Best Practices in Website Content Inventory

Recently, an association presented us with a very daunting task — how to inventory a legacy website with 75,000+ pages that has not gone through a redesign or focused information architecture efforts in almost 10 years.

Oh, and did we mention that the site is all hand-coded, so there’s no CMS to rely upon?!?

Given the size of the site and the time between inventories, there are a number of options that we recommended to them for consideration:

  1. Use an automated spidering tool to map the current site and get a snapshot of your structure and pages.
  2. Pour over your stats. There are probably 100 or so pages that are the most used. Make sure they are the things you WANT folks to be checking out, and figure out what important content is missing from that top 100 that should be added.
  3. Conduct a thorough content audit. A content audit is sometimes known as a content assessment or content inventory, and sometimes there is a distinction between the cataloging of all content and the evaluation of content. (an inventory is “what’s there” and an assessment is “is it any good?”)The bad news is that this takes time and it must be done by hand. Examine everything piece by piece, as thoroughly and quickly as possible and capture in a spreadsheet or database for filtering and review. Each row can represent a web page or piece of content; columns represent the attributes of the content. During the content audit, you can go even further to document content behavior, relationships, processes, etc. such as:
    • Content types
    • Workflow
    • CMS requirements
    • Staffing and responsibility
  4. You can always start from scratch if all of this is too daunting or you’re pretty sure that much of the site isn’t relevant anymore. Decide what you want to have and what your constituents need, then migrate the appropriate content from your existing site or write anew.


Inventorying won’t uncover what’s missing—what was never put online, what is in people’s heads, what was considered and not put online, what the organization never did. That takes interviews with stakeholders and skilled editorial judgment.

And perhaps most importantly, approach the information architecture task as a team, in a way that engages and empowers them. The more your staff feels involved and the more they have a vested interest in the process, the more likely they will actually they will ultimately complete the tasks assigned to them and collaborate with their coworkers toward the common goal.

Layla Masri

About Layla Masri

Layla is a co-founder of Bean Creative. She leverages her ad agency background and 15-plus years as a marketing and web copywriter to maximize interactive impact for strategic planning, usability/accessibility, and digital promotion.
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