Whether you’re rebuilding a site or app experience, plotting social interaction for your brand, or governing the architecture of a global intranet, any content strategy or information architecture project should start with the (sometimes dreaded, but always enlightening) inventory and audit. This bittersweet ritual involves the detailed documentation and attentive analysis of all content in a site or system, resulting in a clear understanding of what’s there, what isn’t there, and what should be there.
In 2014, while deep in the midst of a sprawling intranet inventory, I found that reading and listening to poetry was a respite from the project’s intense meticulosity. Next thing you know, I got my chocolate in my peanut butter.
When I first heard the word of the audit in status
That night, I went dreaming of a keen apparatus,
Like the great Krell machine under Altair IV
That electrifies content to a musical score,
Tossing and turning in the geekiest glee
I awoke knowing full well
That motor was me.
But before all the A-HAs, the righteous high fives,
When the matrix was still just a gleam in my eye,
I sat down with the client to talk CMS,
‘Bout the scope and the hopes and the goals of my quest.
“At the end of this project, you’ll have X, Y & Z.”
Now, let’s fill in those letters,
And I’ll set them all free.
To the greenhouse I go to start planting seeds
For multi-dimensional site matrices
A full inventory, with no stone unturned
In a garden of content, labels and terms
To grow architecture, you need fertile soil
Under site harvest moons,
Burning midnights of oil.
I start with the dot what, then move to the source,
Get the keywords, title, owner, of course,
Meditative decryptions and questions, some dumb
And notes when little epiphanies come.
I put on some Coltrane, worksheets of sound,
Though steps are not giant,
I’m soon gaining ground.
Halfway completed, I’m high on osmosis
But this tranquil collection elicits psychosis
From section to section, not a page left unread
The devil in the details pitchforks my head
At times, it feels I’ve been logging for years
But from columns of blankness,
Soon patterns appear.
Like Halloween loot that you sift through for Reese’s,
But the candy is data, byte-sized little pieces.
Oh look, it’s a Zagnut from 2006
And a ’92 drop of some Choc ’N’ Orange Twix
It’s peppermint, toffee, and nougat! Oh my!
All the flavors of content,
In confectious supply.
But as Lou Rosenfeld once wisely composed,
Some audits, they flow like sites they disclose.
They act as a snapshot on which we can start,
And as the site changes and phases embark,
Revisit, reevaluate, reform, revive.
A rolling suscitation,
Keeps content alive.
So, on with the synthesis, pie charts and all,
The honing, the zoning from quan into qual,
The mashup of data from user intent
With these columns and columns of unearthed content.
From the ashes of time burned filling those fields,
Comes the phoenix of insight…context…and yield.