The Art of Content Modeling: Structuring Your CMS for Success

Matthew Dea
UX Designer
Read Time
5 min read
Published On
December 19, 2023

Welcome to the realm of content modeling—an important step in the design and development journey. Serving as the blueprint shaping your Content Management System (CMS), content modeling ensures not only structural integrity but also alignment with user (and CMS admin!) needs. By carefully creating a content model, you’ll eliminate uncertainty and ensure your CMS is flexible and future-proof. Read along to learn about content modeling as we unveil its elements and equip you with the steps to craft a well-designed model. We’ll also look into CMS platforms that allow you to easily create content models, so you can start your digital project off with confidence.

Why You Need Content Modeling

Content modeling is an essential part of the design and development process. Picture it as the blueprint that defines the entire content structure within a digital space. It helps you make sure that your content is structured in a way that makes sense for you and your users.

Content modeling also helps you understand what kind of content you have and how much there is so that when it comes time to build out your CMS, there's no guesswork involved—the system knows exactly what to expect from each piece of data entered into it.

Content modeling can be done in a variety of ways, but it usually starts with creating a diagram that maps out the specifics of your content—think the title, description, thumbnail image, and body text. This helps you keep track of what's available in the system and how it all fits together.

A well-designed model is adaptable, embracing changes without revamping the entire system. It’s your platform’s way of staying agile in an ever-evolving digital landscape.

Content Model Anatomy

It’s important to know exactly what a content model is made of before starting to create one. The basic structure is always the same, regardless of which CMS you use. There are three levels:

Output layer:

This is what the user will see later. Think of it as the final product—a polished, user-facing interface where the structured content finds its shape and form. The output layer can have many content types.

Content types:

These are the building blocks of a content model. They define the different kinds or categories of content that populate a digital space. For instance, on a blog website, content types might include blog posts, images, videos, and authors. Each content type has its unique set of fields and relationships, allowing for better structure and flexibility within your platform. Content types contain various fields that allow them to be populated by actual content.


You can add different fields to store your content, such as text for a blog post’s body. There are different kinds of fields:

  1. Text
  2. Rich Text
  3. Media (images, videos, etc.)
  4. Boolean (yes or no, 1 or 0)
  5. Reference

The reference field is one of the most important types of fields, as it allows you to create relationships between content types. For example, you might want to link a blog post to its author. This means you would need two content types, one for the author and one for the blog post. When these are set up, you can add a reference field to the blog post content type, so all you’d need to do is select the author of the blog post. One of the major benefits of this is that if you need to update the author’s information, you don’t need to go to every blog post they’ve written and update it. You can simply edit their entry in the author content type, and it’ll be updated across every instance!

How to Create a Content Model

Creating a content model involves a systematic approach that brings structure to the otherwise messy landscape of digital content. Whether you're designing a website, developing an app, or establishing a content-rich platform, the process remains fundamentally similar. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a robust content model:

1. Define Objectives and Requirements

Begin by discussing with your team and stakeholders to outline the objectives and understand the specific requirements of your project. Consider the type of content you’ll be handling, the purpose it serves, and how users will interact with it. It’s important that everyone is on the same page here and that these discussions happen before anything is done in the chosen CMS.

2. Identify Content Types and Fields

Next, identify the different content types that will populate your system. Break down these content types into their respective attributes or fields. For example, a blog might include content types like articles, authors, categories, and tags, each with its own set of fields such as title, body, author name, publication date, and so on.

3. Map Relationships Between Content Types

Understand how different content types relate to one another. Establish relationships between them by defining references. For example, an article might reference an author content type, establishing a relationship between the article and its creator.

4. Create a Diagram or Visualization

Use diagrams or visual representations to map out the structure of your content model. Flowchart tools and even Post-it notes can help visualize the hierarchy, connections, and dependencies between various content types and fields.

5. Implement and Test the Model

Implement the content model within your chosen CMS. Input sample data to test the functionality and validate that the model functions as intended. This step allows for fine-tuning and adjustments before full-scale deployment.

Which CMS should I use?

In the realm of content modeling, selecting the right CMS can significantly impact the efficiency and effectiveness of your content strategy. Two standout platforms, Contentful and Strapi, offer distinct approaches to content modeling:


Imagine a cloud-based, API-first CMS designed to cater to the demands of modern content ecosystems. Contentful excels in creating, managing, and delivering content across various digital touchpoints. What sets it apart? The ability to structure content models with incredible flexibility. You can customize fields to fit diverse content types, ensuring a tailored approach to your specific needs.

Contentful’s Content Delivery API acts as the backbone, seamlessly distributing content across multiple platforms and devices. This versatility is particularly valuable for enterprises grappling with extensive content requirements. Whether it's powering websites, mobile apps, or IoT devices, Contentful ensures a consistent user experience.


On the other end of the spectrum lies Strapi, an open-source headless CMS geared towards customization and developer empowerment. Its strength lies in its adaptability and user-friendly interface. Strapi allows for the creation of custom content types tailored precisely to your requirements. This level of customization fosters rapid development and empowers content creators of all technical backgrounds to manage content effortlessly.

The intuitive admin panel makes content management a breeze, while an extensive plugin ecosystem offers additional functionalities and services to enhance the CMS’ capabilities. Strapi's architecture is designed for scalability and extensibility, making it an ideal choice for projects aiming to evolve and expand over time.

Both Contentful and Strapi serve as powerful tools for content modeling, offering unique advantages depending on the specific needs and complexities of your project. Whether it’s the seamless distribution capabilities of Contentful or the customizable nature of Strapi, these platforms are a great starting point for creating functional content models.

Additionally, we’d also recommend checking out Webflow’s CMS capabilities! Our team often uses Webflow as it creates simple collaboration between designers, editors, content strategists, and developers. With custom content structures that allow for quick content population and an easy-to-use visual designer, Webflow is a great tool for teams that want an all-in-one solution.

Content modeling is an important part of implementing a CMS. It's also a great way to ensure that your content is organized and easy to find on your website. We hope this guide helps give you some insight into what content modeling is all about and how it works! If you want assistance building a strategic content model backed by a powerful CMS, check out our services and contact us!