On a recent website redesign project, the content linking became a big issue. Stakeholders weren’t so much interested in a site map, but wanted to know how specific content would appear on the home page, on interior landing pages, and on content pages. They wanted their specific marketing message to have space on each page, plus they wanted users to look at specific content. One of the challenges of the old site was that there was no way to bubble up the content onto various page types. They had a lot of content that was on the website, but people couldn’t see because it wasn’t sprinkled around the site. Plus, they didn’t know how to integrate it into the site and were looking to me for direction.

To figure out how the stakeholders expected their content to be structured, I ran a site map workshop with ~10 stakeholders. During this workshop, the issue of content linking came to the forefront again. People weren’t interested so much in how the pages would be structured (a first for me), but how their messages would appear on the different pages. They were much more interested in content on the pages. Sure, that’s jumping the gun, but the site map workshop made this issue apparent. I reassured the stakeholders that the content model would answer these questions.

While doing the “content model,” I came up with some images that show all the content that should be on the page. The image doesn’t say whether the item is a link, an image, text, or a hero image. It just shows that all this content must be represented on the page in some manner. (This image is shown later in this post.)

Content Models

Here’s what I found while looking for a definition of content modeling:

In Content Modeling: A Master Skill, Lovinger defines a content model as:

A content model documents all the different types of content you will have for a given project. It contains detailed definitions of each content type’s elements and their relationships to each other. — Rachel Lovinger

She also says:

The content model helps information architects and designers make sure that the page designs accommodate all the content types for the site and provides guidance on the bits of text and media that will be available for the page. At the same time, the content model needs to support the content, layout, and functionality portrayed in the designs.

Hmmm… My image here doesn’t document “all the different types of content” I will have for a project, but it does help “…make sure that the page design accommodates all the content types…” It also helps support the content in the designs.

Content map? what is it?

Again, this image simply shows all the content that should be on the home page. It doesn’t say whether it’s a link, or an image, or text, or a hero image. It just shows that all this content must be represented on the home page in some manner.

I also read Cleve Gibbon’s posts on content modeling. Gibbon says, “A content model is a representation of the types of content and their inter-relationships.” This seems to agree with Lovinger’s statement, but it doesn’t agree with my image. By the way, Gibbon says that content models are hard – and I agree with him now!

Content Maps

Looking at the definition of a content model, I don’t think I’ve created a content model. As mentioned, I was talking with a content strategist and she said it sounded like I had created a content map, not a content model. I searched for content map on the internet and saw various results.

The Six Revisions site states:

Content mapping allows you to see your content as it relates to the goals of your client, the goals of your site users and all the other pieces of content in your website (as well as external websites), allowing you to spot gaps (and opportunities) in your content development strategy

Yes, it seems that the content linking image related to the goals of the client to bubble up their marketing messages, news, and products. It also relates to the goals of the site users to immediately see information about products and rates. It also shows other pieces of content on the website. It especially allowed me to spot gaps and opportunities in the content strategy.

However, my content map doesn’t look anything like the images on Six Revisions! In one article (that I don’t want to link to), it seemed to refer to content mapping as mapping out all the different ways a user consumes the content – whether through an ebook, a website, a phone, in print. One article (which I don’t want to link to) really just seemed to take a site map, put it in a mind map-looking-thing, and called it a content map. (Not helpful, IMO.)

What did I create?

Riddle me this: what did I create? I can tell you that for this project I created content types much along the lines that Cleve Gibbon refers to. The content types were much informed by the content model/content map, but were much more detailed and listed the specific URLs, how the content would appear (text, image, link), and the priority of the item on the page.