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A complete guide to architecting your content

Making the Case for Content Architecture

A Little Background

In the 1990s, the World Wide Web, we know as the internet, was in its infancy. Some forward-thinking businesses and organizations began developing online presences, but their websites were often only home pages, places for basic business and contact information. And while many institutions began using intranets—private, in-house networks—few of them saw a real need for an internet presence.

By the end of the decade, Web 2.0 was upon us. People, businesses, and organizations were interacting digitally more than ever before. And that was just the beginning. There was a push for technology integration across industries, and individuals were getting in on the action, too. It was the Wild West of electronic communication and interaction, and it was glorious.

It was also a mess waiting to happen. Industry expert Peter Morville put it simply:

“Small sites are manageable.
Large sites are unmanageable.”

Rather than delivering the world to our fingertips, large websites and intranets created a swamp of confusing and less-than-useful stuff. Lack of planning, integration, and oversight yielded unchecked expansion of content, hobbling what should be a tool of unprecedented and empowering communication.

At that point, information technology (IT) professionals increasingly embraced the idea of architecting information and content. They knew planned, designed, integrated, and managed digital information was the answer to a labyrinth of confusing content.

Many ignored this advice, and digital content has grown with little thought to how it should grow.

A Word About Content

What is content, anyway? Is it articles, data, and other website-based information? Yes… and no.

Think of it this way:

  • Information = facts.
  • Content = context, or how information relates to the user.

Author and content expert, Colleen Jones, provides an example using health data. Health tracking devices and apps record activity, heart rate, and other information. But Jones asks: “So what?”

Facts are facts, but how are they useful?
It depends on context.

Information is only useful when it has a specific reason and use, as illustrated in the table below.




Person with diabetes

Blood sugar

Guide diet decisions

Person with excessive thirst

Blood sugar

Check for insulin production

Person in physical therapy

Miles walked/run

Build stamina

Person training for a marathon

Miles walked/run

Increase speed


So, content includes information, like websites, files, records, and forms. But it also includes context, like organization, user experience (UX), file naming, and structuring files so everyone from clients to teams to government agencies can easily find, use, and share what they need.

Content Architecture

Remember, content architecture guides the development, design, and management of content so it is useful, credible, and valuable.

Companies sometimes find it hard to quantify and measure the value of content and content architecture. In the sections to come, I delve deeper into the value of content architecture. But for now, here is a simplified explanation:

If time is money, the time it takes people to look for files, get frustrated, and then try to recreate files is costly. Multiply this across all content functions, including missed sales and lost clients, and continuing to use current content costs a fortune.

Architecting your content is an investment. It takes time and money to produce, design, and manage planned and valuable content.


By adopting key content strategies, this relatively small up-front investment has the potential for long-term savings and increased revenue.

It improves the health of your organization and business.