Successful content development–however you manage to publish content that appeals to your target audience and meets your business goals for your website–should always involve at least two critical tasks:
1) As early as possible in a site design (or redesign) you should thoroughly assess and analyze the content you already have and spot opportunities for creating new content. You can only do that effectively if you have a clear understanding of who you’re talking to and what they want to learn and do on your site. And that means doing some user research–taking a close look at any data about your current site (analytics) and maybe interviewing or surveying a few typical users.
2) Once you’ve used that initial, high-level assessment to put together a content strategy, it’s always tempting to think you can plunge in and start writing and collecting images and doing all the fun stuff of actually developing content. But you gotta be patient – at least patient enough to do a second, more thorough review of your content that’s actually more of an inventory, careful identification of all you current content, including everything on your current site, print marketing materials that might be repurposed for the Web, etc.
At least for sites with less than 100 pages and not too many widgets and applications and other technology, I use an Excel spreadsheet with a smorgasbord of columns I can adapt to fit each project. I use it both for assessments and for inventories.
For an example of a basic inventory for a small (about 50 pages) site, see “Work Samples” at the bottom of this page.
Once completed, a content inventory can be a highly valuable, versatile tool for winnowing out stale content, updating existing content, identifying needs for new content (“content gaps”), and managing overall content development and migration to a new or redesigned site.