Drupal represents a new way of thinking about how you present the information you want to share with your audiences.
Instead of concerning yourself with layouts and presentation, structured content seeks to break your content into small, portable pieces which you can then define and describe for great use and impact.
Doing so frees you to re-use your content repeatedly, across technologies, platforms, channels, and formats.
This methodology relies on things your SiteFarm team has created for you; like reusable content types, tagging, taxonomy, and metadata to deeply organize your content.
Let's take a look at how this works using an analogy.
Imagine: your content is a glass of water
In the most basic way, no matter where your water goes or what holds it, your water is always your water. How it appears is shaped by what contains it--like a carafe, a vase, a swimming pool--but the water is the same; it's just shaped by what holds it.
Likewise, once you've entered your content into SiteFarm your content is always your content, it only changes its shape based on what is being used to display it. In a flow to show you how this works, imagine this workflow:
- You create a news post using the Article content type. You carefully enter in as much information you can in all the available fields that are applicable to your post and then publish it online.
- SiteFarm contains system blocks that look for specific triggers based on your configuration choices, like the fact that you've posted a news article, so it now updates the front page automatically and displays it as a Featured news article. It grabbed information from the Title, the body Summary, the primary image, author and date and displays it in a pre-formatted and styled way. Your glass of water has been poured into a carafe.
- On your main News page displaying all of your news articles ever written, similar information has been updated and now the above information from #2 has been included as a Teaser. The info is similar but minus the author name and with a colored background to make it eye-catching as a feature. Your glass of water has been poured into a vase.
- You also set up a third-party service to grab your site's latest RSS feed from the news page and, once a day, publish to your department's social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The information is reused again and takes on the look and layout that matches those services and appears on your social accounts. Your glass of water has been poured into a swimming pool.
The motto of Structured Content is to 'Create once, reuse everywhere.'
How to make well-structured content
Using the default offerings in SiteFarm means you're already using structured content types--Article, Basic page, Photo Gallery, Person, and Event--which means we've gotcha covered there unless you decide to create your own as a Site Builder.
The trick to getting the most out of your content is to:
- recognize the potential for connections between content. and;
- consider all the different ways your content can be displayed, either through Views on your own site or in external platforms and channels out in the Internet of Things.
Make a connection
Our content types--the pages you can create--contain additional fields that you form relationships between different collections of information, including some that are built on the fly when a guest follows a particular link. Let's look at an example.
Symposium Blog Article
In this first example, let's suppose we have a marketing and communications unit in our campus division. It's a team of eight people who collect stories and news from across all the unit's offices to create a web site containing news, profiles, spotlights, and events for and about its constituents.
- Jane creates a new blog Article talking about a research symposium hosted by the unit. She makes sure to include the following in her Article content type:
- The primary image is a high-quality image of three of the faculty who presented including one, in particular, that was recognized with a prestigious award.
- A condensed teaser version of the introduction will be included in the Body's Edit Summary section for better use in smaller locations.
- In the Person Reference field, she adds her own name, as the author, as well as the names of the three faculty members. All four have their own Person profile page on the site.
- The name of the symposium photo gallery in the Related Photo Gallery field, pointing to an album of images taken by the staff photographer
- She uses the SEO > Description field for better rankings in search engine results
- She applies the Category "Symposiums" for the article and also adds several tags, which include her name, the faculty members, the photographer, and keywords regarding the event
- The promotion options will be set to feature and "sticky at top" to achieve maximum attention.
Whew! That's a lot of stuff, but you know what? It's worth the effort. Once the blog Article has been posted (it will display in the /blog section at a minimum), it can now be reused in a multitude of ways. Let me show you the possible results from doing the work up front:
- Promotion feature - the article shows up on the home page because a system block has been set up to display the newest blog post. After it is no longer the feature, it may show up in a list of Recent Posts.
- The main blog page - the blog shows up featured at the very top of the list and will stay there until the "sticky at top" is removed. It's eye-catching and easy to find.
- Guests interested in the Symposium Category will see a list of only Articles assigned that category, which this particular article featured and stuck to the top of the list.
- When viewing the blog Article, guests can click on any of the person profiles that will be automatically associated with the article. In the case of our author, Jane, a guest will be taken her to profile page which, to enrich the guest's experience, the profile includes professional and contact information, and also lists the latest articles she's written in case the guest likes her writing and wants to see more. The faculty members' profiles are also available and can be just as detailed.
- A guest can also click on the Photo Gallery and view the attached album. It, too, has its own Category and tag lists. Take your visitors down your very-well designed rabbit-hole of engaging content.
- The Tags and Categories help to further cross-reference information. Tags can lead to related content across Content Types, to include anything sharing the linked taxonomy terms.
- The department has also set up an RSS feed to their social media platform and the RSS information is generated from the content originally created in the blog Article.
- The more refined Description in the SEO section will help improve visibility in search engine results, hopefully driving more traffic to the site in general and the page in particular.
All that. Just from being thorough and giving thought to how to create a richer experience for your guests. Create once and reuse everywhere.
For an even deeper dive into Structured Content, consider reading up on Atom Design. Doing so will give you a better understanding of how Drupal interprets your Content Types as individual fields (atoms and molecules) assembled to make a whole, but which can be disassembled and reused in various ways afterward.