There’s an interesting editorial over at the fall 2010 issue of the Journal of IA, which I do like reading. Eric Reiss spends some time trying to place information architecture, user experience and content strategy in terms of each other. I don’t think it’s an entirely worthless endeavor, but in my opinion, he’s bitten off a ginormous challenge. We’re the people who like to organize, categorize and name things. So no wonder we don’t all agree here. Reiss has certainly put his finger on an ongoing point of contention.
A much more recent post by Erin Kissane tackles the same topic from a different angle, making content strategy more of the umbrella.
I’d draw a bigger picture though. I’d put the business strategy umbrella over the top of the project as a whole. It’s got to define your work, no matter your discipline. To my mind, then, systems, development, UX, IA and content strategy all need a seat at the table to get from strategy through to executed product. There are a number of ways to make the process work — even how to define your business strategy. And depending on which process you use, one discipline or another may take a more prominent role.
In the end, I think the argument is largely academic. The critical thing is that the disciplines of content strategy, IA and UX all seem to get more respect now. When I started working on the web, there was design. And HTML. And then content, but in the “words-go-here” variety. Things have improved a lot since then — consumers have gotten much more sophisticated in what we demand from our web applications, and those of us in the web industry have responded to that. There are still people trying to execute web projects and applications without content strategy or IA or UX, of course. But if you want your work done effectively and well, you need all three.