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Improving The Content Management Experience Using Structured Content

Using Structured Content is a great way to increase the efficiency of your content management process, while also improving the consistency of your data across your applications.

What is Structured Content?

Structured Content is content that has been broken down into small chunks of data and follows a predictable design. By separating these chunks out, they can be displayed independently of each other. This is achieved by breaking down items of content into predefined Content Types, which are each made up by a list of predefined fields.

Why Use Structured Content?

Lets take a blog post as an example and think about the different bits of data that are displayed:

We could therefore define our Blog Post as a Content Type that consists of:

  Field   Field Type
  Title   Short Text
  Image   Image
  Description   Short Text
  Introduction   Long Text
  Main Article   Long Text
  Date   Date
  Author   To Be Decided...

 

By separating out the content into distinct fields, we can display different bits of data in different places, while still editing and maintaining it in one location. For example, we could display each of our Blog's Title, Image and Description fields in tiles on a Blog List page, but then display all of the fields on the Blog Post page.

Alternatively, you may want to hide most of your content from unregistered users, while still offering a small teaser to entice new users to sign up. We could then simply display only the Introduction field and hide the Main Article field unless the user has signed in.

But how do we record the Author against each Blog Post? The obvious solution might be to use a Short Text field and simply save the name of the Author, but what happens if our Author gets married and changes their last name? We would have to go into each article one by one and update the Author field. What if we want to update our blog and include a small image of the Author, or a short description? Again, we would have to go into each article and add these details in separately and repeatedly.

What about if we separate the Author into its own Content Type? We could split this Author type into the following fields:

  Field   Field Type
  First Name   Short Text
  Surname   Short Text
  Description   Short Text
  Image    Image 

 

This then allows us to link multiple Blog Post items to a single Author item. If the Author changes their name, or wants to update their Description or Image, they would only have to update it against a single Author record and the change would propagate through all of the Blog Posts at once. Not only does this make the content management process much more efficient, but also makes the data much more consistent across the whole site.

Other Benefits of Structured Content

1. Improved content searching. Separating the content into distinct fields allows us to restrict our search to only the fields we want to search through. This reduces the size of the dataset and therefore reduces the time it takes to perform the search.

2. Improved Content Localisation. What if our application needed to serve data in multiple languages? Not all data needs to be translated, such as Names or Images. By structuring our data, we can add extra fields to store data that needs to be translated. For example, we could separate out the Author's Description field into Description (English) and Description (French). To improve this process, some Content Management Systems enable users to flag which fields are localisable and then add these extra fields for you.

3. Improved Content Management Process. What if we wanted to restrict our Content Managers so that only one person was able to edit the Authors' descriptions, while a separate person could update the Authors' images? Separating out content gives us greater granularity when controlling the permissions of our users compared to all of this information being stored in one long Rich Text block.

How do I manage Structured Content?

In our experience, the best way to utilise Structured Content is by using a Headless Content Management System, where headless refers to a system that manages the data in a separate place from where the it is being displayed. This allows all of the data to be maintained in one location, even if we are displaying different fields on different pages or applications. For a more in depth look at a Headless CMS, including their benefits and drawbacks, check out Tom's blog from earlier this week.

I hope this blog has been useful in helping you get to grips with structured content, if you have any questions about the topic - give us a shout on @Cantarusltd on Twitter.


Written by Brendan Killough Consultant
4 min read Web 3 Nov 2017