Admit You are a Tourist

Flickr/ Capture The Details – Confused Tourists // CC BY-NC 2.0

Over winter break I was staying in Lévis, Canada and desperately needed some food since my Airbnb had an overabundance of essential oils, but no actual food for human consumption. When I got to the nearest grocery store, and went to the front to check out, the cashier started speaking in French. This makes sense as French is the preferred language of Quebec. I, however, do not speak French, except to say the phrase, “hi, I do not speak French.” A long standing tradition on my ventures nationally and internationally is telling the least amount of people that I am a tourist.

What does any of this have to do with content inventories and audits? While I was running a content inventory on a website recently, I ran into a similar situation. I was lost but as per usual I did not want to admit to being lost. I found myself in a similar situation as the one I was in in that grocery store in Canada. I was a tourist in an environment that I did not speak the language or know my way around.

After reading through an article by Lisa Maria Martin, called What to Ask Before You Audit, I found that I was approaching the inventory incorrectly. I did not realize that I was actually running a content inventory, not an audit. Instead of beginning the auditing process through the lens of the website’s stakeholders, I was viewing it as a seemingly omniscient outsider. I was not a native of the environment that composed the content of this website, and instead of admitting to being an outsider, I came in expecting to understand the motivations behind the content on the website and the different reasons for why it might be there.

After reading through this article by Lisa Maria Martin, and talking through the content with a few people, I realized it was time to admit I was a tourist in someone else’s website. I read through Martin’s article and understood that I needed to reevaluate the way that I was approaching this inventory and then later on the audit. This article has helpful pointers on where to begin even if you are a seasoned auditor or someone that has never ran a content audit before. It explains the differences between a content audit and an inventory, which are actually two completely different terms. This article helps to figure out the “why” behind the reason for running content inventories and audits. Once you admit to being an outsider in an environment that you are unfamiliar with, you can then proceed with navigating more successfully through the content in ordered to get to the questions that you need to ask before beginning a content audit.

After figuring out why you are auditing a website, you can proceed to the next step in the process. This step considers what you are actually auditing. If you do not know what you are auditing or what the audit is going to be used for, this will not take you very far in an auditing process. The end goal is to figure out the “what” behind an audit. What is the purpose of this audit that you are working on? Sometimes it is helpful to write out some notes on the different sections you may want to include in your audit. Is it important that you go through every single page? Do you want to list out all of titles on the various website pages?

Asking questions about what content is important is… well, important. And it is paramount in any website evaluation to ask the stakeholders what they think, because they are the ones that are familiar with the website and its environment. Sometimes it is okay and even pertinent to ask questions when you are unfamiliar with your surroundings. Being a tourist might actually be a positive label to have in certain instances.

Helpful videos on content audits: