What Does IA Have to Do with Product-Detail Content?

The IA Summit was a whirlwind of smart people, smart ideas (see our Twitter roundup for a snapshot), and excellent collaboration. As Marianne Sweeny said in her session, by collaborating we “use a silver buckshot rather than a silver bullet.” That is, by casting a wider net rather than relying on the One Best Idea, we can develop better processes, design, and content.IA-summit-featimage

And there was plenty of collaborating going on. Attendees voted for flex track sessions proposed during the summit by other attendees. Some IAs developed beautiful sketch summaries. Feedback from first-timers (including me!) was sought and well-received.

It may seem a stretch to imagine how information architecture is relevant to the business of selling products online, but I assure you, it is.

How System Thinking Helps Product Content

Marianne’s talk focused on system thinking. To me, that model of thought is about the need to consider context when developing product-detail content. What site will this live on? What does the entire page look like? What else do we want to do with this content? How will it be delivered—HTML, JavaScript?

Anatomy of a Content Model, a session by Lacey Kruger of Blackbaud, talked about the need to change our content models from desktop experiences to content everywhere experiences. Also the main topic of the recent Intelligent Content Conference, this is only going to become a requirement.

The shift speaks directly to what’s happening on Amazon and elsewhere: content is being chunked by retailers. Primarily to improve mobile experiences, we think, but also driven by trends in web design that influence how these sites are built and redesigned over time.

Containerless Content: Getting There

The question of mobile and desktop sites, a hot topic these days for retailers and brands selling online, was covered, too. A session called Architecting the News by Nick Haley, director of user experience at The Guardian, gave a brief history of mobile and desktop sites: in 2012, they were inefficient, inconsistent, extra work, and tended to break.

Sculpture in Minneapolis near IA Summit 2015

As more research has emerged on what users want from web experiences, three main behaviors became clear. Consumers of the web want to:

  • Get updates: find out what’s happening right now and feel connected
  • Extend their understanding: go deeper with a specific story or topic
  • Discover: find new things about areas of interest in a casual, unfocused way

And web design is evolving to address each of these needs and desires. The containerless approach to content, which we’ve recently delved into on this blog, is fast becoming the new standard.

Containerless content follows some traditional web practices:

  • Put the most important information at the top and the least important at the bottom.
  • Don’t reflect your site navigation with order of content, but your users’ behavior and needs.

But it also introduces new ways of making websites to meet new possibilities in design and those emerging consumer needs:

  • Containers of content can appear anywhere (desktop or mobile), in any order.
  • The container is responsive, not the site.
  • Containerless content offers a flexible design system that’s easier to update.
  • And perhaps most important, when one container goes away, the rest of the site still functions smoothly.

The Guardian, after implementing containerless content, saw 90% growth on mobile YoY. The new Financial Times site uses containers, as does the updated BBC home page and The Atlantic site. It’s catching on, and those who get on board earlier will see benefits earlier.

The Takeaway

Containerless content is where it’s at. And to get there, brands, retailers, designers, and content people have to collaborate.