While information architecture is primarily concerned with the organization of the site content, before defining the structure it’s important to take inventory of the content you have and evaluate if it is necessary for the interface and product.
A content inventory includes a list of every instance of digital content currently created, as well as any other relevant information about the content. The goal of a content inventory is not to decide what content is important or unimportant, but rather to document the content that is already available. Oftentimes, this inventory is documented using a spreadsheet or visual board.
Once you have an exhaustive inventory, the next step is to evaluate and audit the content. Not all content is equal. There is some content on your site that may be crucial to the user’s understanding of the design. Other content may just be more well-trafficked. Other content may prioritize design features that help the product team meet its goal. Users cannot process all of that information at the same time the same way.
A content audit happens most often to evaluate and improve an existing site. A content audit edits, evaluates, and prioritizes the content documented in the inventory. Audits uncover content that is outdated, incorrect, or irrelevant - as well as content that is missing and needs to be developed.
During a content audit designers will not only discuss adding and removing content, but also reestablishing the priority of content items based on new findings. Users’ expectations and needs are not usually static. Their needs may change over time, as the design improves and changes.
For example, after the rise of Snapchat stories, other social media platforms began to prioritize short-term story posts. A feature that was once nonexistent became a pinnacle point of the information architecture. Then, we saw the same thing happen when Tik Tok gained popularity and content creation became a viable career. Other social media platforms had to adapt their interfaces to reflect new usability trends. Instagram, for example, made changes to their bottom navigation to emphasize reels and content consumption, deemphasizing creation to the majority of their users. The post button is now out of the way, at the top right of the page.
The constant evolution of products and technology is why content inventories and audits are so crucial to an effective information architecture.
What is the difference between a content inventory and audit?
A content inventory gathers a list of every instance of digital content currently created, as well as any other relevant information about the content. A content audit evaluates and prioritizes that content.