Websites are constantly growing. In maintaining and managing a site, keeping an updated inventory of all your website content assets has many benefits for on-going governance. Software tools like the Content Analysis Tool (CAT), can make this formerly painstaking process easy to adopt as regular practice. Whether you are a website manager or designer, content manager or developer, content strategist or information architect, there is great value in always knowing what's on your website and how it's changing.
Instead of seeing the inventory as a one-time task limited to big website redesigns, Lou Rosenfeld argues for a rolling content inventory, seeing inventory as a process we make part of our content or website's lifecycle. With a rolling inventory, you have a starting place from which to analyze how content is performing and whether or not it's moving the website in a strategic direction.
A content inventory outlines the current breadth and scope of your content. An updated inventory makes you more agile; you're better equipped for system or platform migrations. With the number of channels site and content managers maintain now, it's more important than ever to quickly gather and communicate a list of content assets. In an Agile process where a site may be redesigned or migrated in an iterative progression, updating the content inventory and audit at the beginning of each cycle ensures that the project team knows exactly what the scope of their work entails.
This is where content inventory and audit software offers the most assistance. With automated tools, you don't need to plan extra time for long inventories at the beginning of every project or quarter. Manual click-by-click inventories may take hours, weeks, or months depending on the size of your site. It isn't always efficient to restart or redo that process on a regular basis but with software like CAT, you can run and re-run website content inventories at any time.
In a content inventory is your friend Kristina Halvorson recommends maintaining your content inventories over time, describing the benefits of seeing content attributes, identifying content owners, or finding items still in need of updates. We've also noticed public agencies have been making great strides in providing more user-friendly and accessible websites; content inventories are one of their central governance tools.
According to the Food And Agriculture Organization Of The United Nations Web Guide, content inventories simplify the process of updating redundant information; make it easier to correctly place new information; identify the responsibilities (ownership) of content owners; remove or archive out-of-date information; and provide the groundwork for migration of a website to a content management system.
With CAT, you can quickly contrast any two completed inventories of a site with a job comparison report. A quick summary tells you the number and type of files that have been added, deleted, changed or unchanged. CAT also provides a list of all webpage URLs and their status. Open a side-by-side resource detail report for each page to show where changes have occurred, including images, videos, documents, and links in and out.
If your website has multiple contributors, constantly updated content, or user-generated comments, re-running an inventory that immediately shows you these kinds of changes will save hours of time and eye strain from manually comparing spreadsheets.
Both Halvorson and the United Nations Web Guide mention identifying content owners as a useful category in your inventories. Collaborators can use CAT to view results of content inventories and indicate content ownership or other relevant facts by annotating in the notes section. The benefit in CAT is that files are saved in the cloud so you don't have to worry about where versions are stored and you can retrieve and compare reports at any time or location. Content owners and developers can regularly run reports of their sections and track changes on a daily, weekly, or quarterly basis.
When you know the current size and state of your website, you're in a strong position to evaluate new platforms or content management systems. Accurate knowledge of your content helps simplify the scoping and RFP (Request for Proposals) process and aids in comparing systems with your content needs. Updated inventories are useful to
At Content Insight, we also recommend a careful content audit before migrating between platforms or content management systems. When you're a keeping an updated inventory, checking changes over time and making regular oversight part of your website governance, it's much easier to begin an audit. You have more time to focus on analyzing and improving content as well as preparing it for the next system.
Thankfully, maintaining a content inventory doesn't require starting over; it can easily become part of regular maintenance and management of your website. A software tool like the Content Analysis Tool (CAT), helps you create a rolling inventory where multiple team members view an accurate list of your content catalog. Use the updated inventory to monitor changes, track updates, build content audits or look for new content systems. By making it easier to see the content lifecycle, the updated inventory gives your team a powerful tool for communication in website tracking.