A growing volume of material describes the technical details of content models—many teams get caught up in these technical details and fail to grasp the business value of their content model.
Michael AndrewsFeb 6, 2020
Content models can seem mysterious because many people don’t understand why they exist, how they vary, and what their benefits are. That’s unfortunate because content models are a powerful tool. To get the most from them, teams need to know how they influence content and outcomes.
A Content Model Is More Than a Technical Specification
Much of the available advice about content modeling relates to page-based CMSs and is not relevant to modeling content for a Content-as-a-Service (CaaS) approach. CaaS is based on a headless technical foundation, which manages content much more granularly and flexibly. That changes the nature of the content model. With CaaS, the content model is much more of a strategic tool.
Both editors and developers should steer clear of advice that’s geared toward traditional web CMSs that focus on pages. They may be presented with a handful of preconfigured content types, which they can change only to a limited degree. They may be told that they should limit the number of content types they use because all web pages are really just variations of a generic article. They see uninspiring examples of article page types that do little and mistakenly conclude that’s all a content model can support.
For traditional web CMSs, content modeling is largely about gathering technical details about how the content will live in a back-end database. Teams end up focusing on how many characters to make each field, instead of on what the content can do for them. Content modeling becomes a task encumbered by drudgery—a task that teams want to finish as soon as possible.
Have Goals for Your Content Model
The content that your organization publishes should have specific goals. The same is true for the content model that is managing the creation and delivery of that content. It will be hard to realize objectives for your content if your content model doesn’t support those objectives.
Unless you have specific goals for your content model, developing your content model will seem like a huge chore. Content models shouldn’t be seen as something you have to do because your CMS requires it. The content model is an opportunity for your enterprise to do more with its content.
Make Your Content Model Robust
Before you can create a robust content model, your enterprise needs a CMS that is designed to support one. We mentioned before that CMSs vary considerably in how flexible their content models are. Every CMS has a content model of some sort, but not all content models offer true flexibility the way that a CaaS approach does.
But it takes more than buying the right solution. If you want a content model that can address a range of situations that are important to your enterprise, you can’t expect the vendor will provide that for you out of the box. The content model is not a predefined CMS feature in the way that auto-saving your text edits is. The CMS provides the framework for the enterprise’s content model. Your organization defines the possibilities that their content model will deliver. The content team needs to decide what they want their content model to do on their behalf.
A robust content model has certain characteristics:
- It is specific.
- It covers important scenarios your customers face and that your business needs to support.
- It makes content flexible so it can adapt to different needs.
As you learn more about the benefits of content models, it will become easier to see when a content model is a robust one.
A Content Model Can Support Many Kinds of Goals
What do you want your content model to do for you? Before getting into the specifics of how to develop the content model, teams should understand the various kinds of content goals that a content model can support. Content models define options and connect resources, so the right content is ready when needed.
It’s helpful to think about two broad categories of goals that the content model can support:
- Operational goals
- Customer experience goals
These goals can support one another, but it helps to consider each on its own so teams can identify opportunities to structure their content to improve their content’s effectiveness.
A robust content model can support complex content needs, where an enterprise must be able to respond to a range of requirements. It makes content operations more agile. Some operational goals for a content model would be to:
- Reuse content in similar or different scenarios
- Be able to deliver consistent content where that is required
- Be able to provide variable and granular content to address diverse business and customer needs
- Unify and relate content on a wide range of topics
- Make updates and changes more manageable
Teams can consider how their choices support these operational goals when developing their content model.
In addition to making operations more agile, robust content models can deliver greater precision to support the customer experience (CX). By breaking down content and providing more structure, the content model can support a range of CX goals. The customer experience goals for the content model can be to help customers:
- Benefit from more flexible information that’s available just in time.
- Have more control or choice about what to view.
- Access more specific content that’s more relevant and richer in detail.
A weak content model will prevent your content from fully engaging with customers. Generic content models result in bloated content that is difficult for customers to use. Robust models, in contrast, are built around concrete customer scenarios.
All these operational and CX goals are important. Different enterprises will prioritize some more than others in their content modeling to reflect their content strategy priorities.
Involve the Whole Team
To tap the full potential of your content model, different roles should contribute to the process:
- Content strategists and writers can suggest how different information and messages need to be available in different scenarios.
- UX designers and front-end developers can suggest how the model can support a better experience when customers view content in products or in different channels.
- Developers can suggest how to implement ideas in a way that is most efficient.
Teams should work with a vendor that has deep experience with best practices in content modeling for headless structured content. While many vendors now offer headless CMSs, they don’t all provide the expertise that would help clients make the most of their content modeling. An established vendor such as Kentico Kontent can help your team implement content models that can support priorities such as personalization and omnichannel delivery.