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This week we will be focusing on how a visitor moves through the site. We will begin by performing a content inventory and mapping the existing site. During the mapping process, we will begin to do a category inventory to help us with our labeling.
The site inventory is one of those un-fun, un-sexy documents. Creating your site can be a long, boring, under appreciated struggle. The site inventory, however is an essential part of structuring the site. Often, you will work for a client site has grown and changed until no one has any idea what is really there, much less how things are related or if the links work any more.
There are many variations on the web site inventory. Janice Crotty Fraser describes the most commonly used:
A survey is a high-level review of core site pages, usually taken at the beginning of a project. Surveys help you understand the scope and nature of the material & the type of content, what topics it covers, and so on. At the end of a survey, you should have a clear understanding of the major chunks of site content. You can use the survey on its own, or as a launching point for other inventories. I usually find it helpful to structure the survey as a miniature version of a detailed audit.
A detailed audit is a comprehensive, page-by-page site inventory. When complete, this audit lists every page by name and URL, assigns it a unique number to identify it, and lists major attributes of the page that will eventually form part of the important meta data. Often, architects find it easier to begin the detailed audit by doing a quick survey to flesh out a basic framework before beginning the page-by-page site review. The completed audit is useful during migration to content management systems.
A content map is a visualization, a simple illustration of the site's major content components. Resist the urge to arrange components by their current location within the architecture. Instead, group them to reflect the most important user and business objectives. Content maps are the most powerful of the three tools for understanding the big picture, and they can be derived either from surveys or from detailed audits.
The first goal in diagramming your web space is to create a simple map that is a brief overview of your site. Hierarchical tree structures work best for this, as demonstrated below. Both diagrams show the same relationships within the same web site. The diagram on the left follows the traditional tree structure; the one on the right is freeform. The tree begin with a single top level page, which is then split into categories and those pages are then split further.
Figure 2a: [left] A simple tree structure
Figure 2b: [right] The same structure as in 2a, diagrammed differently jjg
This week, you will create a 3 level deep site survey of the major sections of the site. Using your site inventory, you will create the content map.
We will follow the guidelines recommended by Jeffrey Veen in his article, Doing a Content Inventory (Or, A Mind-Numbingly Detailed Odyssey Through Your Web Site).
Example Site Inventory:
1 - A hierarchical list of the major pages (to a depth of 3 levels) sections of your site. Example:
2 - A modification of your hierarchical list so that it lists just the pages and the page that it is a child of (related to).
There are many, many ways to create a site inventory. Sadly, the easiest seems to be manually. At least, to me, adding each page by hand to a list in excel is easiest, fastest and least confusing.
Part 2 - Creating your site map manually