Content analysis is the cornerstone of your content management initiative. It includes careful review of the documents and objects that exist and that would help to define scope of your project.
The main purpose of content analysis is to provide data that is critical to the development of a solid information architecture. It helps you to reveal patterns and relationships within content and metadata than can be used on to better structure, organize, and provide access to that content. It will also help to configure your content management system accordingly. It will help you in the design phase when you begin coming up with content types and metadata. It also provides valuable input into the broader design of organization, labeling, navigation, and searching systems.
I recommend to my clients to conduct content analysis in the form of detailed audit. Early in the research phase, a high-level content survey could be a useful tool for learning about the scope and nature of content. Later in the process, a content audit or inventory would produce a roadmap for the project and will facilitate an organized approach to authoring and managing of content.
To begin, you will need to find and analyze a representative sample of your organization content. Try to capture few items from each content type. You content could be white papers, annual reports, forms, drawings, financial documents, marketing brochures, press releases, forms, etc. Capture a diverse set of content types. Include different formats content such as textual documents, video and audio files, archived e-mail messages, etc.
Make sure that you got samples for engineering, marketing, customer support, finance, human resources, sales, research, etc. Try to represent a broad range of subjects in your content sample. Consider intended audience, document length, languages, etc. Consider also the importance of certain content types over others.
If there is already a content management system in place, you can use it to get information about existing content.
During content analysis, note the following:
Structural Metadata - describe the information hierarchy of this object. Is there a title? Are there discrete sections or chunks of content? Might users want to independently access these chunks?
Descriptive Metadata - think of all the different ways you might describe this object. How about topic, audience, format? There should be at least a dozen different ways to describe many of the objects in your analysis.
Administrative Metadata - describe how this object relates to business context. Who created it? Who owns it? When was it created? When should it be removed?
You might ask yourself these questions:
- What is this object?
- How can I describe this object?
- What distinguishes this object from others?
- How can I make this object findable?
Look for patterns and relationships that emerge as you study many content objects. Because of the need to recognize patterns within the context of the full sample, content analysis is by necessity an iterative process. It may be on the second or third pass over a particular document that you discover a useful solution.
In the end of this process, you may want to create a content map. A content map is a visual representation of the existing information environment. It is a tool for understanding your content. It will help you to visualize relationships between content categories, explore navigation pathways within content areas, figure out the structure, organization, and location of existing content, and ultimately help you to come up with ideas about how to provide improved access to your organization content.