Recipe 2.2. Assessing Available Materials for a Site


You need to compile a list of documents, images, and other source files that you will need in order to build a site.


Create a content inventory or checklist to determine what text, images, and other assets are available and need to be part of the site. Your list should answer these questions:

  • Who has the original materials?

  • What formats are the materials in?

  • Who will acquire, create, and approve the new material?

  • What has to be resized, edited, or optimized for online use?

  • How often will content be updated, and by whom?


Compiling a content inventory, like writing a functional specification (detailed in Recipe 2.1), is a key step in successfully making your web site concept a reality. But these two tasks can create a "chicken-and-egg" dilemma for a web designer. By that, I mean it's hard to devise a navigational structure for the functional specification without a clear idea of the available contentand you might not know what content you'll need without knowing how the site will be organized.

You might want to integrate the two tasks so one informs the other. That way, a content inventory can help refine the decisions and responsibilities identified by the functional specification. That said, you'll want to be careful not to let the complete opus of available material dictate how to structure a site. Don't feel compelled to shoehorn every company newsletter article and holiday party photo into the site. It's almost always easier to add content than take it away (see Recipe 9.1).

Like the functional spec, a content inventory is a tool for managing expectations and developing a schedule for completing a web site project. Table 2-1 shows a list of a few of the typical assets that will be needed for a web site.

Table 2-1. A content inventory, such as this sample here, outlines the who, what, where, when, and how for source files that will be used to build a site


Who has

Who creates

What format




Joe (graphic artist)


EPS file; Joe will provide on CD

Convert to GIF (web designer)


Data sheets

Traci in marketing


Word docs (~75)

Convert to PDF (web designer)

New ones added quarterly

Company history

Matt (founder's nephew)


Five long articles in one FrameMaker file

Shorten each to ~300 to 500 words each (Matt) and convert to HTML (web designer)

As needed (Matt)

Stock photos


Web designer (from online sources)


Web designer

CEO will approve choices

Like a site map or flowchart, a content inventory offers a way to visualize an important aspect of your web site. In this case, each asset's row in the list presents an at-a-glance view of the asset's lifespan on the site, from its originator to the need for ongoing updates. You might also want to add columns to further describe how site assets will affect the project schedule (such as who will approve the asset before it goes on the site), when assets from outside sources will be available, and whether the site can launch without a particular asset.

A content inventory also can be a useful tool for taking stock of an existing site. By combining information about each asset's name, location, and relationship to other assets, along with the names and dates of those who own and update the asset, this type of inventory can provide useful guidance when redesigning, re-engineering, or just uncluttering a site that's been around a while.

See Also

For more information on using a content inventory for ongoing site maintenance, read Janice Crotty Fraser's article "Taking a Content Inventory" online at and Jeffrey Veen's "Doing a Content Inventory" at Recipe 2.1 details putting together a functional specification, and Recipe 2.9 will help take these assets and place them into the overall flow of a site.

Web Site Cookbook.
Web Site Cookbook: Solutions & Examples for Building and Administering Your Web Site (Cookbooks (OReilly))
ISBN: 0596101090
EAN: 2147483647
Year: N/A
Pages: 144
Authors: Doug Addison

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