Types of Data in a Content Management System

This blog post contains information about different types of data used in content management systems. If you know of additional types of data or have relevant perspectives to share, please comment on this blog post.

In general, content refers to the text and binary media managed by CMS users. The main purpose of the CMS is to allow subject matter experts to edit this content separate from its use through delivery channels such as the website.

The main types of content managed in the CMS are as follows:

  • Entries
  • Media Assets
  • Page Entries

Entries store the text data managed by the system. Entries are records, also called items, that consist of some number of field values. CMS users (including developers) create, update, translate, delete, publish, and otherwise manage entries through the CMS UI.

Media assets are entries that contain metadata about a binary resource managed in the CMS, such as an image or document, including its default URL. Asset metadata includes the size of the binary, its type, alternate text and dimensions for an image, and other text values.

Page entries have URLs and contain the data required to render a web page. Not all entries represent web pages, so not all entries have URLs. Web pages can use entries that do not have URLs as content fragments, such as to populate a presentation component within the page. Other entries without URLs serve other purposes.

Page entries represent pages, but entries can store any type of information, such as configuration settings for a component or the entire website. While CMS users manage most entries, developers may be responsible for certain entries that control technical aspects of the solution. The CMS treats entries managed by developers as it would any other entry: as content that requires publication.

Just because you can store anything as an entry does not mean that you should. User-generated content, customer order history, and other data generally belongs in a system other than the CMS, as the content delivery system may not have access to the content management APIs required to manage that data.

Before creating entries and assets, each organization accesses the CMS user interface or APIs to control several aspects of the system that result in data storage including security, system configuration, and content type definitions.

Security configuration controls access to the CMS and its features. Any CMS requires authentication. Authorization (preferably based on role membership) and settings such as workflow control which features of the application are available to each user for each entry in each repository. A member or team within the organization manages access to the CMS.

Developers and administrators configure the CMS through its browser-based user interface. Configuration includes definitions for publishing workflow processes, webhook settings for sending notifications to external systems, custom CMS user interface definitions, and all other technical features of the application, including content delivery environments and access tokens.

Content types define structures for entries managed by CMS users. Information architects or developers define content types to meet requirements for the solution.

The website itself consists of several files in a directory structure. Specifics vary, but assuming pre-generated HTML using JavaScript to hydrate the site, a simple website could consist of the following types of files:

  • HTML files, typically generated from data in the CMS
  • CSS files referenced by the HTML
  • JavaScript files referenced by the HTML
  • Images referenced by the HTML, both exported from the CMS and managed as files by developers, including favicon
  • /sitemap.xml and /robots.txt
  • JSON files, typically generated from data in the CMS and retrieved by JavaScript

Image credit: https://learn.filtered.com/thoughts/psychology-content-overload-cycle

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