Content As Experience: The Information Architect Approach to Intranet Content Strategy

Strategic content is a UX tool that promotes meaningful employee intranet interaction. 2Plus2 Information Architects explain content in the IA context.

By Cathy Dew

Done well, content is the cornerstone of connection. A well-executed content marketing strategy, for example, helps you connect with your target community in a precise way so that readers’ information needs are fulfilled while your organization reaps benefits like increased site traffic and, ultimately, profitable customer action. There’s a quid pro quo involved in this type of content strategy by consent of both parties.

But content is not always about marketing or even about the words or documents you place on an employee intranet or external website.

From the perspective of the information architect, content is a valuable multi-faceted user experience tool where the information architect strategically aligns words, images and sounds with research, analysis, and data to create unambiguous content that supports meaningful interactive experiences.

Okay, admittedly that last sentence was a mouthful. So let’s break it down.

What is Content?

Content, if presented strategically, provides holistic experiences that enable people to set and then reach their goals. But to understand how to use content strategically, it’s important to know what it is.

Quite simple, content is everything and everything is content.

I realize the previous sentence sounds like a mantra. But before you take a seat, cross your legs in the lotus position and start chanting Om, hear me out.

I am not talking about content in a metaphysical sense (although one could go down the rabbit hole and contemplate the oneness of content as coming from a single core of truth… see how easy it was to go there?).

What I am talking about -- from an intranet (or other digital project) design perspective – is the experience of interacting with a site or application using all the sights, sounds, and rhythms that flow from site to user and vice versa.

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Strategic content invites you to enter the site and allows you to recognize where you want to go.

How Does Strategic Content Impact User Experience?

Once the user enters the realm you have created through your use of information architecture and intranet design elements, they have entered into a symbiotic relationship with your site and, by definition, its content. So, to enhance UX, you want the copy, images and sounds on your site to be distinctive, recognizable and welcoming.

For example, think about how employees will enter your intranet portal. They will use some mechanism of signing on or clicking in or even voice command. The moment they choose to open the site, they are already interacting with your strategically placed content.

This content interaction is visual (choice of font, images, color story) and textual (the words you choose, as well as the way you group thoughts and information), and might also be auditory (any pings, music, spoken word or sound effects you incorporate into site interaction).

This content is communicating about experience while the experience is taking place.

Strategic content invites users to enter the site and allows them to easily recognize where they want to go. Content invites them to navigate to specific areas of interest by offering prompts about what information is there and how to make the journey to reach that information. Your strategic use of content will even serve as an affirmation of the reasons why a user needs to reach a certain place within the site.

In short, successful strategic content helps users learn about the many destinations that exist on your site, make informed decisions on where to go, easily find their way in reaching each destination, and then seamlessly find their way home.

What Does Information Architect as Content Strategist Look Like?

So how does the information architect turn into a content strategist? It is a logical extension of his or her role in employee intranet design. Since IA sets the foundation for overall UX, it only makes sense that the information architect’s holistic view of the intranet design project would encompass a holistic and strategic view of content.

When designing an employee intranet, the information architect is typically in charge of:

  • Facilitating user research to understand who the users and stakeholders are
  • Analyzing data to better understand and empathize with users
  • Creating the site map to inform where and how information is presented
  • Connecting site screens through wireframing to provide a roadmap to functionality and site hierarchy
  • Data tagging so copywriters and designers work with the same tags and keywords to ensure consistency and that user expectations are met

IA and Content Modeling

Wearing his or her content strategist hat, the experienced information architect takes all of the insights and information gleaned through this research and analysis to model content that will create meaning to the user. Content Strategist Rachel Lovinger outlines the goals of content modeling. In short, she says it must be:

  • Relevant to the users. This entails finding the voice of the site and making sure it is consistent throughout. Messages and content should be crafted using the same voice.
  • Identifiable to the system. Since an intranet is supposed to enhance the employee experience by saving time and increasing productivity, you need your programming to serve your content, not the other way around. Information architects write taxonomies (schemes of classification) and incorporate metadata so content has context for programmers and is readily accessible by users.
  • Efficient to produce. Information architects in the content strategist role introduce pathways for creating, enhancing, organizing and using content. They do this by establishing business rules and workflows that are consistent with content strategy goals.
  • Comprehensive. Content must be inventoried, culled, and enhanced. In short, it is the IA as content strategist’s job to make sure there are mechanisms to ensure content is useful, ripe, current, and fulfills the users’ mission.

Make Sure Your Intranet Content is King With 2Plus2

The expert information architects at 2Plus2 understand that every employee intranet must reflect the proper tone, voice and visual cues of the particular population it is intended to serve.

We find efficient ways to leverage relevant research and analysis tools to create holistic content for employee intranets that reflect each client’s culture. To learn more about working with 2Plus2, please reach out to us online or give us a call at 510-652-7700 to schedule a no-obligation consultation.

Cathy Dew
Cathy Dew – CEO + Information Architect
Cathy focuses the company on our mission – Real results. Every time. Information architect and strategist, Cathy is passionate about making software work well – the function, the feel, the result.