Scoping audits: understanding your content to make immediate decisions

Zengenti builds clever web software to manage content, and their product Contensis was one of ContentEd 2017’s main sponsors. In this blog post, we hear from Zach Beauvais, Head of Content and Communities at Zengenti, about how scoping your content can help you get your questions answered.

We’re all working on something right now. We’ve got things to create, copy to edit, videos to put somewhere, and people to badger about that blog post they said they’d write. We’ve seen talks, read books, and listened to podcasts about productivity and content strategy that tell us to be purposeful. We know that if we’re not following a purpose – a strategy – we’re in danger of our project becoming busywork.

So, let’s talk about two things that can help us get our stuff done on purpose. One is scope – the defined edges of a project that let us focus on what we can design and make. The other is a content strategy tool we’ve all heard we’re meant to use: content audits.

Scope is another way of saying: ‘We’ve got a list of the things we can or will do that make sense to get done.’ Something falls outside scope when it isn’t fit for purpose. Doing this thing won’t move us forward. We might tactically remove something from scope if it slows down more important work, or we simply don’t have the time, resources, or skills to get it done. Scope is a part of planning, so it’s core to a project’s strategy.

Content auditing is a tool – or perhaps process – we use to understand what we’ve got so that we can make changes to further our purpose. We can boil down the process into this:

A content audit is a set of questions we ask about each piece of content.

You and your team choose the questions you need to ask, and systematically record the answers (spreadsheets are the go-to answer repository). Now, asking your questions of every single piece of content you curate – a full content audit – gives you both broad and detailed information. If you’re planning a migration or a full redesign, having this audit can let you make big decisions because you see the whole picture. This information is useful in loads of ways, and a quick Google of “content auditing” should give you plenty of ideas.

We could say that the scope of a full audit is the same shape and size as our site. Every page, content-type, blog post, image, video, testimonial, and the rest falls within scope. And, that’s great – when your purpose is to make decisions about your whole system. Oh, and a full audit is substantial work.

So, could we not benefit from the same process – the systematic recording of select answers – to help us make more immediate decisions?

What if we changed our scope to fit what we’re doing right now?

To narrow our scope to what we’re doing right now, we have to define our new edges for the questions we ask, and the content to interrogate. Think about the purpose behind the work you’ve got in your task list. Maybe we’ve got a new story to tell, but we’re not sure where it should live. Our analytics is showing us that people aren’t completing journeys we expect them to. Our team is reorganising, so who’s going to look after these sections?

Scoped questions could look something like these:

  •    Where should this piece live in our IA (information architecture)?
  •    Where are people coming from when they land here?
  •    Does this content meet our accessibility (or style) guidelines?
  •    Who’s going to own this content?

We tailor the audit framework (fancy name for questions), to our immediate work while keeping bigger, strategic themes in mind. We disregard any questions that distract us – they fall out of scope for this particular audit.

So, what content gets the quizzing? Some of this naturally follows the same questions we need answering. Analytics warnings tell us we need to concentrate on specific sections. A lack of engagement means we should audit the specific journeys we planned. But, we can also look at things like:

  •    Which content is for this specific audience I’m trying to work with right now?
  •    Which content follows directly from our primary navigation?
  •    Which content has been flagged for poor accessibility (SEO, style, page-load errors)?
  •    Which pages are likely to change when we publish a new section?

Once you have your content scoped out, ask your questions and record the answers. This new, narrower audit now informs the decisions you make about the content you’re working on right now. We have answers to the questions that make sure our work fits our strategy. And, those decisions let us get stuff done right now.

It was an honour to have Contensis by Zengenti sponsoring the ContentEd 2017 drinks reception. You can find out more about them on their sponsorship page or on their website

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