How to Conduct A Content Audit

Yashu Mittal

If you’re working on any kind of redesign project involving a large amount of content, such as that of a website, intranet or mobile site, one of the first tasks you’ll need to perform is a content audit.

I say need, not want—a content audit isn’t something you’re necessarily going to want to tackle. It’s one of those un-sexy, tedious jobs that hardly anyone talks about. But you can’t undertake a redesign of a content-heavy site without it.

What is a Content Audit

A content audit is the activity of checking all of the content on a website, and compiling it into a big list. There are three main types of audits you can perform:

What is a Content Audit Used For

The main purpose of a content audit is to produce a listing of the site’s content, usually in a big spreadsheet.

This list of content will come in handy at various stages of the project. If you’re re-doing the information architecture, you’ll return to it again and again to remind yourself of the details of each page; you can also use it to talk to authors about managing and rewriting their content; and if you’re going to be moving to a new content management system, you’ll use it to keep note of what you started with, and where you’re up to.

That said, having a comprehensive list of content isn’t the only benefit of this process. Just by taking the audit you’ll get a much better understanding of the content. You may find things you didn’t know existed, spot duplication and identify all kinds of relationships in the content. It can also serve as a precursor to a more comprehensive content analysis, but that’s a topic for another post!

What Does a Content Audit Include

I always record a content audit in a spreadsheet, mainly because spreadsheets are so flexible. They are also great at holding a large amount of information in a fairly manageable way. Plus they’re easy to share with other people.

I recommend collecting the following information for every page:

You may also like to add information about:

You may need to collect different information for each type of content. For example, you may want to list topics or categories for news content; and only list downloadable files in a publications area. The most important thing to know about a content audit is there really is no right or wrong way to do it—it’s a tool for you to use throughout your project, so create your content audit in a way that will help you. And don’t be afraid to adapt it after you start—each client and project is different, so each audit will be different.

Where to Begin

Getting started is easy! Here’s how I go about it.

  1. List the main pages or sections of the site in the first column of your spreadsheet (right alongside your index). Here’s an example of content audit spreadsheet for a site that may look familiar:

Spreadsheet data

  1. Start your content audit by creating a list of the top-level items—this will often match the primary navigation.
  2. Choose one page to start with and dive into it, capturing the information you’ve decided upon for that page.
  3. If that page has sub-pages, make a list of each of them, and repeat the process for each of these in turn.

Spreadsheet data

  1. Dive into any list of sub-pages, and complete that section before moving on.
  2. Then just keep going, until you’ve explored and written down everything you need to. That’s really all there is to it. Spreadsheet data

  3. Capturing the content of a site in a spreadsheet will help you make informed design decisions.

Auditing your content it this way—writing down details of the current page, then listing the sub-pages, then exploring a page—builds out your list in a way that allows you to come back and explore each section one-by-one.

If you’re auditing a big site, it can be very easy to get lost—it’s important to take this process step-by-step, and to finish one section before starting another.


It All Starts with Content

Whether you decide to create a comprehensive list of every item, or just a sample selection, a content audit is a crucial first step in the path to understanding any content-heavy website. While the process may sound tedious (and, granted, often is!), undertaking this process will provide you with the insight and context you need to make informed design decisions.

Creating a content audit doesn’t require years of experience, but it does require patience, persistence, curiosity, and attention to detail—all good traits of a UX Designer!

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