Just like the Sixties, the Nineties are over. From free love to free information, it was all quite a ride. But that was then, this is now. The Web is growing up. It's time for definition, time for metrics, time for standard processes.

Much of what was believed to be "new" about the New Economy has not lasted the distance. Information wants to be free, anyone? An Internet month is like a normal year? The Long Boom?

The Web was made out to be very complicated. It's not. It's about publishing. It's about communication. The Web is made up of content. Information architecture is the discipline of organizing content.

Consultants try to make content and information architecture complicated. That helps them feel special and charge more. I hear talk that because information architecture is so difficult, it's almost an art form. There is a view that no two information architects can have the same opinion on any given problem.

Some believe that information architecture cannot--and should not--be defined. Excuse me? An information architect who refuses to define is like a dentist who refuses to pull teeth.

Information architecture is all about the definition and organization of content. The fact that there isn't a commonly agreed definition is because the discipline is immature. If information architecture is to solve problems cost-effectively, it will have to become rigorously defined. Just like most other professionals, information architects will require accreditation.

Do hippies and pioneers run your website? Are the same people in charge today who got things going in the mid-Nineties? That's probably not a good idea. A very interesting bunch of people were attracted to the Web in the early days. They loved the lawless nature of the Web because it allowed them the opportunity to experiment and express themselves.

These people tended to be techies and graphic designers. What you need today are writers and editors. The technical elements of a website are now largely solved. The graphic design elements are relatively minor. The day-to-day job of the average website is writing and editing.

Let me tell you about writers and editors. They are generally technophobes. They couldn't care less about HTML or Java. They care about words and they care about communication. They are a very different breed to that first wave that built the Web.

Did you know that IBM used to have 7,000 intranets? Do you know that they now have one? I see this trend for consolidation and standardization globally. Now, some think that's a bad thing. They believe that standardized websites take away freedom of expression.

It was a real Nineties idea that business was about freedom of expression. Business, we now know, is about making money. Organizations are looking at chaotic intranets and saying enough is enough. Time to get serious or else close the thing down. (Because a chaotic intranet is a productivity drain.)

It was good to experiment. It was good to explore. But that big, wild ride is truly over. It's time for the metrics. Time for the definitions. Time for the standards. Time for thorough publishing processes that are rigorously policed. Time to organize your content in a professional manner.

After all, what is an organization if not organized?

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image of Gerry McGovern
Gerry McGovern (gerry@gerrymcgovern.com) is a content management consultant and author. His latest book is The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online, which teaches unique techniques for identifying and measuring the performance of customers' top tasks.