Don’t plan to build a Content Management System – plan to build a website


By Trudy Evans

When a CMS is delivered the job is only half done. For a web site to be successful, you’ve got to have high quality, responsive content to put into the new CMS structure.

Imagine building a supermarket but not stocking the shelves. The builders would be celebrating that they’ve built the supermarket on time and on budget but the store manager’s saying, ‘When’s the stock arriving? Where are my staff?’ Without stock and staff people won’t find what they want, have a good experience or return for more.

And it gets worse. The builders say stock and staff is ‘out of scope’ for this project and have a section in the Statement of Work to prove it. The project team says: ‘But you build supermarkets all the time. Why didn’t you tell us its best practice to also stock the shelves and hire staff? You’ve let us down. You’d better provide some people to help us sort this out or we’ll never get you to build another supermarket for us again.’

The night before the supermarket opens the project team, the builders, a bunch of grads and random family members are furiously chucking stuff into shelves. The supermarket opens on time but is a total mess. Over the next few weeks there is a mad scramble to get things under control – there is a massive amount of stress, heaps of overtime and a couple of resignations. In the meantime the customers have had such a rubbish experience they’ve gone to the supermarket down the road.

In the real world this wouldn’t happen. Teams who run supermarkets know they need to be stocked. They know what people want, who their potential customers are, and how they buy. Supermarket stock is treated as an asset – it’s why people go to the supermarket and how it makes money.

Having high-quality digital content on your website is like having the right stock in the right aisles. It’s the reason why people visit to your website. Your content will make or break site traffic, engagement and conversion to sales. But all too often content is not treated as an asset and included in the CMS plan.

The analogy of people chucking random stock into shelves at the last minute is an unfortunate reality on many CMS projects. A lack of content planning means website launches are often delayed, damaging customer experiences are made live, business objectives aren’t realised, vendors, customers and visitors are unhappy. Time and money is wasted and it takes a long time to make up the lost ground.

So why is this happening when everyone knows ‘content is king’? Unfortunately it’s not the same as ‘treating content as king’. Content is hard work and the way forward isn’t always clear. Unlike the supermarket stock analogy, content strategy on CMS projects isn’t well known or supported in the digital industry.

You need a content migration strategy – which simply comes down to understanding what’s involved and creating a plan. The approach to intranet migrations is similar. Here are the main steps.

Step one: The audit.

Quantitative audit:

  • The current platforms/sites/tools/sites migrating to the new platform
  • Count of all the content/pages, list page names and URLS
  • Identify content types (including a count)
  • Automated and manual audit
  • Set up a master content migration spreadsheet

Qualitative audit:

  • Identify content owners and stakeholders (RASCI)
  • Define content evaluation criteria i.e. age, relevance, legal requirement, quality, and accuracy
  • Decide which content will be left, kept, or merged
  • Define the state of the content, effort to update, priorities and migration order
  • Identify the visual assets and PDF documents
  • Analyse site statistics and define review sign-off process.

Step Two: Content creation

  • Map the current content from the audit phase to the new information architecture
  • Review the new design and evaluate the impact on content
  • Define how long new content will take to create
  • Estimate the resource requirements and key dates/milestones and identify risks
  • Establish tools, templates, editorial guidelines, and other documents
  • Define Sign-off processes and management

Step Three: Content loading, building and launching your new website

  • Define Taxonomies/naming conventions for content
  • Understand your new CMS and get training if required
  • Define workflow, equipment, project area/ room, tools, resources needed
  • Define sign-off management
  • Set up and manage redirects and SEO tasks
  • Establish archiving of old content
  • Transition to BAU – change management and user adoption.

At Datacom we typically run information architecture as a separate task and then merge with the content audit findings to ensure we have captured everything in the new IA and identified any content gaps. We also kick content off at the same time as design and development. This way what we learn from the audit process can be fed into the design process.

Design and content must run hand in hand. To make a real impact on your customers and get them to buy, content must be treated as king.

Trudy Evans is a User Experience Analyst for Datacom Auckland.

Our blog is an open platform for leading thinkers right across our business. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) are their own and do not always imply endorsement by the Datacom Group.

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