WordPress or not, your content strategy should be at the heart of your strategic, technical, and organizational decision making process. We build websites and applications to serve users and achieve goals.
WordPress at its core is a content management system (CMS). You’ve likely encountered CMSs of various makes, strengths, and weaknesses. WordPress is unique in its flexibility and extensibility. We like to think of WordPress as a platform, or a framework. It should support your organization’s needs and structure, not force you to adopt uncomfortable workflows and strategies
When tackling a large digital project, it’s important to ensure that you’re molding your platform to meet your organization’s goals. When thinking of content management and organization, we find that each college or university has a unique structure and approach to managing their web content that needs to be reflected in how WordPress is implemented. This flexibility is one of WordPress’ key features.
Harvard Law School is composed of many unique departments – each department acting as a small business unit unto themselves. It was important for them to know that the director of each department could ‘own’ their content (pages, media, events, and announcements) and their users had expectations of a clear delineation between different departments. We were able to create a unique content strategy and digital solution that enabled each department to both be the creator and ‘owner’ of their content, so that it is clustered together in a way that was easy for users, but also share that content with the rest of the organization where it was appropriate. This resulted in a digital strategy that mapped directly to the organization’s own structure.
This kind of content management strategy is ‘easy’ to do with WordPress – the technical underpinnings are all in place to support it. That said, we encounter many organizations who go into their projects without having considered the implications of their content strategy. They do not connect the dots between the engineering of a new digital solution and the organization’s unique needs and structure.
A New Era of Modular Content
While a structured organization and presentation of content to your users is always valuable, the ability to share, group, remix, and reorganize content beyond those walls is increasingly valuable to users. WordPress (and CMS tools in general) don’t address these new modular approaches to content strategy out of the box. We’ve built additional content management tools that extend WordPress, making it easy for you to grab pieces of content and re-purpose them in new and interesting ways. Your content should be portable, dynamic, and modular to reflect the new paradigm that we live in. Your content strategy should reflect both the structured and modular management of content and your platform should enable you to execute on it. Whatever your platform – if your content strategy isn’t typical, be sure to plan extra time and budget.
Regardless of the type of website or application you’re building, custom post types (CPTs) will be an integral part of your build out. CPTs are how WordPress creates and manages different kinds of content. Any CMS will have a model for content types (though they may use different terminology). Your content strategy should outline the different content models that you need to accomplish your goals, and the component parts that make up that model.
WordPress comes with two post types out of the box: the Post and the Page. They are the basic building blocks of any WordPress site. Posts are time sensitive pieces of content that are organized chronologically – think news articles, or announcements. Users expect to read the most recent news article first. Pages are static and persistent pieces of content – think your about page, history, or contact page. Your editorial team may make changes or edits, but the about page is a persistent element of your website. Custom post types may have similar or remarkable different behaviors.
Your needs will be far more robust than what can be accomplished by pages and posts. Most enterprise or higher ed platforms require at least 5-6 unique content types to manage their needs; e.g. news, announcements, events, journals, directory profiles, courses, etc. Each content type is made up of a unique selection of information called metadata. Pages have a title, body, featured image, author, and publish date. Posts have a similar markup. These are simple examples. In contrast, picture a course at your university. It may have a title, body, syllabus pdf, location, a meeting time, instructors, teacher assistants, a prerequisite, a final exam date, and the list goes on and on. WordPress CPT architecture allows us the ability to create any number of CPTs with any unique makeup of attributes that we need. A sound content strategy and vision is necessary to keep your project well organized and usable.
“WordPress is central to our aim of nurturing a collegiate & collaborative digital culture in our Teacher Ed Department.”
Derek P Robertson @ University of
Dundee in Glasgow
A sound content strategy and vision is necessary to keep your project well organized and usable.
While custom post types allow you to create any kind of content you require, custom taxonomies are what allow you to organize it. WordPress comes with two taxonomies out of the box: categories and tags.
Categories are used for pre-planned and hierarchical organization. Ideally, your content strategy accounts for a structured organization and presentation of content that makes sense to your users. Custom taxonomies allow us to create the Department based site structure that many organizations require. We often find that higher education institutions need to present content organized around potential audience. An audience taxonomy that features first years, second years, prospectives, press, alumni, etc. can be used to create different cross sections of content that coexist gracefully.
Tags allow for a more fluid and flexible organization of content with your editorial staff continually adding new keywords to content as it’s generated.
New taxonomies of either type can be created to help your content stay organized. Taxonomies can be tied to specific content types as well – so your Course content type can leverage a different organizational structure than your Announcements content type.