Imagine your website as a giant three-ring binder. Are your web pages sorted into groups that fall under specific categories and subcategories? Is it easy to navigate to your chosen topic? Do you see a pattern between different types of pages? Ideally, this is the structure a well-organized website should emulate, and one of the easiest ways to achieve such hierarchy is by creating a content model.
Whereas a content audit simply tells you what content you have on hand, a content model is a detailed explanation of how information will be organized on your site, the types of content the website contains, and how the information is related within your site’s hierarchy. When you can organize content into groups akin to an organization chart, it makes it much easier to determine what types of page templates you need as well as what content might be missing from your site. Understanding these relationships provides key insight for developers when implementing your web content management system (CMS). In fact, once your content has a definable structure, your CMS can take advantage of that structure by replicating designs based on your content modeling.
A content model documents all content types associated with a brand, and defines the relationship between those content types. With a content model, strategists can visualize the purpose of each piece of content enabling the organization of a website’s content ecosystem.Kaya Ismail, CMSWire
The best time to start a content modeling project is at the onset of a redesign, before you implement your CMS. Following are a few tips to get you started:
- With a content model, your design should accommodate your content types—not the other way around.
- In determining the hierarchy of your site, think about your site visitors and the information they most want and outline your content structure accordingly.
- Form always follows function. A powerful CMS like OU Campus provides you with tools for creating a strong support for the informative web pages you want to create.
- Determine the difference between predictable content, which needs only one design, and unpredictable content, which requires flexible design structures. Being able to replicate content models will save you time in the long run.
- If you are unsure how a content model should look, this article on alistapart.com provides an example.
- You don’t have to start from scratch to create a functional content model, but you do need to set parameters that corral your existing content into cohesive design. Use a scraping tool to identify all of your existing pages, then use the list as a guide for restructuring your content.
- Keep your content model as simple as possible.
- When your content is separated from design, you can capitalize on the “create once, publish everywhere” method of content management.
- Adhering to a content modeling structure from the initial stages of web design—even if your site is small—creates a solid platform for growing your site.
Thinking about evaluating a new CMS? Check out our guide: Choosing the Right Campus CMS.