Cleve Gibbon

content management, content modelling, digital ecosystems, technology evangelist.

Content Models

Content modelling is an iterative and incremental process for communicating the essential characteristics of structured content. Each iteration brings further clarity to our content models.  Refining content types.  Tweaking their inter-relationships.  Continually trying to make sense of the business.

Content modelling adds layer upon layer of detail.  Increasing our understanding of what content  is needed to drive the business.  And as we learn more, the content model evolves with us, moving from high level ideas and concepts, to structured and meaningful information assets.

Although content models progress along a continuum of constant refinement, there are three important stages in their lifecycle:

  • Conceptual: The initial content model that aims to capture the names and high level relationships between content types.
  • Design: Adds more detail in the form of attributes to each content type and further refines the structural relationships between them.
  • Implementation: Models the content within the context of the  target technology, e.g. CMS, Search Engines, Semantic Toos, etc.

Each content model talks volumes to the right target audience. One size does not fit all.  Instead we have to start small, stand on a few key successes, and move forward.


Different types of content models

Content Models

Consider the implementation content model.  It tends to be filled with low technical details about how content types and their relationships will be created, managed and administered within the CMS.  This detailed content model equips developers with the right information to help them build a business aligned implementation story around content.  Implementation content models mix in terminology and concepts from the target CMS into your content mode.  Working with Drupal with have Nodes, Adobe it’s Pages, Sitecore has components, and so on.

However, starting bottom up does have its problems.  Clearly implementation content models provide too much detail for upstream business stakeholders.  They don’t want to but will have to filter out all the superflous technical noise to get at the real meaning of their content. They should not have to do this and invariably don’t.  So they either don’t engage or disengage very quickly.  This is a bad outcome.

Instead, the conceptual content model is a better fit for a non-technical, business-oriented audience.  It better serves their needs and effectively communicates the essential characteristics of content and how the business can best derive value from it.  Conceptual content models are important conversation starters that both raises awareness and conveys a basic understanding around content  amongst stakeholders, partners, creatives, agencies, and so on.  Super useful. Super useable.

However, for the development team, the conceptual content model remains largely background information, lacking in the important attention to detail required to effectively manage content.  We still have to add more detail and keep the models in sync once our solution goes live.  Let’s not forget that.  It’s not fire and forget, or once and done.  It’s an on process if we truly want to have a sustainable business change around content.

So, we’ve found:

A content model pitched at the wrong level, to the wrong audience, does more damage than good.

Keep Modelling.  Don’t stop!

The real value in content modelling is doing the modelling.  Not the model.  Although content models are important outputs, it’s a challenge to keep the conversation about content going within multi-disciplined, multi-company, geographically distributed, culturally diverse teams.  Content models are an important agenda item for ongoing content discussions.  They provide a rich contextual snapshot of content.  Content models help keep content front of mind so that we have that essential shared understanding of it.

Next Steps

Where next:


About Cleve Gibbon

I'm a technologist passionate about enabling consumers, employees, and clients do more with less, whilst having fun at the same time.

My sort of up-to-date cv tells you my past, linked in shows you my professional network and on twitter you can find out what I'm currently doing.