The Web Project Guide Podcast: Episode 11: Model Your Content (w/ Jeff Eaton)

It’s The Web Project Guide Podcast, and we made you a new episode.

The web is as complicated as we make it. This is because we can make it really really complicated, because we can dream anything. We can imagine the ease of solving edge cases by automagically shoving different aggregations into simple content blocks. We can imagine making entire sites populate based on location or browsing history or our very specific expectations as marketers. We can invent wholly new language contexts, in our minds, because our minds don’t have to follow up and pay off the dream.

Yet, when scoped, these dreams become challenges. They become expectations that are difficult to recreate, because content still requires logic.

This logic is what makes up a bulk of the decision-making around content modeling, and it’s part of why clients’ biggest tripping points on a project is demystifying content modeling — because it’s taking things we take for granted (the structure of language, the logic of content, and the relationships we hold true in our heads) and translating them for a machine.

We were really excited to talk to Jeff Eaton about content modeling this month, not because he’s a wonderful person and good friend, but because Jeff thinks enough about modeling to be able to combine  both the philosophy and the practice of content modeling. He’s the smartest person in the room, on this podcast at least, and we were excited to have him.

From our interview:


Jeff, I use your definition of a content model in almost every situation in which I have to define what a content model is.


Oh man. Which one? Cause I’m pretty sure that I’ve given nine.


Well, what’s your favorite one?


So I like to think that there’s sort of two ways of talking about a content model. One is the baseline definition —  “A content model defines what kinds of things you are going to be publishing, what they are and what they’re for, and then what pieces make up those things and how they connect to each other. The things, what those things are made of and then how they relate to each other.” That’s the baseline.

That could be very high level. It could be a napkin with a couple of boxes on it with “article” and “landing page” and “category page” sketched on it, and some arrows connecting them and at a very base level — that’s a content model. And the purpose of that is so that everyone gets what it is we’re all working on and what that means and what that requires.

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