which will allow you to preserve the purpose of the original column. The
downside is that every time a new situation arises, you’ll be adding another col-
umn and by the end you won’t be sure which column to use for what.
The other approach is the opposite direction: Boil everything down to one or
two columns and use annotations to clarify the information in the cells. For
example, you might change the original column “Target URL” to “Content
Source.” Then, instead of just using a URL, you can include “linked to:” or
“copied from:” in front of the web address to indicate the relationship to the
source. Although this approach provides more ﬂexibility, it can be more difﬁ-
cult to maintain and read with everything in one column.
The spreadsheet meeting is the worst kind of meeting. This is when each per-
son in the room gets a copy of the spreadsheet, or it’s projected up on a screen,
and the group goes through it row-by-row. (This approach is typical of meet-
ings involving content inventories, but is not limited to it. If you’ve ever gone
through a list of system requirements, you’ve sat through one of these meet-
ings.) This is neither the time nor the place to rail against meetings of this type
and structure, because everyone knows how horrible and unproductive they can
be. Instead, let’s explore alternative approaches so we can stamp out these meet-
ings once and for all.
One problem with the spreadsheet meeting is that it allows the organizer to
avoid declaring a real purpose for the meeting. Inevitably, the purpose of the
meeting is to “go through the spreadsheet.” This isn’t a purpose. This is just a
bad way to spend everyone’s time. (So much for not railing against spreadsheet
Instead of resorting to a row-by-row extravaganza, think about what you need
to get out of going through the content inventory. The most likely reason to
bring people together is to discuss content that is out of the ordinary. Perhaps it
was difﬁcult to classify because it did not have a primary location, for example,
or the purpose was unclear.
Another reason to meet about content inventories is to help people understand
them. This kind of meeting is instructional, so you’re not going through each
row of content, though you may go through each column to explain the kind
of information it captures about the content. A twist on this meeting is to
review the spreadsheet before you’ve captured any content in it. In this kind of
meeting, you’re not only instructing people on the use of the spreadsheet, but
you’re also soliciting feedback on the kinds of information you’ll be capturing.
These meetings can help you identify how people will use the document and
show you how you might alter the format to support the variety of needs.
Finally, do not mistake a content inventory conversation with a content strategy
conversation. A content inventory describes what is there, while content strat-
egy focuses on what should be there.
As you put the inventory together you’ll ﬁnd that you have some questions
about the content. Maybe you’re not sure how to classify certain kinds of con-
tent or whether it should be included in the inventory at all. Content might live
in multiple places in the site and you’re not sure what is the most appropriate
place to put it in the inventory. A meeting might be the best way to clear these
If you’ve got a team of people helping you put together the content inventory,
you’ll need a meeting to establish the ground rules. In addition to explaining
the structure of the content inventory, you’ll want to divide up the responsibili-
ties. You may also want periodic meetings to check on progress and ensure that
the team doesn’t have questions as they move through the content.
Prior to digging into the site, you can bring the team together to review the
structure of the inventory document. In this meeting you can identify addi-
tional information to capture about each piece of content.
Once the inventory is complete, different people may use it for different pur-
poses. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple a tool as a hammer, and you may need to