Managing information

Content management systems, digital rights management technologies, search and user experiences all rely on well organised content. As a way of categorising content, taxonomy and vocabulary management helps you to stay organised and create smooth and intuitive user experiences. I strongly believe that information architecture needs to help both clients and systems make the most of  content.

A content management system needn’t refer to a specific piece of software. All content management requires a system, whether this is online or offline. How is content generated? How is it stored? Who needs to sign off content before it is adopted or published? These are all questions that need answering, even before we begin to ask what is the content ‘about’. A good content manager will understand where content is coming from, before they can start to begin to think about where and how it should be processed before reaching an audience.

Just as the content management systems that are introduced to an organisation need to complement the way the organisation operates, they also need to appeal to the audience. Can you organise content by the tasks users will be seeking to complete? How can both internal and external needs be met? Standards and classification systems within the organisation and taxonomies used within your sector can help to define overarching categorise that can be used to organise and manage content. The Dublin Core and the Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary (IPSV) are useful starting points when thinking about metadata structures. But there are also behavioral categories that can be introduced to organise content.

Information architecture is an organic structure that needs to grow and evolve as content is added to a system. Combining controlled and uncontrolled vocabularies, and using metadata to complement content classification adds adaptability. Folksonomies, as uncontrolled vocabularies, allow users to tag and contribute to the classification of their own content. This enables collaboration and intuitive systems of tagging and relating content to emerge, which in turn can inform refinement and development of the controlled system of classification.

User interface and the visual representation of the information architecture must be consistent. This helps users to understand the underlying structures behind a website or catalogue of content, and construct their own mental model of the site and its sections.

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