So much thought and effort goes into the planning of a large scale CMS site redesign from user experience design to creative concept development and testing to technical architecture and interactive functionality implementation.
Clients and their agency partners tend to put most of their project planning and risk management analysis into the more technical and complex moving pieces. For example, third party API integration, performance testing, contingency plans for unforeseen feedback in leadership creative reviews, focus group testing, etc.
Essentially, we tend to plan early and often for things we don’t have yet; the tools of the new digital experience. However, what often gets overlooked is the simple fact that these tools are useless without the right content to drive them. Perhaps the most important piece of a redesign, and also the most overlooked is usually the content development and migration.
Putting just as much effort in planning for a successful content migration sounds obvious but in reality it’s often an afterthought. Why is that? Sometimes it’s because there is an assumption that we already have all this content and we just need to “port it over” to the new site. Other times it’s simply because of the busy schedules of content subject matter experts who now have to add this daunting and time consuming task to their plate.
In Part 1, I talk about approaching the CMS design iteratively with releases early and often and the answer to the content migration is very similar. Planning early and often and treating this task equally, or even with more emphasis than the other site deliverables helps ensure a more successful content migration. Here are some tips that help the process to ensure a successful content migration.
Set Expectations Early
Coming out of the discovery phase, as user experience design and other deliverables follow, it’s time to start the content migration discussions. Teams are excited to start developing the new experience but the content migration kick off should happen at the same time. Developing a detailed project plan with roles and responsibilities specific to the content migration phase is a good way to make it real and actionable from the outset before various other deliverables start stacking up and taking priority.
Start Identifying and Organizing
Before the user experience design kicks off, performing a content audit of the existing digital properties can go a long way. Help your clients to take stock of what they have and what they don’t have. What content is relevant, well-written, evergreen, etc. and what content needs to get thrown out or rewritten? What content is dynamic and driven by a third party database? What rich media assets exist such as images and video? Similarly, which ones are good and which ones require a video or photo shoot? This process often helps get ahead of the content migration to follow, but perhaps more importantly identifies gaps that require additional support.
For example, uncovering gaps early on can help alleviate a lot of future logistical planning and risk to squeeze in something like a photo shoot or new copywriting at the last minute. It will also help focus the experience design towards what is realistic and attainable, versus something that the content will not be able to fully support.
Develop the Content Toolbox
Content authors need direction when writing and mapping content for a whole new digital experience and clear, concise tools are required. Prioritize the development of buttoned up graphical and detailed sitemaps so content authors can start bucketing content and mapping existing pages to new pages. Develop content submission templates that match template types with intended modules for use. Make it easy for content authors to develop and place content, versus making them figure out the page structure as well where possible.
Listen to your Content Authors, Design the CMS for them
I talk about this more extensively in Part 1, but developing a CMS design for content authors is perhaps the most important aspect of content migration. Release templates and modules and conduct training early and often for two reasons.
First, it allows content authors to make traction early and populate content over a much longer and comfortable timeline. Second, content authors will not want to place modules on a page if they don’t have to. It’s important to train content authors on how to use content modules to enhance a page, but it’s more important to design a CMS that makes page creation quick and easy.
For example, content authors will often ask for certain page types to have a certain sets of modules with placeholder content associated automatically by default. Talking to the content authors early to understand their technical level of comfort and their workflow challenges is critical. It will allow the technical build to incorporate more feedback when it’s captured early and often and will leave content authors with a CMS tailor-made for them instead of trying to retrofit later where users are frustrated.
Overall, listen to your clients, identify their content strengths and gaps and develop a roadmap early on in the process to coincide and integrate with the new digital experience.
Taking the time to carefully plan will also leave more time for the content differentiators that set the project apart.
This includes things like writing for accessibility, a clear and user-friendly content taxonomy tagging structure and optimizing content for search engines. It also allows content authors to further embrace the proposed user experience. When users are comfortable with their CMS design and have the right tools to develop and migrate content, they can focus on developing a new page that is structured, modular and tells the right story. When working with clients on the development of a new digital property, treating the content migration with the same level of thought and detail as the other project deliverables is key to success.