Content audits and inventories

Auditing your website content can seem an interminable task, but it’s long been regarded as an essential part of pre-redesign planning and content inventories are increasingly recognised as vital long-term tools for the effective management of web content.

If you’re just beginning to grapple with a content audit, below are some articles, books and example spreadsheets which you should find helpful.

Articles

Doing a Content Inventory, (Or, a Mind-Numbingly Detailed Odyssey through your Web Site)
This short 2002 article by Jeffrey Veen is a good starting place for learning about content audits.

The Content Inventory: Roadmap to a Successful CMS Implementation
Article by Kassia Krozser which depicts content auditing as an essential part of a CMS implementation process. Helpfully points out that content inventories ‘almost always take longer than anticipated’.

Doing a Content Audit or Inventory
This blog post by Scott Baldwin includes some useful suggestions for applications which can speed up the auditing process by automating some of the listing process.

How to do a Content Audit
Hilary Marsh provides practical tips on content auditing, including advice to start at the highest levels of the site before working downwards and to be careful when ordering columns in Excel that you don’t just change the order of a single column.

A Map-Based Approach to a Content Inventory
Interesting article by Patrick C. Walsh, describing how he used Microsoft Access and Visio to create a maintainable site map and content inventory at the same time.

Why you shouldn’t start IA with a Content Inventory
A heretical article by Leisa Reichelt suggesting that starting redesign projects with a content inventory can be undesirable in that it immerses the designer in the existing way of doing things and constrains their ability to take a fresh approach. This provoked several responses, including an interesting rebuttal from Donna Spencer and The Rolling Content Inventory by Louis Rosenfeld, who champions content inventories as an ongoing process rather than a one-off exercise for redesign projects.

Books

Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning by Daniel M. Brown (Peachpit Press, 2007)
Contains a chapter on content inventories, with some helpful suggestions on formatting, linking an inventory into other website documentation and presenting the results of an inventory at meetings.

Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson (New Riders, 2009)
Has detailed practical advice about auditing content and tying the findings into an effective content strategy for your site.

Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy by Ann Rockley (New Riders, 2003)
A thorough treatment of all aspects of content management. The chapter that covers Performing a Content Audit is available free online.

Sample spreadsheets for content inventories

I’ve already mentioned Jeffrey Veen’s article Doing a Content Inventory, which has includes an Excel template for an inventory. It lists Page ID, Page Name, Link, Document Type, Topics, Owner,  ROT (Redundant, Outdated or Trivial?) and Notes. It uses colour coding and indentation to reflect hierarchy.

Donna Spencer provides a simple content inventory spreadsheet on her blog. It includes fields for Navigation Title, Page Title, Files, Last Updated, Owner, Comments and whether the content needs to be deleted. Again, there’s use of indentation to indicate hierarchy and an example of freezing the Navigation Title column in Excel, so that it’s always visible as you scroll to the right – a nice technique to use for presenting large inventories.

Finally, the Seneb Consulting site has an example content inventory by Sarah A. Rice. It includes use of Excel’s Group and Outline features to allow the reader to expand and collapse groups of content, as well as instructions for using the Split Screen feature when dealing with larger inventories.

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