Originally Published January 2007
Content Inventory: Sometimes referred to as Web Content Inventory or Web Audit.
Many times when an Information Architect begins the process of redesigning or creating a new Web site, their first step will be to complete a detailed content inventory. This involves analyzing and recording what content and pages currently exist on the Web site. Content refers to everything that appears on a Web site, including copy, images, files, multimedia, etc. A content inventory provides everyone involved a detailed listing of all the major sections, pages, and content on a site.
When redesigning a site – you may decide to create two separate content inventories. One for the existing content and one for the new content you want to include. However, it usually makes more sense to combine them and have a column that indicates whether the content item currently exists or not. This will help to give a better overall picture of the site’s content hierarchy.
Here a a couple examples and variations of how a Web content inventory is used:
- Content Survey - A high level overview of a site’s main sections and pages.
- Detailed Content Audit - this is a comprehensive content inventory of every page on a site. This inventory will list every page’s filename, title, URL, and possibly its file type and a description. It’s also helpful to assign a unique page ID that will correspond to the pages location on the Site Map.
- Content Map – This simply entails laying out the site content in a graphical format. I haven’t seen this used widely, and I’m not sure how much use it would serve. If you’re performing a content inventory on a current site, then an effective site map might nullify the need for a content map.
What goes in a content inventory?
The answer to this question depends on the audience and your particular project criteria. That tends to be the case anytime you are deciding on the specific requirements of information architecture or Web documentation. As a starting point, consider including the following elements;
- ID – this should correspond to the ID used in your sitemap (e.g. 1.1)
- Page name – you may also include section headings (e.g. About Us)
- File type (e.g. .html)
- Link – if the content already exists include a link to it.
- Exists – does the content already exist, yes or no.
Sample Web content inventory (pdf) – this is sort of a matrix hybrid
Federal Sites – E-Government Act – Content inventory
In 2002 the U.S. Government passed some legislation requiring stricter regulation and monitoring of Federal Government Web site content. It seems many Federal agencies are using the term Content Inventory to describe the monitoring processes. In some cases agencies are keeping detailed inventories of when each piece of content is updated, how frequently, by whom, etc. This sounds similar to the built in functionality of some content management systems (CMS). This use differs a bit from the typical content inventory used by the information architecture field.