers to find the stuff they want.