Content strategy vs information architecture

Hey, I saw a discussion on an UX forum about the difference between information architecture and content strategy. The discussion confused me, what do you think?

I hadn’t really thought about it. But my natural knowledge-sharing instincts woke up, before I knew it, I said ‘No problem, I’ll do a session and write a post on it.’

Since then I’ve realised even though I’ve been responsible for content strategy and information architecture over the years and I have a thorough understanding; it’s not necessarily easy to explain.

The short answer

Both content strategy and information architecture deals with how users interact with information in a digital space. But the focus is different.

Content strategy focuses on the delivery, governance and planning content creation.

The term, information architecture, is used in multiple fields, which makes it hard to give a short definition. But essentially it deals with the design of an information space and to ensure that users can easily find what they’re looking for.

Content strategy

Strategy: a plan of action designed to achieve a vision. It’s about gaining a position of advantage over competitors. (Or the best way to advance to a specific goal.)

  • Content strategy concerns itself with the entire editorial content development process.
  • Content analysis: roughly describing metadata, taxonomy and search engine optimisation
  • Content planning: defining content requirements across the system
  • Ensure content is readable, understandable and also findable, shareable and actionable
  • Content strategy is continual; it runs through planning, design, implementation, launch and carries on as an operational task as long as the product is used.
  • Involves an editorial process, with different professionals having responsibility and sign-off for deliverables.

Information architecture

Information architecture involves itself with the organizing and labeling in information products to support findability and usability. It looks at search and navigation systems

  • Enables users to complete tasks by providing choices
  • Show enough information to let users access areas of interest
  • Accommodate future growth in content and functionality
  • Information architecture aims to provide a good experience to all users
    • Ensures that different user types, goals and requirements are accommodated
    • That includes what the majority of users are interested in Allow successful user journeys for fringe user types
  • Access points: ensure users can access the product from different starting points and complete their tasks
  • In addition to business requirements, site goals, user requirements and user journeys: information architecture has input from different strategies.
    • The information architect has to ensure that the requirements from content strategy, marketing and business are also met.
  • Information architecture doesn’t follow a specific process but uses various mechanisms and tasks – depending on the requirements of the system – to arrive at a solution

United we stand

For me, the point is, let’s keep pushing user experience design to incorporate areas of expertise, any and all fields, that is necessary to have kick-ass digital products.

That’s how we’ll continue to create meaningful digital experiences.

“User experience is a focus, a thread that runs through all of our disciplines, and which no discipline owns or controls”.

– The UXsters

Further reading

How content strategy fits into the user experience – Nick Finck

Content Strategy and UX: A Mordern Love Story – Kristina Halvorson

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