Content modeling is a powerful tool for fostering communication and alignment between User Experience (UX) design, editorial, and technical resources on a Information Architecture effort. By clearly defining the content domains, content types, content attributes (metadata) and relationships, we can make sure that the envisioned content strategy becomes a reality for the content creators.
The Content Model is a logical depiction of what an organization knows about things of interest to the business and graphically shows how they relate to each other in an entity relationship (ER) diagram or class diagram. An entity relationship diagram is an abstract conceptual representation of structured data. It uses standard symbols to denote the things of interest to the business (entities), the relationships between entities and the cardinality and optionality of those relationships. The Content Model, contains detailed characteristics of the content types or concepts, attributes or properties and their definitions. It is a result of detailed analysis of the business requirements.
When starting a content modeling effort, it is important to begin with a high-level (conceptual content model). The conceptual content model is the first output from content modeling. After some initial work identifying, naming and agreeing on what content domains and content types are important within your problem domain you are now ready to structure them together into a conceptual content model.
It is essential that content strategists, information architects and business stakeholders engage with content modeling early on in the process. These are the people best positioned to find and classify content types that make sense for the business. They bring that understanding of why content needs to be structured, named and related in a certain way. In addition, the business subject matter experts bring knowledge of the rules about content that drives the naming and determining of relationships between content types.
Finding Content Types
Content types live in existing web sites, customer call centers (call logs), product documentation, communications, as input & output of processes and functions as well as in the mind of people performing various tasks. The mission is to find them, document and define them. here are other reasons to make something a separate type of content:
- Distinct, reusable elements. You might decide to create an Author content type that contains the name, bio and photo of each author. These can then be associated with any piece of content that person writes.
- Functional requirements. A Video might be a different type of content because the presentation layer needs to be prepared to invoke the video player.
- Organizational requirements. A Press Release may be very similar to a general Content Page, but only the Press Release is going to appear in an automatically aggregated Newsroom. It’s easier for these to be filtered out if they’re a unique type of content.
Content models progress along a continuum of constant refinement, there are three important stages in the content modeling lifecycle:
- Conceptual: The initial content model which aims to capture the content domains, content types and high level relationships between content types.
- Design: Adds the descriptive elements (metadata) to each content type and further refines the structural relationships between them.
- Implementation: Models the content within the context of the target technology, e.g. CMS, Search Engines, Semantic Tools, etc.
Remember Content is KING!