Planning Your Content Migration

Content entry and migration of existing content can be one of the toughest aspects of a website development project. With this in mind, I’ve summarized some questions and planning you can do to better position your effort. To take control of your content migration effort: * “Draw a box” around your content to be migrated. How much back/archival content will you be bringing over in a first pass? What types of content will you be bringing over? It helps to draw boundaries around this first.

Content entry and migration of existing content can be one of the toughest aspects of a website development project. With this in mind, I’ve summarized some questions and planning you can do to better position your effort.

To take control of your content migration effort:

  • “Draw a box” around your content to be migrated. How much back/archival content will you be bringing over in a first pass? What types of content will you be bringing over? It helps to draw boundaries around this first. Note that this may need to be re-visited as you start estimating the total size of the effort.
  • Think of content migration as potentially a multi-step process. Even if you decide to bring in 5 years of archival content, that doesn’t mean all that content needs to be brought over for site launch. Consider staging your content migration. Content can be migrated after the site goes live.
  • Having decided which content to bring over, compare some real-world examples of that content against the site specification document or screen-mock-ups. Do you see any “odd” content concepts which were not portrayed in the mock-ups, or that may be difficult to accommodate within the new system? Have a plan for dealing with these items, or bring them to your vendor’s attention – adjustments to meet these items are usually simple, but the earlier they are identified, the better.
  • The further you go back in time, the more likely it is to find content that doesn’t match up with the current or proposed approach. Be sure to go back far enough to find items that may not fit the mold.
  • As you identify tricky situations, add guidelines to your style guide that will help content entry folks deal with these issues in a consistent manner.
  • Consider your tagging / topic scheme. Tagging is often trickier than it seems. “Overtagging” will turn off users who find that a lot of content doesn’t really closely match the tag selected. “Undertagging” will have the same effect as users will question the veracity of your data. Although this varies by system, you may already have an understanding of tricky areas where certain topics may overlap or may be unclear; or, certain tags that may need to be added. Try to think through these issues and have guidance ready for your content entry team in your style guide.
  • Estimate your content entry and staff up appropriately. Make assumptions about how long each content item will take to migrate, and then do the math, along with some buffer for dealing with issues that will arise.
  • Ease your staff in. It is not helpful to have everybody start content migration at once. Instead, create a small (2 or maybe even 3 people) “alpha” team who works content entry for a week or two. That way, you will have a limited number of people working the tough and newly discovered issues that are bound to happen early. Then, once you have guidance or fixes for the typical problems, roll in the rest of the staff.
  • Pick staff that knows the content. In general, staff that are knowledgeable about the content they’re entering do a better job, which is understandable.
  • Make sure your targeted content is readily accessible and organized for content entry folks. This may seem obvious, but sometimes content is not readily available in electronic format and may need to be restored. This includes images or other supporting materials.
  • Build content checklists. Having staffed your content migration effort, build checklists for staff so you and they can verify that all the content you planned on bringing over actually does get brought over. Note that this checklist can serve double-duty – first for verifying that a content item was brought over, then in a later pass to verify Quality Assurance steps against it – e.g., does it appear right, is it tagged right, does it show up in the right spot, etc.
  • Finally, don’t lose sight of the overall objectives of your new web site – to excite potential users and draw traffic. Make sure you’re dedicating enough time to the generation of new, exciting content and not focusing too much on your older content. Make your site more than just a facelift – match that new design with new content!
Rich Tolocka

Rich Tolocka