How to do a content audit in four easy steps

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We all know the value of a content audit. It’s absolutely nobody’s favourite job, but taking a proper, focussed look over everything your organisation is putting out there is the best way to spot inconsistencies, out-of-date messaging and stuff that’s just not good enough.

If you don’t have time to look at absolutely everything, there are four simple steps you can take to improve the bits that really matter. A user-focussed audit will show you exactly where your content is stopping people from moving through your website easily, to do what they came there to do.

1. Define your user journeys

People come to your website to take an action – to read an article, donate to a campaign or maybe contact someone at your charity. You probably have a good idea what these actions are, but you can use Google Analytics to shed more light on exactly what journeys people are taking through your website.

Decide on a set number of user journeys you want to look at (if you don’t have time for all of them focus on the ones that bring in the most traffic) then create a profile of a typical customer for each journey. At JustGiving that might include:

  • A first time fundraiser
  • A donor looking to support an emergency appeal
  • A charity employee thinking about signing up to JustGiving

Once you know who your customers are, write a sentence from their perspective that sums up what they want to do on your website.  Here’s an example of a JustGiving donor perspective.

Picture of a girl and a sentence reading "My name is Kayleigh. I want to donate to a friend or charity that I know. I've heard about JustGiving but I've never been to the website before"

2. Talk to your colleagues

Alongside defining your user types and journeys, you should also be talking to key stakeholders from around your business who work closely with each of these types of customer. Your customer service team will be an invaluable resource at this point – they know your users’ day-to-day problems better than anyone else in the business. It’s also worth talking to product designers, UX researchers, SEO specialists and anyone who works directly with a specific user base.

Book some time which each person individually and bring a Dictaphone along to record the interview. The questions you ask will be unique to your organisation, but here are some useful things to start with:

  • How often do you produce content, what is it and who is it for?
  • Where does it appear? On the website? Social media? In emails?
  • What is the goal of the content you produce?
  • What content works well and how do you know that?
  • Are there any tensions in the content you produce? Is something missing or not working well?
  • What would you do to fix it?

Keep your questions as open-ended as possible and steer your interviewee back to the subject of user content if they go off topic. You may find that these interviews reveal new user types or journeys that you didn’t know about, so make sure all your interviews are complete before you move on to…

3. Journey mapping

Once you’ve defined all your user journeys, it’s time to map them out. This means moving through your website (and your email/social channels) as though you are the customer. Screen grab each page and plot them out in the order they would be viewed. You can do this in InDesign if you’re feeling fancy, or you could just print them out and stick them to a wall. Dividing them into stages and channels (as we’ve done below) helps to keep things clear and tidy.

A screen grab of part of a content audit journey map

Now take a step back and apply the knowledge you learned during your interviews to the journeys you have. Where are the dead ends? Are there mixed messages in one journey? Does the design look inconsistent from one page to the next? Is it easy to flow through this journey and get to the end?

Write down every issue you can see and cover your user journeys in notes. You’ll find that people have LOTS of ideas about how certain areas could be improved, but for now you’re just trying to list the problems. Save the ideas for your…

4. Content workshops

This is the final stage of your content audit. Now that you know exactly where you content isn’t working, you can brainstorm ways to fix it.

Organise a series of workshops (ideally one for each of your user journeys), inviting the relevant people from your original interviews back to share their expertise again. You’ll probably come up with some quick fixes you can pick up straight away, as well as bigger pieces of work that might need more time – like a lifecycle email redesign, or a new fundraiser inspiration hub.

Be prepared to compromise on the work that comes out of this. Some areas of content that you’d love to improve may turn out to be low priority in relation to your business goals for the year. That’s not a problem – keep them on file and pick them up when there’s more time and resource.

No matter what you find, or how quickly you can implement the changes, these workshops should produce a list of real, tangible things you can do to improve your content and user experience. And that means more people getting where they need to go on your website. Nice work everyone.

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Holly is a content editor at JustGiving. She spends a worrying amount of time thinking about email subject lines, error messages and mobile optimised landing pages.