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Off the top
Signal vs. Noise
Leisa Reichelt of Disambiguity.com posted earlier this month against content inventories, positing that they immerse you in the status quo of the content types and approaches.
Her position is interesting, but we'd like to hear from you about how you react to this post. How have content inventories affected your process and creativity on projects? Is completing a content inventory as one of your first major IA tasks good or bad?
The responses to this question gave a nice blend of ideas, mainly that the initial runthrough of the content at the start of a project can be thorough, but likely should not be the final, detailed audit.
Also, there is a desire to clarify the terms at work here. One person’s “content survey” is another’s “content inventory.” Or, one person’s “content inventory” is another’s “content audit.”
The responses to this question suggest the following continuum for the level of detail:
(Least detail) Content survey > content inventory > content audit (More detail)
They key to avoiding content myopia is to look at content produced not only for the website, but also via traditional means, feeds, competitive research, and adding in the desired additional functionality.
Look for ways to take content, add effective markup, and allow people the ability to build upon it – very Web 2.0.
The existing content provides lots of insight into what has come before, informs your ideation for the project, and indicates where issues may arise.
An IA that becomes “indoctrinated” by existing content is not doing a good job. One way to learn about your client company (not the users) is to examine what content is on the site. Time and budget are factors here.
The interesting thing here is the discussion around the differences, if any, between a content “survey” and content “inventory.” This shows that the practices is still in the formative stages and that there should be an agreement at some point in the future.
In the end, which you do is determined by the project and the client (whether internal or external – ed).
Content inventories should be considered roadmaps, and it will become apparent when old content is not needed.
Sketch earlier to create artifacts and shared context. Many artifacts are much simpler to create and digest than content inventories - prototypes, comics, sketches, participatory design, games, etc. Numerous UX professionals are now doing so with much success, and the idea was promoted about 50 years ago - see Henry Dreyfuss’ 1956 classic "Designing For People."
Lou Rosenfeld shares some more IA heuristics, this time focused on search.
The Dublin Core 2003 Conference is currently going on in Seattle this week. A couple of the attendees and I will be sharing our notes(and photos) when we've recovered(it's actually still going on). But until then, enjoy the conference proceedings online.
Heidi Adkisson is launching webdesignpractices.com this month. She has a sneak peek up for navigation practices (linked above).
Basically, the site takes her Masters thesis study of 75 ecommerce sites and makes it more accessible online. (For the impatient, you can download the 8mb pdf of Heidi's thesis).
I met Heidi at the IA Summit in Portland, and think that this will be a great resource for the community. I'm hesitant about considering common practice to be best practice (as gets implied in surveys like this), but it's good to consider if something really is a de facto standard, and what reasons your own project has for doing things differently.
The Western States Digital Standards Group (WSDSG) Metadata Working Group's best practices for using Dublin Core metadata elements is an excellent resource to consult when starting a project requiring metadata. The group came up with a set of guidelines for using Dublin Core during the development of a "Western Trails" digital library project. From the document's purpose and scope statement:
You can download the 1MB PDF from the Western Trails site.