The content inventory is a vital piece of the content strategy puzzle. If you could have the perfect tool for creating a content inventory, what functionality would it feature?
This is exactly the question that our friends at Contentini are attempting to answer, and eventually build. The following is a collection of wishes and suggestions from both the comment section of the original post and subsequent discussion in the Content Strategy Google Group.
Before we get into listing features and functionality, let's take a moment to talk about the act of creating a content inventory. There is much discussion about the actual value of an automated content inventory creator. The argument against an automated tool is potentially losing information gathered when the content is analyzed as part of creating the inventory.
On the other side of this argument is the idea that an automated content inventory creator frees the content strategist to spend more time on perfecting the next generation of the content rather than plowing through the present state.
As is often the case, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Most content strategists want a tool that automates the quantitative aspects of creating a content inventory: Capturing files, links and attributes. But the same content strategists don't want a tool that gets too deep into the qualitative aspects of the content inventory.
But enough theory. Let's talk features and functionality.
No More Spreadsheets
Sorry Microsoft, but content strategists (and their clients) are tired of enormous, and enormously stale, spreadsheets containing all the content for a given site. The overwhelming feedback is that the output of this tool should be something other than a spreadsheet.
The obvious question then is: What should the output be if it's not a spreadsheet?
If we don't want something that flattens out the content like a spreadsheet does, then we need something that represents the layers and the hierarchy. One suggestion is a mind map that includes embedded images and metadata.
In my mind, I am thinking the output is an interactive experience that uses animation to mix navigation with user experience with the actual content elements. Remember, there are no limitations to what this tool can do.
Another common request is for the tool is to gather and integrate analytic information while the inventory is being generated. This would be a huge timesaver and an even bigger win for your clients.
The time required to gather analytic data on even a small content inventory is going to be out of the question for most projects. By gathering the analytics while the content is being audited, the relative value of the content becomes apparent.
The incorporation of analytics would enable the ranking of assets and the ability to cull the content to find the items that require further investigation.
What if, before this tool begins the actual inventory of a site, you could let your stakeholders configure it to their needs?
The ideal content inventory tool would not be a one-size-fits-all solution, but it would be customizable according to the audience. For example, the marketing team members has different concerns about the content as opposed to the legal team.
Ideally, this tool could be used by both groups and then combine the output of both runs into a coherent view.
Along with the ability to customize the tool for each stakeholder, the tool itself should be customizable. The tool should support an almost limitless number of fields. Any data point that a content strategist wants to capture about a set of content should be able to be captured.
After all that data is captured, the tool should then be able to present that data in any form the content strategist wants. In other words, I want to create exactly the dashboard view into my data that I want.
Where Do We Go from Here?
The more we talk about tools like this, the closer they come to being a reality. If you are a content strategist and you are looking to make content inventories less painful and more valuable, get involved in the community and support the courageous developers who are trying to create the magic described here.
You can start with the comment section on this article: What does your perfect content inventory tool look and feel like?