Content modelling is more than showing the interconnected relationships between content, it’s about building collaboration between authors, editors, departments and audiences.
Content Modelling identifies and ‘models’ the recurring content on a website that would benefit from having a template. We call these content objects or content types*.
It’s really important that you conduct content modelling whenever you’re dealing with your digital content, whether it’s a full site build or even just updating existing content you have. Doing so will ensure you’re creating well structured, validated, and consistent content that will best serve your audience.
*Please note that we refer to content types as a content object now because some CMS’ use a ‘content type’ to mean something unique to them, which could be confusing.
Why do we do it?
We want to model the content because it not only helps the developers know what content will be created for the website, but it also helps the content creators and editors understand the ‘rules’ of creating good content. This reduces time and confusion when building websites and helps the content creation process to go smoothly.
It also ensures the content is relevant to your audience based on their needs, and is consistent with all the other content being produced throughout the organisation. This is important to your audience because they think of you as a whole, not as lots of separate departments. This feeds directly into any content governance work you may be undertaking internally. If you don’t have a content governance framework in place, simply put - you should, and we can help you with that.
Content modelling has the added benefit of defining the relationships between content so that users are able to find other related and relevant content without having to search for it, improving their experience by making it more relevant to them.
Content modelling specifically supports the design of taxonomically driven websites. Having a strong taxonomy means your content can be tagged effectively, improving SEO, and users will dynamically find relevant content rather than having to always search around for it.
When do we do it?
At Edo, we conduct the main bulk of the content modelling activities within the Information Architecture (IA) phase because it helps to shape the Taxonomy and what the content visualised in a prototype or wireframe consists of.
Before we attempt to model anything however, we need to begin by reviewing an existing content audit, usually one of the first activities we’ll do in a project. The content audit helps us to determine which content is no longer relevant and should therefore be scrapped. It gives us a baseline from which to work and validate whether the existing content is still valid / needed by your audience or not.
Once in the main IA phase, we conduct Card Sorts and Taxonomy reviews with your audience to validate the language and structure that makes most sense to them, before taking the learnings into our content modelling activities.
Content modelling is formed of three parts;
- The Content Objects themselves (the actual detail, meta, fields etc. that make up the object)
- The Content Model (the interconnected relationships between each content object)
- The CTA Inventory (maps the location and relationship of calls-to-action within each content object)
Define the content objects - workshop(s)
To start with, we first need to define the content objects. We do this by conducting a series of hands on workshops with key stakeholders within the client organisation who create or manage content both offline and online. Specifically, we ask for content editors, CMS admins, commissioners or creators of content. We also invite heads of digital as well as heads of each department to attend the workshops, as this helps to break down departmental silos. When there is greater collaboration between all departments, the content created is much more consistent and effective as a result. When possible, we also like some representation from the organisations audience too, as they’ll provide insight into what content they actually need to see and we can float new ideas by them.
Within each workshop, we define what each of the key content objects are (by referring back to the content audit, personas, card sorting and Taxonomy review and story mapping) and flesh out their key elements or component parts. Any research outputs (such as personas) help the entire team draw the focus back on what content users actually need, and create opportunities for new/ better content where gaps have been identified.
With the content objects and their elements identified, we then prioritise the elements according to what users need to see to understand each content object. This isn’t designing the content per se but it does help formulate a hierarchy that later informs how that content may be visualised in a prototype or wireframe.
We also make a point of referencing where each content object is related to one another. This could be in the form of links or where an object is partially made up of another object (nested).
Example Content Object & key: representing an Edo.co blog article
Visualise the content model
After the workshops, we digitise the outputs and visualise a model of the relationships between each content object. This gives everyone a very clear understanding of the entire content object real estate, and what needs to be created and how.
Example Content Model: taken from the Edo.co website, showing relationships between blog articles, related articles and authors.
Create the CTA inventory
After the content objects and model comes the Call-to-Action (CTA) inventory, either an entirely new inventory or an update to an existing one.
The purpose of the inventory is to list all of the calls to action, which objects they belong to, where they will link the user to, any conditions of when they’re shown or not and most importantly, who they’re for and why they exist.
Armed with a CTA inventory, the developers are able to clearly understand when certain conditions require a change in states. It also helps remind content creators/editors of what CTAs their audience will likely need and why they’re important in finding other relevant content from around the website.
There are some excellent articles out there that go into a great deal of detail, from which we’ve learnt a lot from (thank you to the authors). You can find them below: