I recently had the distinct pleasure of becoming a MINI Cooper owner.

(That’s me looking happy.)

The delightful experience of picking out and getting to know my MINI got me thinking about content architecture in a new way. Architecture connects content strategy and content management. Because architecture isn’t visible and might seem dry, it sometimes gets short shrift. Getting the MINI reminded me why architecture deserves more of our attention.

1. Architecture Balances Consistency + Flexibility

You recognize a MINI when you see it. The MINI Cooper size and shape, for example, is consistent across MINI Coopers. And, yet, hardly any two MINIs are exactly alike. How does MINI achieve this paradox? Through clever structure.

MINI offers a unique but simple system of options within that unmistakable MINI size and shape. Color is only the start. You can make the roof and body different colors. Feeling sporty? Add some stripes to the hood or checkered pattern to the mirror. Patriotic? Try some Union Jack or Star Spangled accents. You get the idea. The system of options allows for more than 10 million combinations. You can put your own stamp on your MINI.

Similarly, when you architect your content, you create models, metadata, and more that allow you to combine and recombine content in different ways for different users and mobile devices. You gain flexibility without losing control of your content.

2. Architecture Helps, Not Hinders, Creativity

MINI’s brilliant system offers just the right amount of creativity. You can put your stamp on the MINI without making a huge mistake. You rarely see a butt-ugly MINI.

If your content is locked in HTML pages, you close the door to options for using that content. Your content is constrained to that page. With architecture, you blast the door to creative possibilities wide open. And, then you can control those possibilities for stakeholders. That’s very handy when your organization is big and decentralized. It’s also handy when you open up your architecture, such as tagging, to your users.

3. Architecture Means Fun For Your Users

MINI’s carefully planned system of options made buying it enjoyable without overwhelming me. And, each day I drive it, I take some delight in the choices that suit me. I love everything from the bronze color to the moon roof.

In the same way, architecture can make planning content more enjoyable and efficient. Content structure also makes experiencing content fun for your users. Check out how taxonomy alone livens things up in this article over at Johnny Holland.

By fostering consistency, flexibility, creativity, and FUN, architecture is anything but dry. Take content architecture out for a test drive.

Originally published on the now-archived Content Science blog in April 2012.

The Author

Colleen Jones is the founder and CEO of Content Science, a growing content intelligence and strategy company based in Atlanta GA. Content Science owns Content Science Review, Content Science Academy, and the content effectiveness software ContentWRX.  Colleen regularly consults with executives and practitioners to improve their strategy and processes for content. She shares insights and guidance from her experience regularly on Content Science Review, at events around the world, and in highly rated books such as Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content.

Follow Colleen on Twitter at @leenjones or on LinkedIn.

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