Download the free 'Web Content Production Calculator'

Download the Web Content Calculator (xls, 50Kb) to help plan the time & effort you need to write, migrate and review online content. (Yes, it's virus free, I checked.) A short video about how it works, is below.

Why the calculator?

I have been writing, migrating & QAing web content for more years than I care to remember - usually as part of big CMS implementations.

At the beginning of such activity a project manager will often put 1 of 2 questions to me...
  1. "Shane! We need to write 100 pages of brand new content & migrate 500 existing pages into the CMS. How long will that take?
  2. "Shane! We have an absolute maximum of 20 days to produce & migrate all content. How many pages can we handle in that time?"
Well, it depends...

Neither of those is so easy to answer. There are a lot of dependencies. But after a long time of throwing guesstimes around, I decided to get a bit scientific.

I began to track the time needed to complete the 3 main steps of content production and came up with the following per-page averages:
  • Writing ... 5 hours to write 1 page of newly commissioned content of about 500-700 words through first draft, second draft, client review & final editing.
  • Migration ... 20 minutes to cut-n-paste a web page into CMS & apply all formatting, insert links, images, tables, metadata, etc.
  • QA ... 4 minutes to review & correct any final errors once a page is online.

Bear in mind, these are averages. Some pages take a lot more time and some take a lot less time. But on average, those are the times I now go with.

Of course, those estimates can be lowered if content is not 'completely new' but is being repurposed from some other source, e.g. brochure content being republished online.

No way!

The most surprising and least accepted figure is the 5 hours for writing a page of new content.

Pretty much every client I have ever worked rejects that figure out of hand. They're usually thinking along the lines of 2 hours per page. Yet in reality, it often takes 6 hours or maybe even 7 hours for really good quality output.

In fairness to them, I guess we all had to learn the hard way that great content is incredibly labour intensive.

Into excel

A long time ago I put all these numbers into an Excel spreadsheet so I could work out calculations on the fly - and also demonstrate to clients what they really needed to invest in when planning content. (After all, good Web Governance is all about understanding the scale of an intended site.)

Screengrab of the web content calculator

An ex-colleague of mine and I also tried to webify it a few years back. We made a bit of progress and did some nice mock-ups - but then other projects took over, he left and it got lost. Oh well.

No matter. In many ways I actually think it works better in Excel as it can be so easily 'brutalised' into whatever shape you want. That's flexibility is handy.

I admit it is far from perfect and you probably disagree with its estimates. But sometimes all you really need are approximations for planning project activity - and that's what it delivers.

How does it work?

It is pretty self explanatory. On the first tab you can do 2 calculations...
  1. Enter the number of pages you need to produce. The spreadsheet will then calculate how long they will take to complete in man-days.
  2. Alternatively, enter the number of man-days you have available. Excel will then tell you how many pages you can produce in that time.
(The second tab is the 'backend', where you can change the underlying phase estimates.)

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