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What is Content Modelling? A Simple Introduction

Your Guide to the Basics of Content Modelling

Published: June 28, 2022
Today Digital - What is Content Modelling? A simple Introduction

Rebekah Carter

Content modelling is an often misunderstood part of the content production strategy. Every piece of digital content your company creates is part of a wider content model. The model itself breaks down the attributes of the content, and how it connects to other assets in your toolkit.

Content models document the various different kinds of content you have on your website, describing them in detail, and mapping their relationship, so you have a clearer view of how you write, manage, and present your content. Often, it’s used as a critical component of building content pages on a website with a focus on user experience.

Today, we’re going look at some of the basic components involved in modelling content, and why it’s so important to have the right model in place.

Defining the Content Model

As mentioned above, content modelling helps with understanding how content is written and presented on a page. At the heart of a content model are certain concepts:

  • Content types: Different types of content can include everything from videos to written text, bullet points, and specific pages. For instance, a website for a software company might have a fee page, contact page, and membership subscription form.
  • Content attributes: Content attributes are specific content assets which come together to make the different types of content. For instance, a product page for a webinar might include a video, a series of bullet points, and some written text.

With a content model, you can essentially map all of the components of individual pages on a website or ecommerce store, and highlight how each of those components related to each other.

Why is Content Modelling Important?

Content models arrange different content types and attributes in a way that clarifies the requirements of each digital asset, and encourages collaboration between content creators, developers, and designers. Designers need to work with developers to ensure the right attributes can fit on a page, while developers need to ensure each page links to relevant accompanying assets.

Used correctly, content modelling helps:

  • Information architects and designers: Ensuring these professionals can create page designs to accommodate all the content types relevant for a site. A content model can show designers exactly what information needs to be presented on a page, and what kind of functionality needs to be available on each page. For instance, a checkout page would need to have payment processing features, as well as data entry capabilities.
  • Developers: The content model supports developers in understanding how they should configure the Content Management System (CMS). Each CMS needs to have the right code in the backend to ensure certain capabilities are possible on each page, and that specific assets allow for certain outcomes. For instance, a developer can ensure when a customer provides their email address on a subscription form, the contact details are added to an email marketing service subscription list.
  • Content producers: Content models give authors and content producers guidelines on what to create and write, and how it will be presented within the wider website or page. Although content producers aren’t always the most involved in the content modelling process, they still need a basic understanding of how their content might appear, so they can create it with the user experience of their audience in mind.

How Do You Create Content Models?

Many developers and designers have their own preferences when it comes to creating content models. Often, the process involves a consideration of three main components:

Step 1: Define the assembly model

Each CMS is designed around a specific “unit” of content they’re most optimized to create. For instance, for a blog-based CMS like WordPress, the central unit is a blog post. Understanding what your assembly model is for the CMS you’re using can help you to make important decisions about how modular certain pieces of content need to be.

When thinking about the assembly model, companies often need to answer questions like:

  • How structured should the content me? Do you need access to unique identifiable data for sorting and filtering content, like price, date, or author?
  • How flexible does the content need to be? What will the elements of the page be, and how many different elements will you need to manage?
  • How reusable should the content be? Can reusable elements (like forms) be made separately to share across various pages of the site?

Step 2: Explore the content types

Once you’ve got an idea of how structured your content needs to be, you can get a better insight into what constitutes a content “type”. If content doesn’t need to be particularly structured, you can have single content type which adapts to suit different needs. For instance, blog pages can host various forms of content assets in different structures.

In most cases, developers and designers will need to create some structured content types, based often on the functional requirements of the content. For instance, a slideshow on website will be very difficult structurally and functionally to a checkout page.

Step 3: Implement the content attributes

In the final step, you identify the various elements involved in each content type. This will include both the content users can see on the page, and the metadata hidden underneath the surface, creating the connections to other content types.

Some elements of a type of content will be obvious. For instance, a press release would need a title, an image, and body text. However, determining which information needs to be captured and presented in different fields, and how each attribute should be displayed can be complex.

Exploring Content Modelling

A content model can be a useful tool for fostering collaboration between editorial, technical, and UX design specialists in a project. By understanding the assembly model for a website or page, along with the content types and attributes, it’s easier to ensure you deliver the right results with your content strategy.