Previously we covered planning for a content migration. Today we’ll examine the elements of a Data Model.

Your Data Model encompasses all topics related to your CMS’ internal structures, or hierarchies, data entry fields, SKU-level information and business rules. These include:

  • Taxonomy
  • Publication Structures
  • Copy elements
  • SKU-level data
  • Assets
  • Metadata and SEO

The Taxonomy is the tree structure that classifies your products. Think of it as a product warehouse where all products are arranged by type. For example, in a hardware store the hammers are placed together, the nails are stored separately, and the lumber is its own aisle.

The Publication Structure is where you organize catalogs or your website product tree. Think of this as your showroom. You may want to group products from different parts of your Taxonomy on a catalog page. In our hardware example, a page for making a fence might show lumber, hammers and nails together.

Define copy elements, or text fields, based on the end uses you’ll have (print and web, probably) and how complex your content is. This is where you’ll enter and store your data. A simple model for a product family includes a Header, Intro or Benefit Statement, and Bullets. You can define as many fields as you like. I’ve seen as many as 24 copy fields and as few as three; somewhere between 4-10 will likely work for you. Assign the sequence in which they need to appear to create a print or web ad.

The SKU, or individual part number level, contains all of the technical specs, called attributes, for a single selling unit. For a rubber ball, we could have Material, Weight, Color and Diameter. For a refrigerator, Brand, Model, Dimensions, Capacity, Cooling Range, Number of Shelves and Electrical Specs. The attributes fully describe the product, distinguishing it from similar SKUs and allowing parametric searching on you website if you go that route.

Any robust CMS product worth its price tag allows data to be electronically imported from and exported to spreadsheet formats. This is the fastest and most efficient way to move mass amounts of data. Routine edits or content authoring can typically be done by a writer directly into the system.

Next on the list are your Assets – images, videos, PDFs and such. Determine how you will store them in the CMS, or access them from another source.

Final Thoughts

Data modeling is a definitive application of the old saying “Measure twice, cut once.” Time spent at this critical stage is time well spent.

Gather your team and brainstorm the model. Think it through. You don’t have to design a model for every possible data permutation – that’s insane – but you should factor into account the common, the irregular, and the rare but identifiable quirks in your data. Anything beyond that is a unicorn hunt. Don’t get bogged down.

Your goal should be a data model that works for IT, the CMS users and, ultimately, your customers as they see content in a catalog or on your website.

In Part Three we’ll address the process of migrating content from one CMS to another.

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended to advance the reader’s general knowledge about content management systems and should not be interpreted as a guide for specific applications or circumstances. Readers are encouraged to consult their CMS provider or a reputable content consultant for guidance with their individual data migration projects.

Dan Skantar is Director of Content Services for JP Enterprises

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