Friday, August 7, 2009

Content Strategy and Information Architecture - Can't We All Just Get Along?

There is an interesting new thread of conversation going over in the Google Groups Content Strategy area about how content strategists and IAs can partner.

In my view, both disciplines are similar in that you can't NOT do them. You can do them intentionally, completely, and with a plan, or you can do them by accident, partially, and just get what you get.

If there is content at all, someone decided on the voice and tone and structure. They decided who needed to approve and review it etc. The same goes for IA, if there is information and structure, then there is an information architecture, it just may be a really bad one.

Content strategy and information architecture attempt to put structure, intent, best practices, and customer focus around these activities and often have similar skills, just with a different focus.

James puts it well when he describes how content strategists and IAs are working well together on his project and how content strategits have really added value to the process.

"In my view a Content Strategist has attributes of Web Strategist and an Information Architect, but there focus is different. One of the major pieces of our project was auditing our existing content, and learning what we thought we could leverage and what needed to be written. Naively I thought there was a lot we could recycle based on what I read Ann Rockley's book "Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy" and her thoughts content re-use - excerpt here: However the more we reviewed the more we realized that to move away from Corporate Centric content to a User Centered approach we realized none of the existing content could be re- worked, it needed to be rewritten. The oher item we realized was a web content format needs to be much tighter and to the point balancing user needs, SEO and site goals. Again a custom template needed to develop for the Copy Writers to follow to balance these elements. All of these insights and the approaches to address them were brought toour attention by our Content Strategist."


  1. I agree that you cannot just assume that you can reuse content. We always perform a content audit before planning our content strategy. Sometimes the content can be reused, sometimes the content needs to be rewritten, and sometimes the content is rewritten then reused in an intelligent way. The content strategy identifies the customer requirements, then determines how the existing content can or cannot meet the needs of the customer, and finally identifies how the content should change to address these needs. The content strategy also includes a reuse strategy. Frequently content is written with a core message then conditional attributes (metadata) are used to "flex" the content to meet specific customer needs. This is a key concept in the development of personalized content. The content strategy acts to inform the information architecture. While the focus of the individual(s) creating the content strategy and the Information Architect are different, they really are the same, the customer.

  2. Absolutely agree! Isn't it strange though how many clients don't want to hear that ANYTHING has to be done to their existing content! A new information architecture almost always means a content re-write. It just doesn't fit anymore.