Marriage Lessons: Content Strategy and Information Architecture

Sometimes, the marriage of content strategy and user experience can be a tricky thing. The relationship forces an individual primarily focused on making a site usable, functional and beautiful to play nice with a strategist, who is focused on what populates that lovely work of code. Often times the two practices seem to be at constant odds with one another, but when content strategy and user experience work with common purpose (to make the Web a more usable place), amazing things can happen.

The secret to a happy and healthy UX/Content Strategy marriage comes not only with shared purpose, but lies within the ability for one to be an advocate for the other’s work. I can say with no reservations that without the guidance of Erika, my partner of the last three years, that my work would have suffered. She makes me appear to be much smarter than I actually am and aside from being a constant advocate for content strategy, you couldn’t ask for a nicer person to have to spend your days with.

So you can imagine how unhappy I am to report that she left me (well, the agency) on Friday.

To say that Erika’s departure is painful is a gross understatement. You see, there’s a special bond (a link if you will) that digital geeks who seriously LOVE building sites share. I believe that we worked so well together because for as long as I’ve known her, Erika has approached Web sites with content in mind.

Erika and I have shared similar paths, as did anyone who began working with code and Web sites in the 90s. At that time, coders had to be cognizant of the content, because there were no other members of a web team. We were the “Webmasters,” “Web Editors” and “Site Masters.” We were the sole owners of the code, the copywriters and the editors of content and the presence we were called upon to create. We had no choice than to be intimately connected to the design and the material that populated it.

It wasn’t until the web started evolving beyond “brochure ware” that we were called to start thinking about content differently for web users. During that time, UX started down a different path and content strategy began to emerge, but for Erika, and many other UX pros, content strategy was already embedded into their DNA and they’re better for it.

Recently, the explosion of focus on content strategy has brought much attention to the space and folks who didn’t have this early experience in design (and even several who did) are starting to get territorial over deliverables and responsibilities. A lot of content strategists and UX pros have started writing about the relationship and exploring it in greater detail. For the most part, I believe the discussions have been positive.

Two strong examples of the positive looks that come to mind include: Kristina Halvorson’s article for UX Mag and my Campbell-Ewald colleague Chris Moritz’s talk on the Overlaps and Underpinnings of CS and UX.

These are great places to start and both remind us that there is room for both the user experience professional and the content strategist to do their work. We just have to remember that we all have a common goal … to make the Web a more useful and usable place.

Consequently, Campbell-Ewald is looking for a top-notch information architect. You’ll get to work alongside people who love the interactive space and are doing some fantastic work in content strategy and interactive design. Check out the job listing and come work with us in the Mitten: Information Architect Job Posting.

Hug your IA today!

Chain Link Photo used via Creative Commons License. Photographer: Matti Mattila

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