information architecture · UCD process

To content inventory or not to content inventory? (continuing conversations)

Late night at work

Recently I suggested that starting a project with a content audit was not necessarily the best approach.

There’s been a bit of discussion around that since then, most notably over at Donna Maurer’s blog, and also as a Question of the Week at the IA Institute.

The overview of responses from the IA Institute probably give the best idea of current concensus:

The responses to this question gave a nice blend of ideas, mainly that the initial runthrough of the content at the start of a project can be thorough, but likely should not be the final, detailed audit.

Also, there is a desire to clarify the terms at work here. One person’s “content survey” is another’s “content inventory.” Or, one person’s “content inventory” is another’s “content audit.”

The responses to this question suggest the following continuum for the level of detail:

(Least detail) Content survey > content inventory > content audit (More detail)

I have to say – I think that there are plenty of projects where a content audit/inventory *is* probably a good place (or sometimes the ONLY place to start a project). The reason for my post was to make the point that this should become a de facto ‘standard’ approach to all IA projects.

As it happens (and possibly via karmatic consequences from posting what I did) I’ve had to do two content inventories since I wrote that post. In one project I did it because the client specifically requested one at the outset of the project, and in the second case it was because the content was so extensive and so poorly structured that there was no way to get a good idea of what content was involved by taking a top level survey.

I hope to not see an excel spreadsheet for at least a few weeks….

Image credit: WorkIsPlayIsWork @ Flickr

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