One all to common organizing principle is Content Type. It is easy to spot when it has been used by looking for words such as “downloads”, “publications”, “videos” and “forums” in menus on sites and apps.
It is easy for content creators to “happen to” use content type to organize content because the type is important when creating the content – the media industry has dedicated still photographers, copy editors, video editors etc. Different content types also need to be handled separately in content management systems – photos need to be resized, PDF:s need to be indexed with other algorithms then HTML content, etc. In the media industry we are simply very focused on content types.
The problem with basing an information architecture on content type is that visitors to most content repositories are not looking for a specific content type. The goal of most visits is not to find videos or articles but rather to get an answer to a question or to get updated on a specific area. To fulfil most goals, several content types need to be combined.
Some services are correctly based on content type. I like that Google provide me with a dedicated Maps service because sometimes my goal is to use a map. At other times I want to find a casual game so the Games section on the Barnkanalen.se site can fulfill my goal.
Tomorrow: When video is not enough.