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 author of The Content Advantage and founder of Content Science, a content intelligence and strategy firm that has advised or trained hundreds of the world’s leading organizations since 2010. She also is the former head of content at MailChimp, the marketing platform recognized by Inc. as 2017 Company of the Year. A passionate entrepreneur, Colleen has led Content Science to develop the  content intelligence software ContentWRX, publish the online magazine Content Science Review, and offer online certifications through Content Science Academy.

Colleen has earned recognition as an instructor on LinkedIn Learning, one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Content Marketing by a TopRank study, a Content Change Agent by Society of Technical Communication’s Intercom Magazine, and one of the Top 50 Most Influential Content Strategists by multiple organizations.

Follow Colleen on Twitter at @leenjones or on LinkedIn.

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