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Content Catalog (the Organic Inventory)

A tool I use often is a content catalog, which is similar to content inventory. The basic premise is the same, but the catalog focuses on content that needs to be managed as an ongoing project, such as support documentation or service documentation. My experience with an inventory is only during a migration from one content management system to another. I’ve never seen anyone keep the inventory. As for the catalog, we don’t bother tracking documentation internal to our team. That’s something we can assess and discuss as we need to. The content catalog helps to make sure someone curates the content we keep for our internal customers.

The catalog lists items at a page level by page title including a link to the current location of the page. This helps us visit content whenever we need to and review it whenever we can. If a customer reports an issue with something in our documentation, there is a notes field in the catalog that we can use to record their feedback. I’m typically the one that reviews added notes and clicks the link to the page to see what is going on and how to address the issue.

The other way we use the catalog is by including metadata about the features of the pages as well as metadata about what work needs to be done to any page. This includes things like requests for  photos, noting if there are links to related pages or whether the content should move to a new location. It allows us to track work for requesting new pages or come back to existing documentation and consider augmenting it later. We’ve come back to pages and reviewed them to add photos to better demonstrate instructions or videos to include a task in online trainings.

This tool has helped us with new service updates where we’ve assessed our support documentation and what can help our internal customers. We have a custom application for some centralized biographical content, and we recently updated the application. We realized we needed support content that could help authors train themselves. We therefore listed pages in the catalog we wanted to create, drafted content and developed videos for many of the tasks that could use more training support. We listed all the new pages, tracked the drafting progress and launched the new content using the catalog where all the data we needed was right there. This made it a lot easier to stay on top of content creation and publication for this service update.

A content catalog can help you manage your long life content. It may not be necessary for larger projects all the time, but it can be handy when those projects happen. It also helps for ongoing maintenance and quicker edits. It may seem like a lot of work at first when putting it together, but after you do enough inventories, you realize how much nicer it is to have a catalog that you can update.

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