Structured Content Design
In a structured approach to content, digital resources are designed and developed from the content out, as opposed to creating interaction and visual design first, then shoehorning content in right before (or right after) launch. This results in content that can be used efficiently and effectively across traditional digital interfaces like websites and apps, and that is also primed for broader use in contexts like voice and chat interfaces, smart assistants, rich search results, and much more.
I can help you design and develop a structured approach to content that prepares your most valuable digital assets—your content—to work harder, last longer, and return the highest value for your content creation efforts.
Why Structured Content Matters
As digital content becomes increasingly interconnected, both on and beyond the web, a structured approach to content design and development ensures that
- website and app designs are optimized for their actual content
- content is structured in a way that allows it to be reviewed, displayed, mixed, and remixed across platforms
- content as data is better prepared for new and emerging platforms like voice and AI-mediated experiences (like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home)
More than any individual benefit, however, structured content focuses on communicating effectively to an organization’s patrons, constituents, and customers, wherever they are and however they choose to consume content. Structured content is the cornerstone of effective, scalable content design for the web. It’s also much more than a “web” technique: it is a way to prioritize effective communication across contexts.
At a high level, a structured content design workflow moves across interconnected and iterative phases: Meaning, Structure, and Expression. Each phase focuses on particular activities and outputs, which provide input and nuance for the other activities in the design process.
The “meaning” phase uses research data and stakeholder insight to understand structure and content resources relative to organization goals and user needs. Work in the Meaning phase begins with a foundation of design research, often including:
- stakeholder and user interviews
- content analysis
- traffic, behavior, and keyword assessment
- website and web app user feedback review
- competitive analysis with comparable organizations and products
- domain modeling
- content design principle formulation
The definition of structure focuses on defining and mapping content resource types and attributes to support clearly defined, goal-oriented activities of organizations and users. Inputs from the Meaning phase provide the raw material from which to define structure. This foundation provides an informed basis from which to:
- define content types
- identify the attributes they share
- source or create taxonomies that link them together within the subject domain at hand
Expressing content across contexts
Well defined structure provides a foundation for communicating the meaning flexibly across contexts. This often starts with setting up a content store, and then connecting it to a website or app. Though many traditional CMSs are capable of serving structured content through a partially coupled API, “headless” or fully decoupled solutions like Gather Content, Contentful, or Sanity often offer far more structural and platform independence.
A flexible content store is important because “Web pages” aren’t the only way content might be expressed online. Structured content facilitates optimizing content for SEO, accessibility, linked data publication, and syndication across voice and smart agent interfaces. Since structured content is designed from the ground up to communicate meaning, these contexts can be supported without being pigeonholed by “where the content lives” on a page or database.