Monday, March 12, 2007

Content Analysis Heuristics

Organizing content for website design ...

"Most website designers are aware that an important part of understanding the background of any website redesign project is performing a content inventory as well as a content analysis.

After all, authorities Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville include this famous Venn diagram in their classic Information Architecture for the World Wide Web:

Clearly, we are supposed to understand the current website content before we begin the process of redefining and reorganizing the website.

So we all dutifully go through the website and prepare a content inventory spreadsheet capturing page titles, details of page content, and so on.

Each content inventory contains a different set of columns and fields; each has a purpose specific to the needs of the particular site being analyzed. Sarah Rice has developed another example that’s available as part of the IAInstitute’s tools project.

Sarah’s version captures additional information from the site, uses an indented format for capturing the page titles at different hierarchical levels and uses color coding to indicate content types, external links and open questions.

So doing a content inventory is all well and good, but what exactly is it about the content that we are supposed to understand? What are we supposed to tell our client, other than that the website has 4,321 pages, of which 358 are dead-ends, 427 have no page titles, 27 have content that has expired, there are 432 different document templates in use, and there are 17 distinct document types?

In her 2002 article on rearchitecting the PeopleSoft website1, Chiara Fox noted that document inventories and analyses form part of bottom-up IA. “It deals with the individual documents and files that make up the site, or in the case of a portal, the individual sub-sites. Bottom-up methods look for the relationships between the different pieces of content, and uses metadata to describe the attributes found. They allow multiple paths to the content to be built.”

Certainly content relationships are important, as is the development of appropriate metadata to describe content, but are there specific things we can look for during a content inventory? In the remainder of this article, I hope to show that the answer is a resounding “Yes."    (Continued via Boxes and Arrows)    [Usability Resources]

Content Diagram - Usability, User Interface Design

Content Diagram

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