Content structures: A guide to Content Modeling basics

By Arso Stojović
Read time 6 min
Posted on June 12, 2024
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Content modeling guide

Have you ever played The Sims? If you have, you've used content modeling without even realizing it. In The Sims, you create characters, build houses, and define relationships. Each of these elements has its attributes and rules. Knowing those rules and some hacks (motherlode is my fav) you can build a house or even a whole city to suit your needs and wishes.


Isn’t that just beautiful? 😍

So what would you do if I said to you that the Sims concept applies to content modeling, which involves defining and structuring various content types, attributes, and relationships to ensure your content is organized, reusable, and scalable?

So let’s see what it takes to start building your website efficiently as a house in the Sims. I will try to cover all the basics and, who knows, maybe some hacks.

What is Content modeling (and all basics)

Instead of the definition, I’ll start with an example to help you understand content modeling. Take a look at your website, what do you see? There are a lot of different content formats, right?  Let me guess:

  • Landing pages

  • Blog posts

  • Gallery

  • Home page

  • Career page

  • About us (and so on..)

All of these are content types and consist of a combination of individual content attributes. Some examples of content attributes include:

  • Text fields

  • Photos

  • Videos

  • Contact form

  • FAQs

  • Call to action

Defining those types and attributes, as well as establishing relationships and rules between them, is actually content modeling.

Content formats and types

Ok, now you are ready for a definition too: Content modeling is the process of identifying and organizing the different types of content and their attributes within a system. It involves breaking down content into distinct, manageable components, making it easier to structure, compare, and connect information consistently across a platform or project.

Why is content modeling important?

Content modeling influences different teams in an organization. It helps clarify requirements and fosters collaboration among designers, developers creating the CMS, and content creators.

For designers: The content model ensures that page designs accommodate all content types on the site and guide what text and media will be available. Along with supporting the design's content, layout, and functionality, it must also be compatible with the actual web structure.

For developers: The content model helps developers understand content needs and requirements as they configure the CMS. With various CMS types, achieving the same effect can differ. If the content model indicates something not easily done by a given CMS, developers can adjust their approach to achieve the desired result compatiblely. Developers need a detailed content model; if the content strategist doesn’t provide it, developers will interpret content needs and create details themselves.

For content authors: The content model provides guidelines on what content to create and how to enter it into the CMS. Although they are usually not involved in the content modeling process, it's important to keep them in mind, since they will be working with the CMS daily. To make the system user-friendly for them, keep the model intuitive, and consistent, and minimize redundant activities. Depending on how the system is set up, the content model can either streamline or complicate their work.

Different approaches to content modeling

Content modeling can take various forms depending on the specific needs and structure of the project. It is possible to create structured content using these common content model examples:

Hierarchical model

In a hierarchical content model, content is organized in a tree structure, with parent-child relationships. This model is useful for websites or applications with clear categories and subcategories.

  • Example: A company website with sections for "About Us," "Products," "Services," and "Contact." Each section may have subsections, such as "Products" containing "Electronics," "Furniture," etc.

hierarchical content model

Matrix model

The matrix content model organizes content types and their attributes in a grid format. This model highlights the relationships and intersections between different content types.

  • Example: An e-commerce site where products are organized by categories (like clothing, electronics) and attributes (like size, color, price).

Matrix model

Graph model

In a graph content model, content types are nodes, and the relationships between them are edges. This model is suitable for complex, interconnected content.

  • Example: A social media platform where users, posts, comments, and likes are interconnected in various ways.

Document model

The document content model treats each piece of content as a standalone document. This model is often used for content-heavy sites like blogs, news sites, or document repositories.

  • Example: A news website where each article is an individual document with attributes like title, author, publication date, and content.

Component-based model

In a component-based content model, content is broken down into reusable components or modules. This approach is common in systems that require consistent content presentation across different platforms.

  • Example: A content management system for a large enterprise where headers, footers, and content blocks are reused across multiple pages and channels.

Attribute-based model

The attribute-based content model focuses on defining specific attributes for each content type. This model is useful for systems that need to filter or sort content based on attributes.

  • Example: A real estate website where properties are listed with attributes like location, price, size, and number of bedrooms.

Template model

In a template content model, predefined templates dictate the structure of content. This model ensures consistency in content presentation and is often used in CMS platforms.

  • Example: A blogging platform where each post follows a template with fields for title, author, body text, tags, and publication date.

template content model

Task-oriented model

The task-oriented content model organizes content around user tasks or goals. This model is user-centric and focuses on the user's needs and how content supports their tasks.

  • Example: A customer support portal where content is organized around common user issues and tasks like troubleshooting, FAQs, and contact support.

Relationship model

The relationship model emphasizes the connections between different pieces of content. It maps out how various content types relate to each other, which is particularly useful for content that needs to be interconnected.

  • Example: A university website where courses are linked to departments, professors, and related resources. A course might have relationships with a syllabus, reading materials, and assessments.

Assembly model

The assembly model focuses on how different content components can be assembled to create a complete piece of content. It often involves breaking down content into smaller, reusable modules or components that can be dynamically assembled as needed.

  • Example: A marketing website where various content blocks like headers, testimonials, product descriptions, and CTAs are assembled into different landing pages.

Each model has its advantages and is suitable for different scenarios. The choice of content model depends on the complexity of the content, the relationships between different content types, and the specific requirements of the project.

How to create a content model

Creating a content model involves a systematic approach to defining and organizing the types and attributes of content you will manage. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Identify content elements

Determine the distinct elements of content that will be part of your project. Each content element represents the different kinds of information you will manage.

Let's take an e-commerce website as an example:

  • Products

  • Categories

  • Reviews

  • Users

  • Blog

Step 2: Define attributes

Identify the attributes or fields ( specific pieces of information) that each content element will contain.

  • Example of products:

    • Name

    • Description

    • Price

    • Images

    • Category

    • Reviews

Step 3: Establish relationships

Determine how different content pieces relate to each other.

One-to-one relationship

Example: Each User Profile has one unique Account Settings entry.

One-to-one relationship

Relationship: Each user profile is linked to a unique account settings entry.

One-to-many relationship

One instance of a content type can be related to multiple instances of another content type.

Example: A single Category can contain multiple Products.

One-to-many relationship

Relationship: One category, such as "Electronics," can contain many products like "Smartphones," "Laptop," and "Headphones."

Many-to-one relationship

Multiple instances of one content type are related to a single instance of another content type.

Example: Multiple Reviews can be associated with one Product.

Many-to-one relationship

Relationship: Many reviews, such as user reviews for "Smartphones," are associated with one product.

Many-to-many relationship

Instances of one content type can relate to multiple instances of another content type, and vice versa.

Example: A Product can belong to multiple Categories, and each Category can contain multiple Products.

Many-to-many relationship

Relationship: A "Smartphone" product might belong to both the "Electronics" and "Mobile Devices" categories. Conversely, the "Electronics" category can contain products like "Smartphones," "Laptop," and "Camera."

Step 4: Create content model templates

Develop templates for each content type to ensure consistency. These templates should include all defined attributes and provide a structure for content creation.

Product Template:

  • Title

  • Text area for Description

  • Field for Price

  • Upload section for Images

  • Dropdown for Category

  • Section for related Reviews

Step 5: Develop a content schema

Create a schema that outlines your content types, attributes, and relationships. This schema serves as a blueprint for your content model.

content schema

Step 6: Implement in CMS

Configure your content management system to reflect these relationships. Most modern CMS platforms support relational content modeling, allowing you to define how content types relate.

For a step-by-step guide (motherlode in The Sims slang) visit: Content modeling in a headless CMS.

Ready to make a good content model?

Creating a content model is crucial for efficient content modeling, and choosing the right tools can make all the difference. One excellent option to consider is a BCMS headless CMS and here’s why:

  • Flexibility in front-end development:

You can use any front-end technology you prefer. This allows developers to create rich, interactive user experiences without being tied to the limitations of traditional CMS templates.

  • Content reusability:

You can manage content in a central repository and reuse it across multiple platforms.

This means you can create a content model by combining reusable components. This modular approach allows you to adapt quickly to the requirements and accomplish content modeling best practices.

  • It takes a minute

  • Free support

  • 14 days free trial

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