Content modeling 101

Proper modeling of your content is an essential step in a successful project. Not sure where to get started? See how to start modeling through the example of a simple article with some added features.

Table of contents

    So, what the heck is content modeling‽

    Writing structured content helps make sure your content wows now and keeps its shine for years to come. If you haven't already, check out our video on structured content. To be able to deliver your structured content everywhere and make sure it's future-proof, you need content models to define what your content is for. This is how you create the structure.

    Content models are key tools in representing your content so that the intention and requirements of your content strategy are clear. They are ways for you to define what your content is expected to contain so that your strategy becomes a reality.

    In Kentico Cloud, the most basic part of your content models are content types, which are like templates for your content. These types are made up of various elements, which are the fields for your structure that set out what your content will contain.

    Having a clear structure helps your content contributors fill in the right content and having to change the structure later can lead to delays. So it's important to get started right. To see how, start with a simple example.

    The KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid)

    Having clear and simple models will help your contributors understand how to create the best content. You should aim to have the fewest models possible. This means only creating content types when you know you need more structure (like when you need to define options). Too much structure is overwhelming and leads to complications later in your project.

    To see it in action, imagine you have a website with articles like the one below (click to zoom). They've got a title and a body and can (but don't have to) contain a video (or even more) in the body.

    An image of a simple article.

    Now answer two questions about how you could model it (ignore possible metadata for now – we'll save the best for last). 

    Reusability – You're not lazy, just efficient

    To keep your models clean and simple, it's essential to keep reusability in mind. Thinking about how your content can be reused in other parts of your project can save you lots of effort. It's how you know whether to create a new type or not and what elements to include. 

    When you're going to reuse a structure in multiple places, you'll want to create a content type to hold that structure. This allows you to have the same kind of content in many places. But that doesn't always mean more content items. If the content is only used once within a rich text, you can repeat the structure (but not the content) with components.

    Look at a similar article (click to zoom), but this time expanded to include:

    • An author with a picture and short bio (which might have formatting). One author might be assigned to multiple articles.
    • A call-to-action (CTA) to find a cafe nearby with an image and a short text. Multiple articles might have CTAs, but each will have different images and texts.

    Now answer three questions about this new structure.

    Everyone needs a little help sometimes

    To ensure your content is completed exactly how you've planned, it's important to give your content creators some guidance. If you make it clear what the expectations are at the start, you can save time later in creation and review when you don't have to spend time clarifying unclear aspects.

    One way to provide guidance is through general guidelines on an entire content model so people know what to expect. This can include ideas about voice and tone. Providing specific guidelines for each element you add to your model will help your contributors know exactly what you'd like where

    To go even further, you can add limitations to specific elements to make sure your content won't get published in the wrong form. Such limitations make your content authors' lives easier by freeing them from concerns about what should be included and letting them focus on getting the content right.

    Have a look at three different ways to provide guidance for your article (click to zoom).

    Talking about what you're talking about

    Metadata is a way to describe content, as opposed to the content itself. It includes things like:

    • Descriptions and other SEO info
    • Personalization (for example, to categorize different images or text as being for different personas)
    • Info on delivery (e.g., what channels the content is suited for)
    • Unique identifiers to connect with other tools (for example, a name for Google Analytics conversations)
    • Product categorization

    This example started by ignoring metadata to focus on different parts of the modeling process. But when you're actually modeling your content, you want to start with metadata. Proper metadata will help you get the most out of your structured content.

    Having this metadata helps you get the most out of your structured content now and is essential to ensuring your content will be ready for any future changes. With good metadata, you can reuse content multiple times in various presentations because of the clear rules for delivery and display.

    Keep in mind that while metadata is extremely useful, having too much of it can be overwhelming and make it difficult for your contributors to fill it out correctly. Keep your metadata simple and as little as necessary or you risk losing out on its benefits.

    Now add some metadata to your article. You'll want to add in some SEO metadata (things like a description to increase its findability, where you might need similar info for other content types), categorization for personalization (deciding which of your separately defined personas the article is designed for), and a name for integrating with an analytics tool (the unformatted name of your conversion).

    Wrap up

    You've done a great job modeling basic content. Awesome!

    A simplified model of your article might look like this.

    Here are some things you've seen:

    • Simple models are the best – as few as possible with as little info inside as possible.
    • Reusability is key – always think about whether your content is for only one place or will be in multiple places.
    • Provide guidance – make sure contributors know what to add and where to add it.
    • Metadata sustains everything – clear use of semantic metadata will help make sure you can continue using your content anywhere.

    What's next?

    This was only a brief taste of what's involved in content modeling.