Recently a client asked me whether or not they should take the time to do a content inventory before (or during) a site redesign. A content inventory is a monster spreadsheet that describes every single page on the future site and where the source of that page’s information will come from (new content, imported from existing site, Word document, etc.). Generally, when Beacon performs this task for a client, the spreadsheet contains the following columns and each row in the spreadsheet then represents a separate page in the site architecture:
- Page Name– “About Us” or “News” for example
- Description– If not obvious from the page name, additional information about the page
- Current URL– URL of the page on the current site, if any
- Level #– Where the page fits in the site hierarchy. Tier 1 is the home page, Tier 2 is top level landing pages, Tier 3 are sub-pages, etc.
- Content Import– Person/group responsible for importing the content to the page on the new site
- Content Type– Type of page if not standard content– dynamic/transcriptional page, form, etc.
- # Pgs– Usually is “1″ so that an easy page count can be done from the spreadsheet, but navigational-only items that don’t represent actual pages on the site or link to 3rd party pages will have “0″
- Secure Access / Login– Indication if the page will require login/authentication for access
- Audience– If page will not be available to the public (log in only, for example), description of who can see the content
- Filename– Name of document or current URL where the content for this new page will be obtained
- Comments– Special information about this page
My immediate impulse to my client’s question of whether or not this document was required was to shout “YES, OF COURSE!” Ok, maybe not really shout, but I do feel pretty strongly about this deliverable and think it is an essential step in the redesign process. Upon reflection, however, I tempered my initial reaction, since I recognize that this can be an expensive and laborious task for very large sites and decided to find some articles to support (or dispute) my opinion.
Based on the resources below and my professional experience, I still think that if the project budget and timeline allow for it, this is a very critical step in the redesign process. I think Jeffrey Veen said it best in “Doing a Content Inventory (Or, A Mind-Numbingly Detailed Odyssey Through Your Web Site)“:
A content inventory is a decidedly human task. In fact, we find that the process can often be as valuable as the final spreadsheet. If you invest the time in scouring your Web site and deconstructing every page (or at least a good selection of pages), you will end up as the uncontested expert in how it all goes together. And that’s invaluable knowledge to possess when redesigning your site.
I hope that the following resources will be helpful to you as well as you try to decide whether or not to undertake this Herculean task!
Link to article