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Excellent content and writing blogs

If you subscribe to any freelance writing or content related blogs, you’d know that everyone is vying for votes in Michael Stelzner’s (Writing White Papers) 3rd Annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers Contest.

The competition highlights the best of the best. I’ve found it a great starting point when you are first looking for blogs that offer good advice and case studies.

I’ve placed my vote for Men With Pens, one of the few blogs that I look forward to every new post. If I had a couple of extra votes I’d give them to Copyblogger and Daily Writing Tips. Also excellent blogs – well written, interesting, and achievable. What more could you ask for?

Take the time to cast your vote.

A great refresher for all the grammar nuts out there

I used to be one of those nerdy kids sent on writing camps at school. At the camp we’d study our favourite authors, learn how to craft poetry, and (of course) brush up on the fundamentals of grammar and punctuation.

I’m ashamed to say, but in this day and age of spell checks, auto-fill and abbreviated communication, that I’ve forgotten some of the basics. Luckily, one of my favourite blogs Daily Writing Tips has just posted English Grammar 101: All You Need to Know.

It’s a great refresher. Read it and remember the difference between a proper noun and an abstract noun, use articles correctly, and always write in an active voice.

I hope you find it as useful as I have.

How to approach a content migration – part three

This is the final post in my little series on how to approach a content migration. I’ve talked about some of the planning tasks, as well as things to do throughout the migration. Now the end is in site. You’ve manually cut and pasted hundreds – if not thousands – of pages into your new site. What an effort.

Don’t lose focus
The key to this stage is not to let the quality of your work decline are you count down to the go live of your new site. You should have in place a thorough quality assurance process, as well as an approach for handling any errors or problems that occur. A content freeze on the existing site (where no one makes any content changes for a period of time) will give you some breathing space to go through the new site and check it’s all working.

Prioritise fixes
In the big migrations that I’ve worked on, we usually rank errors to help prioritise how they are fixed. Severity (sev) 1 and sev 2 errors are show-stoppers, something that you can’t go live with. Sev 3 and sev 4 errors do impact the user experience, but the site is still essentially functional. If you do go live with errors (and be realistic, there will be some), make sure you have an agreed time frame in which they will be addressed.

Finally…
Take the opportunity of a content migration to implement an automatic maintenance process (most content management systems have one) to ensure that pages are flagged for review after a nominated period of time. It will make your job a whole lot easier.

Now I know that there are many other things to think about during a content migration – everything from maintaining team moral, to managing client expectations. I’ll aim to cover some of these other topics in the future, in the mean time – what have been your experiences?

How to approach a content migration – part two

OK, so you’ve made it through the planning stage of your content migration. Congratulations.

But now you are faced with your biggest challenge – finishing!

Content migrations can be tedious, with lots of little things cropping up, the possibility of unplanned surprises at every turn. Needless to say, documentation of your decisions is useful – especially if you are on a very large project that is going to go a long time.

Have a think about your schedule. What order are you going to migrate all of those pages? My advice is to get the high traffic pages out of the way first. This gives you a little more time to iron out any kinks in the layout and presentation (if that’s your responsibility), and to make sure you are able to quality assure (QA) the pages properly.

Did you decide whether you’ll be reviewing your content at the same time? If so, make sure you have agreement from the content owners of the level of approval they require for any re-worked pages. There’s nothing worse than having your deadlines at the mercy of a manager who takes their time approving your work. Have a back-up plan, or simply make it clear that you will progress without their approval – you simply won’t migrate their content.

It’s also important to pull together a style guide (if you don’t already have one). As I’ve mentioned before, consistency in your content is vital. If you are lucky enough to have a team of people doing the migration, a style guide is even more important. It’s amazing how everyone has their own way of doing things, from file naming to punctuation, linking, and layout.

Next post I’m going to finish of this little series with the count down to go live. In the mean time, check out Column Two, a blog by Step Two Designs. They have a lot of good things to say about content management and knowledge management. I’ve been to one of their courses before, and find they offer some really good advice about a range of intranet related topics.

How to approach a content migration

The past couple of big projects that I’ve worked on have been content migrations – migrating an existing site to a new content management system (CMS). If you’ve ever tackled one before, you’d know that there are lots of things to consider in order to make the migration a success.

So here’s the biggest tip that I can offer:  Plan, plan, and plan some more.

It’s always tempting to jump in and ‘just start doing it’. But please take the time – weeks if you are able to – to sit down and plan exactly how you are going to approach the migration. Fingers crossed you have been invited in at the start of the project so that you can have input into the overall project planning as well. 

Consider:

The platform you are migrating to
What unique quirks does the CMS have in store for the content? I’m working on a MOSS implementation at the moment, and some of the out-of-the-box features of the product have had major content implications.

User research
What do your users think of your site at the moment? Is now the time to address some of the usability issues that you may have? Or is it best to leave things as they are (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it)?

Metrics
Understand the top content of your site. If your timeline is tight (and for a large migration it probably will be), having a good idea of what content is currently being accessed the most will mean you will be able to prioritise the time spent on each section.

Information architecture
Are you changing the IA or keeping it the same? If you are going to change it – promote the new IA to business areas and have a plan in place to maintain the integrity of it.

Resources
How many people do you have to migrate the content? Will you have enough people to conduct a review of the content, or will it be just a straight migration?

So much to consider! My next post will look at some of the other challenges you may encounter when conducting a migration. If you’ve got any migration questions, please contact me.