Five Tips for Successful Remote Content Modelling

Written by Rick Madigan
May 27th 2020

4 minute read

Content modelling is a fundamental part of headless CMS projects and is an important step in building your solution. Successful content modelling requires a unified effort between editors and developers to craft a structure that works for both parties and serves all your desired channels.

Planning your content models is an essential activity and should never be underestimated. Aside from the dependencies that need to be juggled, there’s often an education piece to introduce the concepts and terminology that underpins the process. By its very nature the content model planning activity works best in a workshop environment.

Current events have forced us into a world of remote workshops, which come with their own set of challenges. There are workshop fundamentals to get in place, as highlighted in our recent blog post Running Effective Remote Workshops - 5 Steps to Success, but also some specific principles to follow to make remote content modelling work for you.

Here are our five tips for successful remote content modelling:

#1 - Establish a shared understanding

For many, the world of headless CMS is a sharp departure from the CMS environment that they have used for years. This can be a shock and the removal of key principles can make even the hardiest of editors wonder which way is up.

Ensuring that everyone involved grasps the concepts and terminology is your first step. It’s more than just a tour of the CMS. It’s about taking those concepts and translating them into terminology that everyone understands. This could be as simple as establishing a shared dictionary of terms or using existing channel examples to illustrate how headless CMS would construct these.

This isn’t something new as the same challenge existed pre-COVID-19 but the proliferation of remote working has made this a little trickier. Set aside time before your content model planning session to involve all relevant people in some online classroom sessions. You may need more than one session which is okay. It differs from project to project and it is important that you do what feels right for your team.

#2 - Preparation, preparation, preparation

Face-to-face content model planning workshops are relatively simple to prepare for. You need a room, some Post-its and maybe a few whiteboards. It’s a collaborative exercise, steered by the expertise of the agency/consultancy or team delivering the solution. 

This is still true in remote sessions but getting the right tools and a clear structure for the session is increasingly important.

Virtual whiteboards are your new best friend and establishing a clear structure with a set of defined activities is invaluable. Take time to ensure that everyone understands the agenda and the activities within that agenda.

#3 - Get the right people    

Content modelling is a collaborative experience. While there needs to be a driving force, leaving it in the hands of a single party can be a recipe for disaster. It’s a more complex affair.

When you break apart your content model structure, you swiftly realise there’s more to it than just pieces of content. There’s impact on experience design, development and SEO.

A truly multi-disciplined team is required to get the most out of your content model planning. Remote sessions can be difficult with large numbers of attendees so there is a balancing act to be played.

Take time beforehand to consider who needs to be involved and map out their role in the session. It’s important that they understand their role in the wider context and what you are expecting them to input.

#4 - Do your pre-workshop homework

As mentioned previously, content modelling touches upon many other aspects of the solution when considering channels such as web and native applications.

Consider the channels you are trying to target up front and ensure that you have the relevant research, documentation and plans that you need to inform your content modelling. And make sure your planning team have all digested the documents in advance of the session.

For example, in web, this could be wireframes / creative concepts, SEO plans and technical strategies while in chatbots, this may be a conversational user experience plan.

Without these pieces, you can still run content modelling sessions but bear in mind the rework and adjustments that will undoubtedly come your way as these pieces emerge.

 #5 - Clear outputs

Even with face-to-face workshops, we would strongly recommend creating clear outputs to establish a shared understanding of the content architecture.

This becomes even more important in the world of remote working. No matter how far we go with virtual whiteboards and planning, it’s difficult to gauge the understanding and acceptance while juggling the running of the session, writing virtual Post-its and facilitating discussions. Clear outputs help reaffirm that you are all on the same page and also provide attendees with the breathing space to consider the content model plan and how this will work for them practically.

We’d recommend not just a plan that details your content models but also a working example of a few content models – one to provide the wider context while the other provides a taste of what it will be like to content manage.

If you’d like to learn more about how to run remote content model planning workshops or want us to help you build digital products that will transform business performance, then please drop us an email at hello@mmtdigital.co.uk and we can set up a video call.

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