Hello, current or future Ample client. 

If you’re reading this, I hope it’s because you’re about to embark on overhauling your website and you’re looking for a team of web experts who can make your business shine online. After all, the single most important thing you have to offer on your website is your content. 

In our experience, the level of strategic thought and care necessary for organizing your content can often be overlooked or underestimated. We believe this effort should be a collaboration between us and our clients. 

But before we get ahead of ourselves,  let’s discuss some things you should know about the world we call “content modeling.” Setting up a content model that is viable and usable for your team is a fundamental piece of the infrastructure of a well designed website and shouldn’t be overlooked. 

What is content modeling and why should I care?

Before we can create a website for your business, we need to understand the content that should live there. Content modeling is the creation of a framework of rules that enable you (the content editor or administrator) and us (the team creating your website) to structure your content for optimal use and future scale. 

In its most simple and philosophical form, a content model assigns value to raw data to make it mean something. As a high level example, you might have data that is a number (such as the number “1”) or a piece of text (“Bumper”). Those pieces of data mean nothing until you establish context for them:

Number of dogs: 1

Dog name: Bumper

To evolve this example further, consider that we can have relationships between these types of data points:

Owner: Becky

Owner might have a relationship to the items called “dog name” and “number of dogs” in which case you can reasonably establish that the owner, Becky, has one dog named Bumper. Victory! We have created a relationship between otherwise unrelated data points. 

Of course, this is a contrived example, but we need to do the exact same thing with the data on our website. For example, many of our clients’ businesses offer multiple products or services. Typically we have to organize those product or service offerings on their websites in a way that makes sense, both to the business and the customer. Often there are multiple ways to organize this content. 

Let’s imagine you sell desk chairs. 

If your business sells desk chairs, you might be selling to both individuals for their home desks and to corporations for their offices. You might be selling to small companies that only need a few chairs or you might be selling to an entire university. 

Now we have to organize that information in a way that makes sense for your website. Let’s say you sell three different types of desk chairs: 

  • Comfortable chair
  • Ergonomic chair
  • Contemporary chair 

For each chair type, you might want to target different types of users. The contemporary chair is nice for offices but not practical for universities. The comfortable chair is great for home use and schools but doesn’t sell well with corporate clients. Maybe the chairs have three different color choices but certain chair types only come in two colors...You get the idea. So when we’re organizing the data for each chair type on your website, we need to consider all of the different attributes that are associated with the product we want to showcase on the page. It might look something like this:

Example of a content model for chairs

This would be one way to do it, and it certainly would get the job done. We could have individual website pages for each chair type and each chair type would include information about the different use case and color attributes offered. 

But this is not a very flexible way to accomplish this. Why? 

Imagine that we want to have pages on the website specifically targeted at corporate buyers or university buyers and we want that page to show all the different products available for those use cases. Instead of creating a second set of pages with redundant data such as chair content type, we could abstract the data rather than coupling it tightly with the idea of “chairs” so we can create any number of relationships between content types, like this:

Example of a content model for specific chairs

Based on this model, we can now have product pages that include types of chairs, use cases, and colors. But we could also have a use case page just for universities, for example, that already knows all products that have been assigned to the use case university. And if one product is removed from that relationship, the website is dynamic and can reflect that throughout without needing to manually update every single page. 

Ten years ago, the content management system landscape didn’t have this type of flexibility and scalability right out of the box. Today, this is a core feature of modern web design. 

What about flexible page models?

The example above is just one way to model your content. Another option is a flexible page model wherein the CMS pages are not tightly coupled to the content on your website. We create a system of pieces and parts that could make up each page of the site and you can put them together however you’d like. This model gives you ultimate control and flexibility but doesn’t predefine what each page and template should look like, which may be important to your content administration team. Heck, we can even do a hybrid of both models. There are so many options!

How should I start thinking about my content model?

When thinking about what the correct content modeling strategy is for your website, there are a handful of things we should consider together: 

  • What types of content might make up the bulk of your website pages? Are you creating lots of blog posts or articles? Or perhaps you have a large catalog of product offerings that need to be shown.
  • Who will be managing the content on your website? Do you want them to have more control or less over the layout of your webpages? How technically proficient is the team of content administrators? 
  • How often will you be updating the content? 
  • Do you create bespoke pages for your website frequently or do you want to be able to to set it and forget it? 
  • Does the content need to be “gated” — in other words, does the user need to provide information in the form of an email sign up or a paywall before they can access the content?
  • Does the content have time boundaries? Is it related to events that happen at a specific time and/or does it need to be published and unpublished at specific times?
  • What are your business goals for search engine optimization? (Not sure? We can help identify those.)

When we create a website for you, we can organize your information in many different ways. As our client, you know your business best. 

Our job is to provide guidance and equip you with the right tools to power your website. Your job is to know your business and your team well enough to make decisions regarding how your content should be arranged. Ready to get organized? See our capabilities and give us a shout today.

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