How to Conduct a Website Audit
If you're not sure what a website audit is or why you might need to do one, here are some situations where I've found an audit to be incredibly helpful:
What is a website audit?
A website audit is a spreadsheet wherein each row represents a unit of content (typically a page) on your site. The reason I prefer using a spreadsheet as opposed to, say, a text document or a flowchart (although you can build those from your spreadsheet if you need to) is so that you can use the columns to map out the current structure, the proposed restructure (if relevant), the content on each page, suggestions for updates to each page, and more.
The spreadsheet structure also allows you to include notes about broken links or dead ends or design flaws that you find as your comb through your site. You can also assign priority rankings to each page, and then include a column with metrics from your site analytics to look at performance. In the end, each website audit is going to look a little different, because the goals vary from project to project.
Why are we doing this again?
Here are a few common scenarios that might make a website audit a useful tool:
- Due to neglect, or internal changes, or sloppy website administration, the content of your website is kind of a mess. The overall design and Content Management System (CMS) is still fine for your needs, or a redesign is in your future but that future is still kind of far off and you need to clean everything up in the interim. If you want to get everything on your site more streamlined and functional, a website audit is the perfect place to start.
- You are integrating two entities together under one "parent" website umbrella. I ran into this a number of times when I worked in higher education, when one department takes a previously-existing unit under its wing. In these cases a website audit is useful to determine what content needs to be added/updated (and where) to fit into the parent site's structure, what can be left behind, and what is duplicative.
- You are changing your CMS or redesigning your website and you need to be able to see the structure and content of your current site to make the transition go smoothly.
Still with me? Does this sound like something that will be useful to you? Great. Here's what you do:
4 Steps to A Website Audit
- Make sure you know up front why you are conducting this audit. This will help shape what data you collect.
- Open an Excel file (or Google doc, or whatever you prefer). Each row of the document will represent a page on your site.
- Determine what columns you will need. These might include: Page title, page # (I recommend that you create a numbering system for each page), section, content summary, content notes, recommendations, metrics and analytics, priority, etc.
- Open up the site and begin adding details to your sheet. You are on your way!
When an audit will include suggestions for re-organization, I will create a color code for each row for a quick way to visualize my recommendations about what to do with each piece of content: keep, move, remove, etc. If appropriate for the project, I might also suggest additional content that needs to be added. If working in Excel, you can use Smart Art tools to turn your spreadsheet into a flowchart or other additional visualization.