For the past week or so I've been playing with MS Project as a content inventory and site mapping tool. There are a number of content inventory articles and templates out there (mostly involving Excel).
But none are really perfect for capturing both site structure and data about content. Which led me to MS Project.
Once you get past the Gantt charts and resource graphs, Project is just an outliner grafted to a database. And that makes it a remarkably powerful tool for doing simple site maps and inventories.
Here are a few of Project's strengths:
- The built-in task outliner is perfect for creating hierarchies
- Project handles outline numbering natively, so you can move around elements and their numbers will update automatically.
- It offers flexible custom fields that let you choose from pre-defined values (like template names, for example).
- The network diagram view gives you a simple, customizable visual site map.
- The resource features make it easy to track authors and their contributions.
Let's take a look at a basic site map I created in Project. (Right-click the link and save the file. Also, you'll need Project 2003.)
There are two main views I use: Site Map Inventory and Site Map Diagram. Site Map Inventory is where you do most of the work. It looks like this:
The first and most important thing is ignore the word task. Each row represents a content chunk--a page, page module, file, etc.--not a task. Each chunk can have sub-chunks (and so on), which gives you some control over the granularity of your inventory.
In addition to the outline, I created a number of custom fields to track each content chunk:
- ROT - a yes/no field for redundant, outdated or trivial content.
- Content Type - a custom text field that uses a fixed value list for the content type.
- Login Required - a yes/no field that indicates whether authentication is required to view the page.
- Template - a custom text field that with predefined template names. You can add additional template names to the list.
- Update Frequency - another custom field to track how often the page is updated.
- Metadata - a custom text field where I can assign keywords or tags to each page.
A few of the standard Project fields are also helpful, in particular:
- WBS - work breakdown structure (WBS) codes provide the outline numbering. You can customize these if you need to, but the standard WBS codes work just fine.
- Resource Names - resource names are helpful for tracking the content owner
If you want a visual representation of your site switch to Site Map Diagram in the View menu:
The site map diagram is a customized version of Project's built-in network diagram. It generates a reasonably good visual site map with no extra effort:
And that's all you need for creating a simple content inventory or site map using Project.
If you're brave you can leverage some of Project's other features to create simple workflow, track content completion or prioritize content. You can also generate reports and filter content by any of the fields. And you can always save your Project file as an Excel file, an Access database, or a CSV if you need to work with it in another program.
Posted in Methods on February 8, 2007blog comments powered by Disqus