A common challenge for content strategists involves the implementation of strategy at the level of content production. At a certain point, content strategists have refined voice and tone to represent faithfully the organization’s identity. They’ve built an information architecture deeply informed by a user experience design. They’ve created several content and governance models that follow the user’s journey to ensure that each part of the digital experience fulfills its purpose. They’ve even mapped knowledge flows in the organization to get a sense of how content production would elevate organizational capabilities. In light of all of this, the question persists: what does one actually write?
Those who have developed content will know how easily the writing process can depart from a strategic vision. In order to better align protocol with strategy, we’ve developed a tool that we call a language architecture.
A language architecture is a framework that organizes the business’s overarching message into granular concepts. These concepts are distributed and contextualized across the information architecture and aligned with user experience. It provides the expressive skin to the function of your experience. The framework answers questions like: what concept would define the unique philosophy of your organization, and what other concept would convey that philosophy in action elsewhere in the experience? What concepts define the value of your product or service? Where should those concepts be highlighted in the experience? These concepts can be as abstract or concrete as you want them to be. The hard work lies in defining these concepts in the context of the business and articulating how they create meaning for relevant audiences.
Bridging information architecture to voice and tone, a language architecture ensures that the value proposition of the organization is fully fleshed out. And the concepts in the language architecture work together to ensure that the messaging throughout a digital experience is cohesive without being repetitive. Because of its scope, it is intimately tied to the requirements of the business.
Two major levels make up the language architecture and roughly map onto the information architecture: horizontal concepts and vertical concepts.
Horizontal concepts can emerge throughout the experience because they dominantly define who the organization is and what it offers. For LDS, horizontal concepts would include “digital transformation,” “new ways of work,” or “experience strategy and design.” These concepts pervade our points of view, define our contribution to the industry, and require definition and elaboration every time we invoke them.
Vertical concepts are contained under discrete landing pages and their lower level pages. This conceptual containment ensures, for example, that the business’s philosophy is 1) clearly established where it should be, and 2) doesn’t bleed into other areas of the experience unintentionally. It also ensures that while each lower-level page within a given vertical has a discreet function, it also has discreet concepts to populate content areas and align to page function. For LDS, a vertical concept would be Content ROT (redundant, outdated, trivial) – a concept integral to the Content Strategy Studio but one that ought not to invade the higher-level strategic points of view.
Each concept block on the horizontal and vertical levels displays the following:
- the concept name
- its definition within the context of the organization
- an illustrative example of the concept in use with the experience.
The language architecture provides a channel for clear expression of the organization’s key differentiating characteristics.
Failing to implement high-quality content can undermine even the most well-defined experience goals. In contrast, compelling, aligned content ensures that a digital experience delivers on its goals, both for users and for the business. A language architecture provides a systematic way to get this right.