November 28, 20164 min read
Content might be king, but it too often comes last in website redesigns and new builds. Since content drives so much user engagement, don’t treat it as an afterthought. Make it a major consideration from the very start. Treat it royally.
First, a Content Inventory
A content inventory is a process, not a mere list of items:
- Review your current site and weed out irrelevant and obsolete content
- Identify gaps in the content and plan to fill them at the new site
- Develop a plan for maintaining content after launch.
The content inventory is part of the overall Information Architecture of a website. What you learn from it guides decisions about the sitemap, navigation, wireframes and user interactions.
A head start on content helps assure timely launch of the website. Don’t be the one who delays the launch by putting off two weeks’ worth of content clean-up and creation until the last minute. A content inventory will light the fire to get it done earlier.
What a content inventory looks like
A content inventory includes a list of all the pages on a web site, with detailed information about each. Often content inventory is done in a spreadsheet, such as Microsoft Excel. The spreadsheet shows basic information about all pages -- what will be on each, where it will be published, and more -- in one place.
Download our Content Inventory Template here.
The inventory also helps maintain the quality and track the timeliness of the content.
In the content inventory spreadsheet, each row represents a page. The bullet items below would appear in separate columns on the top of the spreadsheet. This organization will help you build your SEO strategy. Some up-front work will help search engines find your content later.
- Unique ID or tracking #
- URL / location
- Metadata, Meta Description, Meta Keywords
- Content Description –keywords, headline, subhead, summary
- Content type / format – html, pdf, web form, video, image, etc.
- Alt text for images
- Where content will be published – location on site, social media channel, blog or newsletter
Quality of content
The next set of spreadsheet column heads helps with branding and will indicate whether the page matches goals and user needs. Reviewing the quality of writing in the content and matching it to the new site’s branding voice will make sure that your content engages your users.
- Editorial style: technical, humorous, objective
- Condition: complete/needs editing/updating
- Online readability: Is it scannable with subheads, bulleted lists, etc.?
- Author/source – review process (author, editor, legal)
- Location of the original content
- Recommendations/notes of text/video
- Popularity, findability, usability
- Review dates and quality of accessibility
Timeline for Content
This set of column heads helps you maintain current and future content and publish it at the right times.
- Priority 1-5 for completion of writing content
- Due dates for development, review, publication
- Last updated/frequency
- Timeliness – how often to update, or must-be-published date
Weed out the old
One of the biggest benefits of a content inventory for a redesign lies in identifying useless content. Removing the clutter helps you stay focused on the goals of the new site. But do keep a copy of the original inventory for reference. Some versions of those pages might find their way back into the site.
Google Analytics can help you find pages that attract little traffic, but do some research before you remove them. Ask users if they want the information on that page. Maybe that page was just hard to find. Or maybe good info came veiled in bad writing or design. Rewriting sometimes revives dead or sickly pages.
A content inventory tells you what you have. Gap analysis tells you what you need.
Brainstorm. Take what you learned from user research to craft new content. Website rebuilds and redesigns often accompany shifts in marketing focus. A gap analysis can help you align content with new marketing goals and needs.
A good content gap analysis provides:
- Wish list content
- In-fill for missing content
- New ways to differentiate your business from your competitors
Add gap analysis findings to your content inventory. Some findings, such as those on the Wish List, might be low priority at launch time, but at least you’ve documented them. As you study your analysis and inventory, you might well see patterns of content emerge – along with new ideas for content.
Content Inventories to help you maintain your website
The website content inventory must grow and update as you engage users with new content on a regular basis. Regular reviews of pages and their content after launch will keep your site fresh and purged of outdated content.
This living document will make your next round of website changes easier and faster. You will know what you have and where it is -- knowledge that leads to fast, smart action.