Content inventories come with two main challenges. Unlike some other docu-
ments in this book, the community hasn’t zeroed in on a standard format, and
the literature in the community is slim at best (except for those few ﬁrst-person
accounts mentioned earlier). Your format will be driven by your purpose. The
second challenge is that there are no good tools for creating content inventories
or even managing the process of cataloging content. Unfortunately, this is still
very much a manual process.
There are only a couple essential elements for a content inventory, but on their
own they don’t make for a particularly useful document. The information you
can use to supplement the basic inventory, on the other hand, is nearly inﬁnite.
Anything you might say about content—who authored it, where to ﬁnd it, how
old it is—is fair game. You are limited only by what you need. The third layer
of information isn’t much more than nice-to-haves, items that can add some
context to the inventory but are not essential for using it day to day.
Really, the bare-bones content inventory is just a list of content, though the
value of such a list is questionable. Inevitably, you’ll need to know something
else about each piece of content in order to make the inventory worthwhile.
In the realm of web design, the one constant piece of information that is use-
ful regardless of the project is the content’s location. But the basic element for a
content inventory is the name of each piece of content.
The name of the content in the content inventory should be self-evident. There
are a couple nuances, but for the most part, every piece of content on your
site should have a title or unique human-readable identiﬁer. On a nonproﬁt’s
web site, this might be something like “Building Wells in Sudan Program
Overview,” for example, as opposed to “wells1.html.”
Even pages that don’t represent discrete documents should have meaning-
ful names, and perhaps something in their title that distinguishes them from
“regular” documents. The nonproﬁt may have a page listing all of its charitable
programs, called “List of Our Programs.” Including “list of” distinguishes it
from a document that provides, for example, an overview of all its programs.
Layer 3 describes content inventories that document the content at a higher
level than the individual page—in other words, navigation categories—or at
lower levels, the smaller elements—often called “chunks”—that make up a sin-
gle piece of content. The nonproﬁt’s program page may have content chunks for
program name, synopsis, accomplishments, donors, and the program director.
On the web, the two main ways to describe the location of a piece of content
are through its technical address—the URL—and where it sits in the hierarchy
of your web site. The ﬁrst is more technical and the second is grounded in the
web site’s navigation scheme. Your content inventory may include both of these
pieces of information because they are useful to different users of the inven-
tory. People who have editorial responsibilities, for example, may ﬁnd it more
useful to know where the content sits relative to other content on the site. The
content’s location in hierarchy provides context within the user experience, and
therefore would be more useful to the editorial people. On the other hand, the
technical people on your team may be looking at the site through the underly-
ing directory structure—from the back-end, so to speak—in which case, URLs
will be more useful.
Suppose content lives in more than one place. Imagine that on this nonproﬁt
web site, biographies for the organization’s ofﬁcers are linked both from a cen-
tral ofﬁcers’ gallery page in the “About Us” section and from program pages,
which appear in the “Our Programs” section. From the user’s point of view, the
ofﬁcer bios live in more than one place, but really the same piece of content is
just linked twice. Successful content migrations may depend on knowing where
to link all the different content. Therefore, your inventory may need to list two
or more locations for each piece of content. The content inventory for the non-
proﬁt would list both About Us and Our Programs as locations for the ofﬁcer
bios, though the inventory may designate About Us as the primary location.
As useful as the bare-bones content inventory can be, every project will demand
other kinds of information as well. For a migration—where you’re moving
content from an existing system to a new system, a task that’s nearly as mind