The How, What and Why of Content Inventories
While they may not be the most popular kid on the web development playground, content inventories are definitely best friend material. No really, we’re not being hyperbolic. Content inventories are your best friend–or at least they should be. An essential part of any sound website design strategy, content inventories provide an illuminating, effective way to capture a detailed view of where your site stands so you can determine where it needs to go.
If you’re new to the content inventory world, here are some basics you should know:
What is a content inventory?
A content inventory is pretty much what it sounds like: a complete inventory of all the content on your website (including images, blog posts, web pages, etc.), usually documented in an Excel spreadsheet. Most content inventories will include a list with the content type, page name and URL at a minimum. Depending on the goal of the inventory, you may want to include additional information, such as redirects, review status and notes. Ideally, including a mix of both quantitative information (what content you have, how much you have of it) and qualitative analysis (if it’s relevant, accurate and consistent) makes for the most useful inventory.
Why are they helpful?
Content inventories are a great way to get a complete snapshot of everything that’s on your website. It can help you spot things you didn’t even realize were there, including duplicated or outdated content. Creating one is a crucial step if you’re planning on redesigning or migrating your site. Inventories allow you to keep track of what’s on your current site, what needs to move over to the new site, if a page needs to be rewritten or deleted entirely, if the URL needs to be redirected or updated and so on. When starting a new website project, content inventories are a critical part of IA (information architecture) mapping. Content can be one of the biggest obstacles in keeping a project moving, so listing out everything you need (or think you need) to include on the new site beforehand is essential to prioritizing what content really should be kept or created.
How do you create one?
If you just want to get a basic idea of what’s on your site, begin at the top level of navigation and dig your way down. In a spreadsheet, create columns to record the following information:
- Navigation title: The name of the main navigation link that directs to the page
- Page name: The actual title that’s displayed on the page
- URL: The URL for the page
- Notes: A place to record miscellaneous information about the page if needed
- Content hierarchy: A way to indicate where the content falls within the site
For example, if your main navigation includes the sections Home, About, Contact and Services, start by recording those pages first, then dig down and record every page that’s linked within them. For more complicated sites or sites with vast amounts of content, you may need to work with an experienced content strategist to make sure your inventory is thorough and accurate.
Want to learn more about how to migrate content between sites effectively? Check out our white paper, How to Move Content and Preserve SEO in a Website Redesign.