By Cathy Dew
Last month we announces the launch of Plus16, a monthly webinar program connecting attendees with 2Plus2 developers, designers and implementation consultants. From large scale intranets to multi-lingual marketing sites to targeted mobile applications, we will share our knowledge of what it takes to make each project a success across design, technology and project management.
The format for these webinars is a brief presentation (~20 min.) followed by questions and answers from the audience. Addressing content migration during custom website development or intranet design, 2Plus2 President and CEO Cathy Dew kicked off the Plus16 webinar series with a resounding bang. In case you missed it, here are three options for catching up:
Check out the SlideShare
Transcript: Successful Content Migration in 6 Clear Steps
Good morning West Coast, Good Afternoon East Coast. Welcome to a walk-thru of our 6-step plan for success. My name is Cathy Dew, CIA – Chief Information Architect for 2Plus2. I’ve also got Sally Dew our Creative Director and Anthony Baratta, CTO for 2Plus2 Partners.
This webinar provides an overview of the whole content planning process – specifically the effort to assess and migrate content during a website re-design or new website development. Based on your interest, we will offer deep dives into specific parts of the process as subsequent webinars. Today we will share our 6-step approach to help you proactively develop a strategy for content migration. We will provide tools to help you answer questions like – Should this content stay – or should it go? We'll cover strategic considerations to develop a balanced approach between do the minimum, aka "move it as it" and the daunting reality of "rip and replace" approach which requires generating all new content.
Who can benefit from this webinar?
- You are redesigning your site which invariably will include the information architecture
- You are planning a migration to a new CMS platform (or going from static HTML to a CMS)
- You are consolidating multiple websites or merging with a new partner
This approach works for external websites as well as internal intranets. What we are proposing is a process, an approach to making sure that content planning happens proactively and is a focused effort in the project plan. Start the planning early. Create a schedule of each set of tasks and line these up with the overall website redesign or new site development project plan. With some upfront planning and awareness, you will launch your new website design with stellar content that brings home your message, product, advantage. That is our goal!
You have an awesome design and kick ass technology that will truly transform your business, marketing and success. Now you just have to get it populated with content… Before we jump into our 6-steps plan, I want to talk through some definitions and a few guidelines that are applicable throughout the process.
What do you mean content? Is that everything?
- Content – means the pages, media, documents, news, events, FAQ
- Metadata – data about the content, so categories, tags, SEO
- Features – Interactive forms, search, quizzes
- Processes – Membership, purchases
Avoid the big bang, break content into chunks and iterate
It is highly unlikely that you will be able to completely automate the process of migration.
It is highly unlikely that you want to move everything exactly as is.
It is also highly unlikely that you can afford a truly sequential process where content is massaged / edited / generated / finalized and then ready for the new system.
Therefore, it is highly advisable that you get started and build iterations into your plan. For automated migration, the code will get better with each iteration and you will better understand exactly what can be moved programmatically (blind) versus what needs to be done manually allowing for modifications or massaging of the data as part of that process.
Now is a good time to start, everyone agrees content is king, so why…
Everyone agrees content is king, so why is content planning and migration in particular not accounted for appropriately in the project plan. The reality is that content migration is typically underestimated in terms of effort and underrepresented in the project plan. Because of this, content migration then becomes the effort that derails the project timeline and budget. So start early and make it a priority. Ideally content migration is happening in parallel with site design.
Okay, I think we are ready to get started.
Content migration in 6 clear steps
Okay, here we go – the 6-step plan, at a glance.
- Perform a comprehensive audit of your existing content
- Map your existing content into the framework of the newly design site
- Identify the gaps and determine the effort to fill them
- Finalize (new) CMS structure
- Load/migrate content
- Validate and adjust, repeat
1. Existing content inventory
Have a complete and accurate inventory of your website content is a critical first steps to developing your content plan (strategy). There are a number of techniques you can use depending on the complexity and depth of your site.
You can use a tool to create an export of all the pages of a website – dump this in Excel and you will have a pretty good start at a complete list of content in terms of pages
InSpyder SiteMap Creator, and then massage the returned links into a spreadsheet list
If you are moving from an existing CMS, you can scan the tree in the backend of the CMS to create
The goal is to get a fairly detail list of the content that needs to move and then start making some decisions. I am a big fan of using Excel to track your content inventory. Each website page is a row in the spreadsheet.
Each website pate is a row in the spreadsheet. From the URL you can make sections (insert a row) for each subdirectory of the site. Each section will likely be a template in the CMS. For content (types) that repeat, like news or events, you will have a listing page and then the detail.
You can use this view of your content to keep track of a number of decisions and tasks…
- Migration status – move it, don’t move it (could be an archive or a hard delete)
- Migration priority – must be there for launch, would be nice to have this there for launch – this could be a separate column or a variation on the move it status
- Level of effort to get content in shape for migration – does it need minor editing or a complete rewrite
- Usage – in some cases you may be looking for candidates to trim. Looking at site traffic can help you make some decisions about how important that content is to your audience
2. Content mapping into the new structure
The information architecture for the new site is your target.
Now we need to map all existing content in the new structure. This can be done in an iterative manner – starting with general concepts and moving to more detail. Remember that spreadsheet that we used to document your existing content inventory?
Let’s add a new dimension – the target location in the new site structure. This can be as simple as listing the top one or two tiers of your navigation across the top of the spreadsheet (columns).
For each row of the spreadsheet, indicate (start with a X) where this will be in the new structure. Start out simple with header, footer, etc. Depending on where you are with the Information Architecture – you can add details.
As you progress through this process you will see where there are discrepancies – existing content, that has been tagged to migrate, but has no home on the new structure. You may also find holes in the new content structure – this is the beginning of the list of content to be developed. Over time, this same structure can help articulate details for content that exists but needs editing or enhancing to meet the expectations of the new design.
3. Identify the gaps and determine the effort to fill them
Now that you have a framework for what you have versus what you want, it’s time to assess the differences and make some decisions. One easy place to start is addressing the holes in the target site. What content needs to be developed and what effort, time, cost to make that happen.
Once you have a good understand of what content is missing or needs some work you can develop an estimate of the effort it will take to complete content development. Identify and quantify resources (internal, external, time, $) required and start laying this out on your timeline.
Next determine what can be automated. Standard content types like news, events, FAQ are good candidates for programmatic migration. And of course documents (tagging might be a bigger issue, but that’s definitely another webinar).
4. Finalize content types and structure of the target CMS
From a content perspective, you now know what you want to achieve.
Chances are you selected the new CMS because of its capabilities, its ease of use, it technical stability and ability to grow with your organization. Now it’s time to work with your technical team to finalize what I like to call the CMS architecture.
This includes the overall content tree and a complete specification for each content type. It includes each bit of information that will be developed for each content type. For example, for your new story you need a headline, perhaps a sub-head, a byline, the short description and then the article. In the new design, you want to be very visual with your stories so an image is now required for each article. Additionally, the new site has a “related content” section with headlines to related content. This may require an additional field to capture “teaser” copy.
It is at this point that the content is ready for the final massaging needed to realize the new site. Being meticulous and mapping to the new CMS ensures that you have the data to support the vision.
5. Finalize content and load/migrate
The time has come to do the actual migration of content. In some great you will be able to automate this effort for all or most of the data elements for a given content type. The more standard the content type (e.g., news, events, FAQ, standard content pages like About) the easier it will be to write scripts to move the content from your current site to the new structure. You will likely have to augment this with some manual smoothing out to massage the data, e.g., shorten or lengthen a short description based on the display requirements if the new site. You may also need to add content, e.g., all stories must have a hero image.
Some CMS platforms offer tools for migration. We are working with a client right now to migrate content to the latest version of Kentico using recently released tools to facilitate data migration at the object level.
6. Validate and adjust, rinse and repeat
In terms of migrating your content, automated processes won’t be perfect and won’t account for everything. Leave room for iterations in the process. Break this effort into phases and be sure to get feedback – validate that you’ve got it right. This is true for both automated migration and manual cut-and-paste.
If possible, do this in parallel with the design implementation. Once your actual content is expressed in the new design, there will likely be some finessing that may impact content migration. In some cases, for very large projects, the content team may want to get started before the target design has been implemented (in the new CMS). In these cases you may want to set up a rudimentary un-styled version of tool to get content migration started. Initially it can help you organize and identify holes. Later in the process it can serve has a holding place for content waiting for final styling.
We rook exactly this approach with a current client as part of implementing their new Intranet. For this global company, the new global intranet moved from a location-based, very silo-based design to a function-first information architecture. As part of the early content mapping process we setup a completely stripped (out-of-the-box) version of the new CMS so that we could start to envision the new content organization.
At some point there is a sync point where you will need to coordinate content migration, what’s happening in your production system and the official “go live” for your new site. We can talk about that more in a subsequent webinar.
With diligent planning and attention to detail, started early, you can realize the vision of your new website. Thoughtful content planning leading to successful content migration is a huge part of that effort.
Of course there are other things required to meet your content goals. Here are a few… more future webinars.
Thank you. Any questions?
Are you ready to develop your content strategy? Thank you for your time today. Any questions.