Saturday, 6 April 2013

Content migrations: 3 biggest mistakes

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1. Don't migrate out-of-date content

I've often been asked to migrate out-of-date content. I've often been prevented from updating it before I migrate it.

I was once told by a project manager: "I know the content editors have queries about the text, but you can't contact the content owners, as they're too busy."

"Just move all the text into the new content management system (CMS) and the content owners will check it later."

So that's what we (reluctantly) did. We recreated pages and pages of content, making it fit into new templates, knowing that it was out of date - and of very little use to anyone.

Content audit

Why didn't the client do a content audit before we arrived, listing each page as: 'Keep, rewrite or delete'?

The client thought that a content audit would waste too much time. But, in fact, it would have saved time - it would have avoided us migrating hundreds of complex and out-of-date pages.

Want to read more about content audits/content inventories? Article by US content strategist Kristina Halvorson.

2. It's never 'cut and paste'

 Migrating content into a new CMS is never a straightforward cut and paste, even if your existing content is:

  • up to date
  • useful - answers users' questions 
  • popular - you have statistics to prove people look at it and share it

Text will need tweaking to fit your new CMS templates. Content will live in a different context, with different page furniture. So you may need to:

  • reduce the word count
  • write new page titles and headings 
  • write a summary or introduction
  • write new link text
  • rewrite the text into a new tone of voice
  • restructure the information - split it into several pages or merge several pages together
  • add new metadata
  • craft a new URL

Don't say 'migrate'

I avoid using the word 'migrate'. 'Migrate' leads people to think of it as a simple cut and paste job, when actually there's a shed load of tidying up to do. It's not just moving content, it's a chance to improve content.

Automated tools

Some projects use an automated tool to migrate content. And these tools can indeed be useful if you have a huge volume of one type of content - for example, hundreds of press releases. Press releases are usually structured in the same way, which makes it easier to auto-migrate them:

  • headline
  • introductory paragraph
  • body text
  • editor's notes
But do bear in mind that each and every page will need to be checked by human eyes:
have any stray characters crept in? Have any sections of the text gone missing?
And you will still need a human to create the metadata.

3. Lorem ipsum is not your friend

Designers often create a new design using placeholder text - using the industry favourite lorem ipsum or any other text that focuses people on the design and not the words.

The problem with using dummy text is that you often end up designing features - fields and boxes, captions, link text styles - that don't fit the real content.

Keep it real

If you use real page titles, headings, images, image captions, link text, body text, you can check that the design works in practice. You'll avoid creating:

  • unnecessary features 
  • features that don't fit the real content (ever tried writing a news headline with just 25 characters?)

Involving editorial staff early in the design process can save expensive workarounds later on.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent, concise article, Suzanne. I've lost count of the number of so-called migration (aka 're-purping') projects where the client says "it's just a case of taking content from x and porting it to y..." Cue re-evaluation, rewrite, re-approval, broken budgets and deadlines.