From Inventory to Content Matrix

The content inventory, in addition to providing the basis for project estimation, the content audit, and content tracking, can be the starting point for another content strategy deliverable, the content matrix.

What Is a Content Matrix?

Depending on the project and the producer, a content matrix may take various forms. The most common, however, is defined by Kevin Nichols as a document that “captures each piece of content present in a Website design. The captured content should include all include images, data and content modules used within the Website.” The matrix is typically presented in the form of an Excel spreadsheet.

As Rahel Bailie notes, “Depending on how you structure your content inventory spreadsheet, you may be able to add columns and extend the inventory to become the content matrix.” Here’s how to do that.

How to Move from Inventory to Matrix

Unless you are creating a new site, with all new content, you will likely be starting from an existing site. Beginning with an automated content inventory, such as those created by CAT, the Content Analysis Tool, provides the bones for matrix as well as some of the key data pieces typically included.

A matrix is generally organized by where each page exists in the site map. If the URL structure of the existing site is meaningful (i.e., levels are in named directory structures), sorting by URL can provide the initial organization of pages into the site structure.

The content matrix also includes all images and other media that may be associated with each page; the CAT results provide detailed data for each page crawled, including not only the number of images, documents, and videos, but the actual file names and the ability to click and view (and download, if you wish) each file. This enables you to review each image and file so you can decide whether to retain or remove it from the new design you’re developing.

Because a matrix is often used by the people updating existing content or creating new content in the content management system, additional elements to be added into templates, such as the metadata for each page is often included. The CAT reports include title, description, and keywords, available both in the dashboard and in the .csv export, so they can be easily copied and pasted into the new templates.

Adding Value to the Data

What takes the matrix beyond a typical inventory is the additional data that is added. That data varies depending on the project and the site design, but it often includes cells that are filled in with copy guidance, content owner names, review status, and the like. Using the custom columns in CAT, you can begin to add this data right in your dashboard, and sort and filter by the values to group pages by tag or create exports that reflect the sorts.

The Notes field, available for each page captured in CAT, is a great place to add that additional information. That field, and its contents, is included in the export, so once you are working within Excel, you have that information already populated.

Keeping the Matrix Up to Date

A content matrix is a living document—over the course of the project lifespan, you will usually continue to add information. But during the course of a project, the existing web site will likely also continue to evolve. How do you keep up with the changes to the site so that the matrix accurately reflects what’s new and what’s been removed?

The comparison feature in CAT allows you to re-run your inventory and diff it against a previous version. This will show you the pages and files that have been added, changed, or removed. Use this information to keep your matrix current.

Learn more about creating content inventories with CAT.