Cleve Gibbon

content management, content modelling, digital platforms, technology evangelist.

Content Architecture

In 2011 I was invited by Jonathan Kahn of TogetherLondon to give an five minute lightning talk on Content Strategy at the London CS Meetup. Prior to that I felt that although content strategy was definitely gaining momentum, it remains a hard sell into clients that know that they need and/or can’t articulate it in a way that makes sense to their sponsors / stakeholders.



A couple of months later at the CS Forum 2011 conferece,  I presented content architecture from the perspective of the The Strategist and the Executioner. As an executioner of digital ideas that target web sites, landing pages and mobile devices, the development team are struggling in the absence of a clear content strategy. In short, the content strategy does not get executive level buy in early enough in the process.  However, a content architecture, well that’s a different story. That seems to turn heads and spark interest, particularly from the IT crowd.  For a build team seeking clarity, a content architecture can serve two important functions:

  • Firstly, to capture and model the essential interactions between content publishers and content managers.
  • Secondly, to build the case for content strategy.


What is Content Architecture?

Content Architecture

Content architecture is the specification for a content management solution. It is not a replacement for content strategy. Far from it. Instead the aims, audiences, publishing needs typically captured as part of a content strategy, are key, but often missing inputs to content architecture.


Content architecture is a set of activities and outputs for effective content management. Workflow design, content modeling and metadata definition help build out a content architecture that communicates a shared understanding of “how” content should be managed and published. Once in place, it can be used to drive decisions about how designers, developers, testers and system administrators should evolve the technical solution by:

  • Specifying user groups and their access across the content tree.
  • Surfacing key publishing and editorial activities.
  • Documenting content types and the relationships between other content types, devices, users and sites.
  • Applying workflow best practice to satisfy publishing activities.
  • Defining the technical environments and how content will be transferred between them.
  • Overlaying an “agreed” decision making structure onto the publishing model.
  • Implementing key strategies around URLs, SEO, social and campaign management.


What is NOT Content Architecture?

When a content architecture is being specified in the absence of a content strategy, clear gaps and questions get raised. These are the questions that executioners look to the strategists for answers. It’s virtually impossible for a solution to meet client expectations without clear aims and an in-depth understanding of the internal/external audiences (but many try). This is content strategy. This and all the answers to the questions that fall within content strategy’s four lands: substance, structure, workflow and governance. Content architecture is a great way to shine a light on these gaps whilst as the same time delivering tangible value back into the business.



The reality is that we all do a bit of content architecture anyway, but just call it a different name within our own projects. Content modelling? Workflow design? Metadata definitions? Content requirements? You name it. However, as a technologist, it is easier to make the case for content architecture to our clients than it is to lobby for content strategy from the outset. Particularly, with a client that is not ready to listen.


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About Cleve Gibbon

I'm Cleve Gibbon, CTO at Cognifide where we are passionate about digital content.

My sort of up-to-date cv tells you my past, linked in shows you my professional network and on twitter you can find out what I'm currently doing.

This year I plan attend a number of events. Hopefully I'll see you there. I'm easy to find as I'm always laughing. Find out more about me and get in touch!