The term “Content Types” is a technical term that I’ve adapted from the Drupal world. Content Types simply refer to types of content that could be on your site. For example, News could be a content type on your site. This is a type of content that appears over and over again and always has the same structure. For instance, when you are on most websites and are viewing the News you’ll notice that the structure of the news is almost always the same.

There is the following fields of info in News:

– A title or headline
– Possibly a sub head
– A published date
– A byline (sometimes)
– An associated image (sometimes)
– A Teaser (shown on feeds, or on the homepage)
– The body of the story

By defining your news content type, you can build your content management system to allow to add content using a form that accepts these exact fields of information to create a <strong>News Article</strong>. This makes the process of adding content and styling that content incredibly easy for the site manager. With content management systems you can tell the system how it should format all the content. For example, you could tell the system that the “Page Title” is always an H1, the “Byline” is italics and a lighter color of text, the “Published Date” is formatted as MM/DD/YYYY, etc.

This same concept could be applied for every type of content that appears on your site. You could use this for:

– Testimonials
– Blog Articles
– Events
– Photo Galleries
– Past Projects or Case Studies
– and so on…

The goal here is to define the exact needs of each type of content. Define what fields of information should be required for each. By doing this you can create a more standardized site and ultimately make it very easy for the user to manage. It also ensures that the view of the content is standard across all pages. The other great thing is that you are simply saving one “node” to the database that can be referenced a number of time. Using the News example again, it’s common to see a News teaser on the News Feed page, a teaser in the sidebar throughout the site, the actual article page and maybe a teaser on the home page. By building and using a content type you avoid all this extra work by just having one “node” or “instance” of the article.

The other option, obviously, is simply offering blank content pages for all forms of content. Imagine how incredibly “hairy” this would get. For instance, a content type like Testimonials could be used throughout the site in a variety of locations. On the Testimonials page, in the sidebar, on your sales/conversion pages, etc. If you didn’t have a standardize method for handling this content you’d end up entering the same testimonial dozens of times and you’d never be sure that the styling was 100% consistent across the whole site. Then imagine that you realize that you misspelled a word in the testimonial! Now you have dozens of pages to update and you have to make sure you catch them all.

Using content types has several other benefits:

– This helps you keep your content organized in that you can search by content type in the future
– Your design team can design the content type once, and feel certain that every time that type of content is created it will be displayed in the most appropriate manner
– You can make the job of content creation much easier and straight-forward. Theres not guess work… just gather content for each field.

You can go so far as to interlock content types as well. For instance, imagine you are working with a customer that offers educational classes. Their classes are held at one of two locations, but there is a possibility that they will add more classes in the future.

In this case you could create two content types – one for the Class Location, and one for the actual Classes.

Below is a definition of the fields that could be included for location.

Class Location

– Title
– Image
– Teaser
– Description
– Address 1
– Address 2
– City
– State
– Phone Number
– Link on a Google Map

Then, when creating the actual Class content type, you could simply reference the Class Location fieldset.

Class

– Title
– Date
– Time
– Instructor
– Location (you would select from a list of the available locations)
– Teaser
– Description
– Call to Action (usually a registration link)

By doing this, you are accomplishing several things.

– The content manager is now only required to insert the location information once. Then they can refer to that data over and over without having to retype it.
– As mentioned before, if any data changes the content manager only has to update the information in one location
– You are also ensuring that the data will be standardized. Everytime a class page shows location information, it will be displayed and styled exactly the same 100% of the time

At the end of the day, working to define content types in the beginning of the project will make everyone’s life easier in the future. It sometimes takes a few examples to get acquainted to the concept, but I’ve found that once you (or your customer, team member, etc.) are used to it, everyone starts discovering new potential content types that will benefit the site.


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