Give your stakeholders the big picture view of content strengths and weaknesses
Updated March 2016
One of the best ways to get a snapshot of content strengths and weaknesses is through an expert review. An expert review shows how well your current content stands up to industry standards and best practices.
A content scorecard is simply an expert review that’s presented in an easy to understand format.
Benefits of a content scorecard
Content scorecards are great for demonstrating content strengths and weaknesses to busy stakeholders. They’re faster and more affordable than user testing, and can be scaled to meet business and project needs.
When used alongside a content audit, they help you understand the scope of a site redesign or rewrite.
Finally, scorecards also are valuable in helping establish project focus and priorities. It’s hard to ignore poor or failing grades in any area.
Understanding a few guidelines before you start
First, remember a content scorecard is subjective. The quality of the findings is dependent on your expertise as a content reviewer. You need a deep knowledge of writing mechanics and technique, usability and interaction design, information design, content marketing, and branding if you intend to provide holistic results.
Next, you’ll get better results if you limit the review to one specific area rather than include areas outside your expertise. To eliminate the potential bias of a single reviewer, use three independent reviewers, if possible. Together, they can analyze discrepancies between opinions and provide focused, consolidated findings.
And last, remember that an expert review and content scorecard are diagnostic tools. Content validation should always include testing with real customers.
Determining the criteria
To find the right set of heuristics, or criteria, to include in your evaluation, start by choosing detailed criteria across 5 to 8 core categories.
Usability.gov has some great usability and design guidelines, many of which focus on content. You’ll also find tons of different usability and user-centred design guidelines adapted from Jakob Nielsen’s classic set of ten usability heuristics. The trick is to think about how these heuristics relate to content and make sure these areas are represented in your criteria.
When you’re finalizing your criteria, make sure they are specific, easily demonstrated, and organized into relevant categories. Also keep in mind the current best practices for social media and customer engagement.
Content scorecard sample
In this sample, the table of contents shows the scenarios and categories to assess. A scenario is a user-framed question or problem, such as: “My subscription to the service is up for renewal. How do I renew and purchase an upgrade?”
The report detail pages include one scorecard per category. The scorecard lists the specific criteria. In the sample, the category Is the information design logical, effective, and consistent? is made up of eight different and specific criteria.
Conducting the review
To keep a user-centred perspective, conduct expert reviews around user scenarios. The scenarios approach helps you stay focused on priority areas and a cross-section of page types. Choose two or three key scenarios to evaluate.
Keep track of your results in a spreadsheet that includes all of your criteria and plenty of space for notes. Depending on the scope of your review, you may want to include a row for each page you look at, and individually critique each one.
Or, you can capture the overall findings from each scenario walk-through as a whole. In this case, be sure to capture the path that you followed through the scenario.
Tip: Don’t try to evaluate everything in one pass. Do multiple sweeps through the pages, focusing on different elements each time.
Documenting the findings
You’ll end up with loads of data from your review!
The challenge is to boil it down to key messages that are useful to you and your stakeholders.
In your findings report, start by providing the big picture and then drill down into more detail. In each category, show examples of content for a few of the criteria with specific comments and recommendations. If a someone asks for more clarification about criteria that you didn’t mention, talk them through it or provide an example at their request.
Usually, the focus of the report is on high-level findings and recommendations.
The best part of using a scorecard approach is that you can apply a grading system that’s familiar to your audience. Like in school report cards, provide clear descriptions of what your grades mean.
For example, use the grades A to D representing grades for excellent, good, satisfactory, and poor. You can also include an E, or fail rating, and a N/A rating if the content could not be evaluated.