Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Map-Based Approach to a Content Inventory

Mapping-out a webpage ...

"In my current role, I have been responsible for creating a large intranet site from scratch for a local government department, and I now have the ongoing problem of maintaining it and ensuring all information is kept up to date.

The initial model for the site worked surprisingly well for a time but has been the victim of its own success. It now has well over a thousand pieces of internal and external content, and staff surveys have shown that findability has deteriorated over time. (Is there a law in that somewhere…? Same model + more content = poorer findability?)

I wasn’t surprised. I had reached the same conclusion some time before. The system was creaking at the seams and needed major surgery.

The Problem

I realized I could no longer rely on memory alone for a record of what the system contained—the content space was getting too large. Content needed to be periodically checked for currency and completeness to ensure that the system retained its credibility with users.

I was also feeling uncomfortable about succession planning issues because knowledge of the intranet’s structure and content existed only inside my head. If I got knocked over by the proverbial bus, it would be very difficult for someone new to visualize how the system was structured. I soon reached the conclusion that a formal content inventory system was needed.

I only found out that I was an IA a year ago, but I quickly gathered that doing a content inventory, while an important tool, is on par with cleaning out the garage or reconciling your bank account: Necessary, but no fun.

Bearing in mind the complexity of the site, I decided that any inventory needed to have two attributes:

* A data attribute, such as Excel or Access sheets listing unique page number, title, content owner, approval/review dates, etc.
* A structural attribute, since a list can only convey so much. I needed to know how all the pages and content were connected together

I felt the structural attribute was of greater importance. My mental picture of the intranet at this time was of a large plate of spaghetti. What linked with what? If I move this page, what else will it affect?

I did some research but could find nothing that answered my purposes.

Part of the Solution

The data attribute was easily achieved. I have worked with Access databases for quite a while and found them to be of great use. Creating the database was the easy part.

The structural attribute was the real problem. I had the latest version of Visio loaded on my laptop and started to play around with different ways of visually representing the intranet linkages.

I tried the ‘family tree’ approach, system mapping, business process charts, and so on, and found that there were two major problems with all of these approaches:

* I had a problem with getting all of the information I needed on a single page.
* It didn’t mean much to me when it was finished. Everything was there, but what was it saying to me? I didn’t know.

I was feeling a bit desperate. The date for the redesign was looming large and I dreaded the thought of carrying out such major surgery, as it were, in the dark."    (Continued via Boxes and Arrows)    [Usability Resources]

Mapping Webpage - Usability, User Interface Design

Mapping Webpage


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