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Content Strategy and Information 
Architecture: What the Hell?! 
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Marli Mesibov
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
About the Speaker 
• Boston-based content strategist 
• UX specialist 
• What does that mean?
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
An Evolving Field
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
An Evolving Field 
The first content 
strategy conference 
The first information 
architecture b...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
An Evolving Field 
“Content strategy is to copywriting 
as information architecture is 
to desig...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
An Evolving Field 
• Both CS and IA deal with the design and 
management of information 
• Both ...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Whose Job Is It? 
Enhances information architecture team 
accomplishments and competence by 
pla...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Whose Job Is It? 
Identifies user requirements by 
researching and analyzing user needs, 
prefer...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Whose Job Is It? 
Candidate is expected to have at least 
seven years related business experienc...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Whose Job Is It? 
Validates content delivery by developing 
and completing usability test plans;...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Whose Job Is It? 
Candidate will develop content and data 
information attributes and classifica...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Whose Job Is It? 
Understanding of relational databases is 
desirable.
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Whose Job Is It? 
Candidate must develop and maintain 
sitemap and wireframe mockups, usage 
sce...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Whose Job Is It? 
Create wireframes that illustrate site 
layout, navigation, controls, and cont...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Whose Job Is It? 
Competitive site analysis and 
benchmarking in content breadth, 
organization ...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Whose Job Is It? 
Responsible for defining research 
requirements for web strategy.
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We Came From 
How did IA evolve?
• Information architecture was first defined 
in 1976 
• Coined by Richard Saul Wurman, 
co-founder of TED 
• Wurman was a...
“The presentation of information can 
be more important than the information 
itself.” 
– Gary Wolf, 2000 (Wired) 
@marsin...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We Came From
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We Came From
“Information architecture is the stuff 
that is never rendered in pixels and it’s 
never rendered in code.” 
– Dan Klyn, 2...
How did CS evolve? 
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We Came From
“Content strategy plans for the 
creation, publication, and governance of 
useful, usable content.” 
(obligatory Kristina ...
“Content is king.” 
– Bill Gates, 1996 (Microsoft Site) 
“Content is king!!!” 
– Every Content Strategist, 2011 
(Everywhe...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We Are 
Where are we now?
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We Are 
We can’t live in silos
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We Are 
What’s wrong with silos? 
• Silos duplicate work 
• Silos waste time and money 
• ...
Where We Are 
Complementary skillsets 
@marsinthestars #LavaCon
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We Are 
The Teamwork Checklist: 
• Do you trust your teammates? 
• Are you overwhelmed by ...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We Are 
True Collaboration
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We Are 
Collaboration requires: 
• Setting meeting goals. 
• Pre-collaboration preparation...
Where We’re Headed 
What will the future hold? 
@marsinthestars #LavaCon
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We’re Headed 
Our similarities… 
• We separate personal preferences from 
our decision mak...
Where We’re Headed 
No one can be an expert in everything. 
We have to pick and choose our 
specializations. 
@marsinthest...
Where We’re Headed 
Our different backgrounds… 
architecture user research 
site mapping 
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
functi...
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We’re Headed 
1. Identify the overlap early on
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We’re Headed 
2. Agree on an end product
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We’re Headed 
3. Err on the side of too much context
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
Where We’re Headed 
4. Beware the dreaded cliques 
© Homestar Runner 2010
@marsinthestars #LavaCon 
An Evolving Field
Thank you! 
Marli Mesibov 
@marsinthestars 
www.marli.us
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Content Strategy and IA: what the Hell?

In 2007 Rachel Lovinger said, “Content strategy is to copywriting as information architecture is to design.” But today, the fields of both content strategy and IA have grown, and practitioners face a new challenge: discovering where one leaves off and the other begins.

As content strategists we need to understand our role, but we also need to listen to IAs so that we can move from frustrations to mutual respect and communication.

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Content Strategy and IA: what the Hell?

  1. 1. Content Strategy and Information Architecture: What the Hell?! @marsinthestars #LavaCon Marli Mesibov
  2. 2. @marsinthestars #LavaCon About the Speaker • Boston-based content strategist • UX specialist • What does that mean?
  3. 3. @marsinthestars #LavaCon An Evolving Field
  4. 4. @marsinthestars #LavaCon An Evolving Field The first content strategy conference The first information architecture book The first Masters in user experience The first content The first user research strategy class department
  5. 5. @marsinthestars #LavaCon An Evolving Field “Content strategy is to copywriting as information architecture is to design.” – Rachel Lovinger, 2007 (Boxes and Arrows)
  6. 6. @marsinthestars #LavaCon An Evolving Field • Both CS and IA deal with the design and management of information • Both CS and IA examine experiences from the user’s perspective • Both CS and IA incorporate ongoing governance tactics
  7. 7. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Whose Job Is It? Enhances information architecture team accomplishments and competence by planning delivery of solutions; answering technical and procedural questions for less experienced team members; teaching improved processes; mentoring team members.
  8. 8. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Whose Job Is It? Identifies user requirements by researching and analyzing user needs, preferences, objectives, and working methods; studying how users consume content, including data categorization and labeling; meeting with focus groups.
  9. 9. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Whose Job Is It? Candidate is expected to have at least seven years related business experience (marketing, advertising, publishing, business consulting, business communications, etc.)
  10. 10. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Whose Job Is It? Validates content delivery by developing and completing usability test plans; evaluating user flows traffic patterns; studying user feedback; coordinating with Usability Specialists.
  11. 11. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Whose Job Is It? Candidate will develop content and data information attributes and classification schemes.
  12. 12. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Whose Job Is It? Understanding of relational databases is desirable.
  13. 13. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Whose Job Is It? Candidate must develop and maintain sitemap and wireframe mockups, usage scenarios, prototypes, content specifications and other design documents to communicate design ideas.
  14. 14. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Whose Job Is It? Create wireframes that illustrate site layout, navigation, controls, and content prioritization.
  15. 15. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Whose Job Is It? Competitive site analysis and benchmarking in content breadth, organization and presentation.
  16. 16. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Whose Job Is It? Responsible for defining research requirements for web strategy.
  17. 17. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Came From How did IA evolve?
  18. 18. • Information architecture was first defined in 1976 • Coined by Richard Saul Wurman, co-founder of TED • Wurman was an architect and graphic designer @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Came From
  19. 19. “The presentation of information can be more important than the information itself.” – Gary Wolf, 2000 (Wired) @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Came From
  20. 20. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Came From
  21. 21. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Came From
  22. 22. “Information architecture is the stuff that is never rendered in pixels and it’s never rendered in code.” – Dan Klyn, 2013 (Adaptive Path) @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Came From
  23. 23. How did CS evolve? @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Came From
  24. 24. “Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” (obligatory Kristina Halvorson shout out) @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Came From
  25. 25. “Content is king.” – Bill Gates, 1996 (Microsoft Site) “Content is king!!!” – Every Content Strategist, 2011 (Everywhere) @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Came From
  26. 26. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Are Where are we now?
  27. 27. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Are We can’t live in silos
  28. 28. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Are What’s wrong with silos? • Silos duplicate work • Silos waste time and money • Silos prevent learning from others • Silos increase the likelihood of flawed ideas coming to fruition
  29. 29. Where We Are Complementary skillsets @marsinthestars #LavaCon
  30. 30. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Are The Teamwork Checklist: • Do you trust your teammates? • Are you overwhelmed by your workload? • Do you have time for your highest priorities? • Have you communicated your expectations?
  31. 31. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Are True Collaboration
  32. 32. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We Are Collaboration requires: • Setting meeting goals. • Pre-collaboration preparation. • Listening to others – and hearing. • Asking questions instead of making assumptions. • Involving a facilitator or final decision maker.
  33. 33. Where We’re Headed What will the future hold? @marsinthestars #LavaCon
  34. 34. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We’re Headed Our similarities… • We separate personal preferences from our decision making. • We start every project with user research. • We ask: What does the user need? • We seek the intersection of user needs and business goals. • We maintain consistency.
  35. 35. Where We’re Headed No one can be an expert in everything. We have to pick and choose our specializations. @marsinthestars #LavaCon
  36. 36. Where We’re Headed Our different backgrounds… architecture user research site mapping @marsinthestars #LavaCon functional design voice and tone persona creation wireframes business analysis visual design interaction design content audits content hierarchies empathy mapping
  37. 37. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We’re Headed 1. Identify the overlap early on
  38. 38. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We’re Headed 2. Agree on an end product
  39. 39. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We’re Headed 3. Err on the side of too much context
  40. 40. @marsinthestars #LavaCon Where We’re Headed 4. Beware the dreaded cliques © Homestar Runner 2010
  41. 41. @marsinthestars #LavaCon An Evolving Field
  42. 42. Thank you! Marli Mesibov @marsinthestars www.marli.us

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