Dear Ditto,

My team is gearing up to start a major redesign. I know that's going to mean a ton of work for my communications team down the road. Is there anything I can do now to set us up for success later?

Advice from:
Stephanie Todd
Content Strategist & Experience Architect

You’re about to take on a website redesign, and as you look over all blog posts, resources, white papers and other content that has accumulated on your old site over the years you probably ask, “Where do I start?” Many of our client partners just don’t know enough about their website content and knowing what content you have will help you make informed decisions during the website redesign.

We recommend you start looking at your existing site and analyzing the content’s quality, structure, and scope. Having a clear understanding of how much content you and how effective it is will help you scope and budget the content effort of your website redesign.

Content production is very time-consuming so the more up-front planning you do around your content will save you time and resources in the long run. Here we walk you step-by-step through what you need to do before you undergo a website redesign, so you’re better prepared to say what content needs to go, what needs to stay, and what needs improving.

Step 1: Inventory the content

Preparing your content for a website redesign is just like planning for a big move into a new house. You don’t want to waste time packing and unpacking the stuff you know you no longer need. The same is true for your website’s content. But in order to start identifying the content you can let go, you need to understand exactly what content you have. To know this, you’ll need to do a content inventory.

There are two ways you can do a content inventory — manually clicking on every single page of your website or using a tool that will “crawl” your website automatically. It depends on how much content you have on your site and how much time and resources you have available to do this work.

A manual crawl might sound time consuming, but getting “eyes on” all of your content early in the process is valuable. To start a manual content inventory, use a spreadsheet and record the page title and URL for each web page and content component on your site.

By using an automated inventory tool, you can identify all of your content items such as HTML pages, documents, PDF, images and other files. There are several inventory tools from which you can choose, and some are even free up to a certain amount of pages like tools from Content Insight and Screaming Frog.

Step 2: Clean up your content

Most websites have too much content and having too much content on your website affects the usability of the site and often makes it too difficult to maintain. Knowing exactly how much content you have on your website is just the first step in identifying content for removal.

To your spreadsheet, add another column called “Keep, Update, Delete,” and do a first pass on each page on your site in order to recommend what needs to stay and what needs to go. Reviewing each piece of content can be a huge effort, but content is literally the most important element of your site. This makes planning ahead and starting this effort early a necessity.

Step 3: Assess your content

After you’ve completed your content inventory of your current website, now is the time to look that content over to see if what you have is actually any good. It’s difficult to make recommendations for improving a website if you don’t understand the quality, scope, and structure of the content you currently have.

You’ll need to do a content assessment, which we usually record in the same spreadsheet, and include factors such your content’s structure, accuracy, quality, usefulness, and effectiveness.

Add these factors as columns to your existing content inventory and create a rating scale of either 1 to 5 (with 1 being bad and 5 being outstanding) or do rankings of high, medium, or low. You can choose whatever works best for you. I’d recommend adding a "Notes" column as well, to capture your thoughts and comments along the way, such as:

  • Turn this PDF into an HTML page
  • To minimize duplicate information, combine these two pages.
  • Ask Toral in the Finance Department to update the numbers here.

Your findings from your content inventory, cleanup, and assessment will provide you with insights for improving the website before you begin your website redesign, and will give you a sense of how to budget your time and resources for improving the content. Keep in mind that creating content for a single page can take upwards of 8 to 10 hours depending on the complexity and your policy for content review, and that revising an existing page usually takes about half that time.

If you follow these steps above, you will know how much content you have on your site and whether or not that content is working to meet your redesign goals.

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