The Long Happy Life of a Content Inventory

The other day, I spent several hours working on a content inventory. No, not a new one. This is an inventory I initially created almost a year ago. Why revisit it now? Because the project I'm consulting on involves replatforming an existing site onto a new content management system. And like many of these projects, it is a sizable and long project, meaning that the content inventory has a similarly long lifecycle. And the inventory progresses through stages, just as the project does.

I run a content inventory at the start of a project like this to get an initial lay of the land—what are we looking at? How much content is on this site? How is it organized now? Where are the problem spots—orphaned pages, duplicate content, confusing navigational model?

As the project progresses and we start to review the content with the business owners and plan for migration, I add more information. Content owner, review status, migration destination, new URL, and so on. But web sites aren't static, particularly over a period of many months. Content has been added, changed, removed. So as we approach the migration of each section, I review the inventory—comparing it to the current site again, making sure I haven't missed anything, since we'll use that same spreadsheet as our map to the new site. The inventory, now generally referred to as an index, will also be used by the production team, developers, QA team, and user acceptance testers to check that everything that was meant to be migrated made it to the new site and that new structure is correct.

This activity of re-checking the inventory led to one of the features I'm most excited about in the content analysis tool (CAT) my other company, Content Insight, is building—a diffing capability that will let a user rerun an inventory and compare it against a previous run to see what's changed. This feature alone should save content strategists and site managers hours of work--less time cataloging, more time for strategizing. That's the goal.