Once upon a time, I would have told clients that a sitemap was a list of all content on their site. I am older and wiser now. If you need a list of content on your site, you’re interested in a content inventory.

The content inventory documents all content types. If you have downloadable files on your site with extensions like PDF, XLS, DOC, RTF, TXT, EXE, ZIP, or RAR, your content inventory will show that it exists. Add in a content analysis component to your content inventory, and you’ll get a feeling as to whether that content serves you, your audience, and whether to keep, archive, or discard that content. The content inventory is a lovingly produced deliverable with information architecture, content strategy, and content management input. It might also reflect user experience, search engine marketing, and designer input . What begins as a look back, however, is not a snapshot in time. If you produce a content inventory of what you have, you can begin to plot an ongoing content inventory. And the better your content inventory, the better your sitemap! How, you ask?

The sitemap documents a structure for your website. That means it might not have every case study, news release, podcast, or webinar mapped out. It also might, but even if all the sitemap reflects is thought on where these content types could go, the content inventory has been a supporting model for the sitemap. Additionally, a content inventory with information architecture numbering can often be directly produced into the visual hierarchy so often preferred when reviewing a website structure. So why, then, must we produce wireframes?

The wireframe documents the interplay between pages, content, and features. This is where your user experience and information architect experts really get their hands dirty. They hash out with the content strategists what a page will do and how it will do it. And yet, the wireframe is an illustration of what will exist, it doesn’t show how visually stunning your site will be and how your users will truly experience your website in the end. That’s for the user experience experts and designers to dig in…

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