I’m midway through another content inventory, one I’d been putting off for a couple of days while I tried to find the mental space to get started.

It can seem so daunting before you start: visiting each page and cataloging it—almost like assembly line work. Where’s the fun in that?

We began with content requirements, in which we defined the audiences, their tasks, and the business goals. We will end up with a site map that presents that structure of the site content. But before we can get there, we need to know what we’re working with. There’s no shortcut.

My client tried to help the process by generating an automated list of the pages, but that didn’t really do much in the end. I needed to dig in.

When I finally got started, I immediately remembered the immense value that the process of the CI generates. I’m not just cataloging pages; I’m assessing the quality of the content. I’m performing a user-experience assessment. I’m getting a deep understanding of what I have to work with and what I’ll need to create.

I’ve found many pages that don’t need to exist and others that can be consolidated. As content grows organically, it has a tendency to spread. Over time, the best laid plans go to weed. The content inventory is the best way to assess where the ROT (redundant, outdated, or trivial) content exists, and then prepare to whack it during the site map creation.

If you need a content inventory template, feel free to borrow mine. Just don’t let the process overwhelm you. The rewards are greater than the effort it takes.