Deane Barker, over at Gadgetopia, has posted slides from his presentation "Just put that in the zip code field". He gave the talk at the Web Content 2009 conference in Chicago. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the conference and missed seeing Deane present. However, knowing that I am as passionate about this stuff as he is, Deane and I did talk at great length on content modeling during the days leading up to the conference. Oh, the war stories we told. Those conversations inspired me to write this post on pages and objects.
The reason why I find this topic so important (aside from the fact that I am a recovering DBA myself) is that content modeling capability is one of those difficult to change characteristics of a content management system. It is what I call a "load bearing wall" in the customization of a CMS. That is, while it may be possible to remediate a content modeling limitation, all the buttressing required may make such an effort impractical. Content modeling architecture is so difficult to change, in fact, that the products themselves tend to live with what they have and change very little in this area. Products that do change how they model content usually take a while to stabilize as they work out the nuances of how to generate entry forms and validation routines and the appropriate templating syntax to access the elements.
Because of all this, content modeling is a critical part of my CMS selection process. Part of my demo process requires the suppliers to implement a content model specification that is based on the client's own content. Deane's presentation also gives useful tips on what to look for in a CMS. In particular, I look for the ability to support specific data types and structures. Don't know what that means? Then take a few minutes and click through Deane's presentation. Or, better yet, look for an opportunity to see Deane present it live. You might see me there too.