Content Modelling Adoption and Key Challenges

By Ishan Mahajan Feb 26, 2020

In a world filled with billions of internet-connected devices today, a lot of content is being delivered at every touchpoint in the customer journey. But sadly, most of them fail to deliver the right time customer experiences, as may be desired. The reason? Most of the content that is delivered does not pertain to a well laid out content model. There’s no design in place that utilizes the context of experiences and technology to make these content intelligent.

Not sure what that means? Think of it as a content piece that has to be responsive, adaptable, accessible, as well as machine readable to be able to reach the right audience at the right time. How do you ensure that? By focussing on making this piece contextually relevant. You need to visualize its purpose, and design it in a structure that accommodates user experiences and relevance. 

That is precisely what content modelling does. It is a formal representation of structured content as a collection of content types and their inter-relationships. And it helps you take into account any contextual experiences before framing a content model approach. One of the most common ways to maintain it is to start documenting in a spreadsheet. 

In this blog we take a look at why adopting a content model may be critical for your business, and what are the key challenges that come in the way.

Why Do You Need a Content Model

Content models have a long lasting effect on your website, especially your CMS website. Here’s what makes them so important:

Brings Flexibility

The way you model your content dictates how flexible the CMS is for editors, and for whoever is using your CMS. It also means that throughout the lifecycle of the project and even once your project goes live, how easy it is for you to accommodate changes or last minute feedback that is required by your content model.

Long Term

Your content modelling approach also has a lasting impact on how complex your content migration, or website redesign is, particularly if you are going from one CMS to the other, or choosing another technology in the future. So 2-3 yrs down the line, how easy it will be to migrate the content that all depends on how you model your content now.

Reduced Redesign Complexity

Changing the design or updating the design of your website is also very tightly coupled with your content model. If you have a content model that is decoupled with your design to whatever extent it may be possible, then redesigning your frontend in a CMS like Drupal becomes much easier.

But if your content model is really coupled with your design, then redesigning your frontend would also mean that you would need developers to change your content model, which might need to migration to content as well. So it really changes the whole complexity of your redesign exercise.

Ensures Re-usability

The way you model your content also dictates the reusability of your components, to what extent you can reuse content and design elements in the future.

Owing to these reasons, designing a content model beforehand plays quite an important role in your CMS website. Provides you the flexibility and reusability you need, along with the desired objective of creating contextual customer experiences. Now let’s look at the challenges.

Key Challenges to a Content Modelling Approach

Now that you are aware of the importance of a content model, you may be keen enough to build it. While creating a content model is quite simple physically, you may pose challenges in its conceptualization and distribution. Take a look:

Not a Single Party’s Job

Content model creation cannot be done by a single party alone. This would result in an ineffective content model that only solves the problems of that particular team. Rather a cross-functional team is required, one that contains developers, UX/UI/creative designers, content authors, as well as representatives from other areas of the business if necessary. This because everyone has some level of insight into these models – what makes sense to a developer may not make sense to a content author.

Clash of Interests

Let’s face it, having a cross-functional team work on one content modelling project is not as easy as it sounds. Certain members of a department may be too influential, or more vocal than others and might try to take the lead in mapping the content model. This could result in a clash of interests, or worse make the model inclined only to address a particular team. 

Either way this kills the effectiveness of the model, and there is also a huge chance that the team falls apart. What we need therefore is to create a solid foundation and framework that can evolve along with your project. And a team facilitator who can ensure that each team member gets the chance to have their voice heard. 

Disconnect in Terminology

When working with cross-functional teams, there is also a huge chance to have a disconnect in terminology regarding the components of content models and how certain elements are referred to. This may hamper with the content modelling process, leading to disagreements and misunderstanding between members of different departments.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, you might consider establishing a consistent content modeling vocabulary - what do you mean by pattern, assembly, content hierarchy- and similar terms in this context. This will enable all team members to understand the conversations being held and avoid misinterpretations that could delay your project delivery schedule.

Unstructured Content

Another major challenge that you may face in content modelling is with respect to building a content model for your unstructured content type. This means that for uniquely designed pages such as home page, campaign page or a landing page, there are no fixed templates that the editors use. They usually put together the layout based on their requirements and what they decide to do with it.

As a result, approaching this kind of content or pages is a challenge in itself. Coupled with that are few practices that add to this challenge, and must be avoided.

Too Many Content Types

Often editors end up having too many content types despite that most of those share 80-90% of the fields. They keep on creating content types for every new field or minor change they require in an existing template. This can go totally out of control, result in a lot of maintenance overheads as well as introduce a host of issues. Plus fixing something may require a lot of regression testing, and you may also have to roll it out to different content types. 

Too Many Fields on One Content Type

Another bad practice is to keep on adding fields to a single content type. This can again go completely out of hand, particularly if you don’t know what you are doing. It can also cause issues in your next website design, leading you to rebuild your content model from scratch.

Ultimately the art of creating a content model is supposed to be a balancing act. It should be easy for content authors to understand and use, for UX/UI designers to leverage wireframes and creative designs, and easy for developers to pull out through the API and into websites, applications and channels. In addition to this, you may consider some key solutions that will help avoid the above mentioned challenges to content modelling.

Curious to learn more? Take a look at how to build a content modelling approach with Drupal.

Looking to enable editors with an easy publishing experience? Let’s do a little brainstorming and see how we can help.

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