Content modelling has a great impact on the user experience of Content Management Sytems (CMS), but very few people take the time and care to implement.

The whole purpose of a CMS is to provide an environment for editors to create or manage content easily. Every CMS (e.g. Sitecore, Umbraco, October, etc.) provides certain features that not only benefit editors, but also benefit the developers. Development teams must utilise these CMS features to full effect.

We often notice that managing content in a CMS becomes a problem when websites get bigger and more complex. This happens when there is no strategy behind the structure of the website, eventually leading to content updates being a nightmare for editors.

For this reason, creating a proper content structure, aka content model, of a website in any CMS is very important.

Keep reading for an overview of what content modelling is and then highlights some great benefits of it…

What is content modelling?

Content modelling is a process where the content of a website (or any project) is structured based on content types, This ensures that the content management system (CMS) is effectively configured for multiple channels. The content model contains detailed definitions of each content type’s elements and their relationships between them.

High-level content modelling diagram:

Content modelling high-level diagram@2x

Break down of higher-level model to its content type:

Content modelling low-level diagram@2x

What do content models look like?

Content modelling serves the purpose of defining and discussing the content of the project among team members of various disciplines. There is no rule on what a content model should look like. It can be a diagram on a whiteboard, an Excel spreadsheet or even be made via online tools.

Here are some guidelines on creating a content model:

  1. Analyse the content - Gather all content you have and analyse it by determining which data is important, and how it can fit into your designs.
  2. Determine structure - Break down the content into content types and components. Identify the reusable fields and components at this stage.
  3. Create a content template - Based on your identified component and content fields, define a content template. This template can then be used by designers and developers to build connections and functioning correctly.

Why use content models?

  • Structure - Structured content is easier to use.
  • Reusability - Less original content has to be produced because content is made in a reusable way.
  • Consistency - Designers and Information Architects can maintain the consistency of page designs easily.
  • Collaboration - Clarify requirements and encourage collaboration between designers, developers, and content creators/editors.
  • Guidelines - Content models guide content editors on what content to write or create and how to enter it into the CMS seamlessly.
  • Identify issues - Developers are able to identify compatibility issues before building a website, or allow them to adjust their approach to developing the CMS.
  • Cleaner display - Content display for end-users of the website is more consistent and cleaner.
  • Multi-channel - Models offer structure for adaptive and flexible content across all devices, such as apps, television and wearables.
  • Efficiency - Content management requires less time, meaning better content can be made.
  • Tracking - Content can be tracked easier for delivery and retrieval.
  • Editors' lives - The User Experience (UX) of the CMS is improved for editors, making their job easier!


When should content modelling be done?

It varies from project to project, again there is no hard and fast rule. Sometimes content modelling is done at the beginning of the project and sometimes maybe at a later stage of project development (e.g. after wireframes or visual designs) — below are some examples of a linear workflow of content modelling.

Content modelling at the early stages:

Content modelling early stages@2x


Content modelling at later stages:

Content modelling later stages@2x


It is recommended that content modelling should be done when you have gathered all the types of content you may need. Incomplete content models will affect your project design, development and overall deadline.


Who is responsible for content modelling?

When defining a content model, it should be done with a collaboration between designers, developers, and content managers or strategists. However, developers are responsible for the implementation or creation of a content model in the CMS.


Got content that needs modelling?

To know more about content modelling, get in touch with one of our team members...

07 Nov 2019
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