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Term of the Week: Content Architecture

What is it?

The definition and organization of pieces of information (content) so that their use is consistent, logical, and efficient.

Why is it important?

Content architecture enhances the business value of content by designing a scalable structure that supports content strategy, improves user experience, and facilitates the work of technical communicators.

Why does a technical communicator need to know this?

When a content project involves multiple authors, stakeholders, and users, content architecture becomes necessary. While information architecture is a discipline of user experience, content architecture encompasses the wider challenges of content modeling, author experience, workflows, and technological constraints. Content architecture brings consistency, logic, and efficiency to complex content systems.

  • Consistency: Through the design of models, templates, and guidelines, content architecture supports coherent organization and style in a content system. It helps implement structured information models based on XML, and it may complement them by defining controlled vocabularies, labeling guidelines, and stylistic and visual recommendations for overall consistency.
  • Logic: Content architecture ensures that the various pieces of content fit together to create a larger picture, spotting redundancies and contradictions. A general workflow shapes how users access and navigate content and how technical authors create and retrieve it. This workflow integrates text as well as more interactive types of content to provide the right type of media at the right time.
  • Efficiency: Content architecture identifies common patterns and structures to help find content and reuse it. Because a good author experience supports a good user experience, content architecture includes the design of sustainable content storage structures that work with content management systems and help manage reuse. These structures also take globalization into account, improving translation management.

Content architecture is a holistic approach to organizing content systems, which considers not only content, but also people, processes, and technology.


About Marie Girard

Photo of Marie Girard

Marie Girard manages content strategy and architecture for IBM products. She leads unified content strategy efforts through collaboration across silos, content audits, and metrics. When Marie is not busy taming content chaos at IBM, she teaches technical communication at Paris Diderot University and keeps investigating how everything interrelates through the practice of yoga.

Term: Content Architecture



Twitter: @MarieGirardChop