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Content types for modern interface—a hierarchy of interactions, integrations, intersections

Many modern products build content interface on top of content types because either the consumers' interaction models are complex or the use cases are highly audience-centric.

Content types are the basic building blocks in planning the content models. There are many content strategy or content modeling case studies where we see how content types help the product teams plan content-driven architecture that scale for devices, personalization, and for an omnichannel content experience. For example if you see that a website has services, news, testimonials, events, and newsletters—all these are different content types. (See this post by Marcia Riefer Johnston for more details and examples of what makes a content type).

If you know Drupal, you might have noticed that it is one of the most powerful content-driven open source CMS in this category because it enables you to define custom content types with advanced configuration options. Acquia documentation gives you a quick overview of content types.

In the recent years when content design has entered into the digital content planning landscape and the product content strategy is making news as well, the role and the scope of content type might be changing for the modern interface design, at least in specific use cases.

Interactions and micro-interactions

  • On LinkedIn, is a post a content type?
  • On Twitter, is each tweet a content type? And a retweet? If a tweet is a content type, is a retweet also a type of content type for the mapping with the original tweet (the parent content type)?
  • In Slack, is a conversation a content type?

An automatic series of content items

  • Shopping cart that shows the list of items that you added from the product pages—this list updates automatically based on your interactions on the products and listings
  • A social media calendar in Airtable (see an example on Airtable, opens in a new tab) that changes itself depending on the variables in other tables
  • My profile on Product Hunt (see it on Product Hunt in a new tab) that builds on itself when I review or hunt new products

Content on top of content types

Content types are the core pillars of designing content models. However, many modern products build content interface on top of content types because either the consumers’ interaction models are complex or the use cases are highly audience-centric. For example:

  • Workday’s content cloud (Click to see it in new tab): It helps you bring together multiple content types, such as audio, video, and text, from a variety of third-party sources including LinkedIn Learning, Harvard Business Publishing, YouTube, Skillsoft, and Udemy for Business.
  • ServiceNow’s content categories and libraries (click to see it in new tab): Use Content Categories to create content that requires advanced configurations. Content Library allows you to manage your content within a single, unified interface and flow which includes advanced configurations.

Content types in modern products

Content types in their original sense will always be relevant in designing the product architecture, regardless of whatever we call these in the future. For example, Twitter might not use the term content types in designing the tweeting experiences but the fundamentals are the same. A tweet has:

  • Informational metadata such as the tweet content, media file if any, character count, URL, mentions if any, hashtags if any, its author, date and time, and so on.
  • Interactions metadata such as likes, retweets, quoted retweets, bookmarking.
  • Reference metadata such as when it is added to a list, or when an API pulls it and shows it on another interface, within or outside Twitter.

This does not mean that a tweet is definitely a content type, and I do not even know whether Twitter’s content team uses these terms—content types and content models in their work. I am just trying to understand a tweet’s structure and its presence in the language of content types.

(Source: I had a quick Twitter DMs chat with Michael Andrews (See their LinkedIn) on this topic—whether a tweet is a content type. The opinions here are mine and may not necessarily reflect Michael’s thoughts, thanks Michael.)

Jobs, intent, goals, outcomes, promises

Modern products are designed for a complex and unpredictable customer journey, sometimes for the customer moments.

Vinish Garg tweets about customer journey and designing for customer moments.

They might find our product from anywhere, with whatever perception, and sometimes with little context. Regardless of the design methodologies that we follow whether these are user stories, or job stories or intent stories, we are designing the hierarchy of their interactions.

We enable the customers to make decisions and we give them the options of self-service, self-discovery, and self-help by designing the content experience. It answers their questions (anticipating their questions), advises them as required (without interrupting them), and helps them move forward in whatever they want to see or do. When we design content for the modern interface, we are designing

  • Content interactions—on the interface
  • Content integrations—with one or more internal or external services
  • Content intersections—the system thinking part where the interconnectedness binds the experience together for the small goals as well as for the bigger goals.

I will talk about these—hierarchy of interactions, integrations, and intersections, for more depth, in another post. We design the promises and we cannot lock these in conventional content-types driven content templates.

This topic is part of my advanced course in product content strategy, content design, and UX Writing. See the course details for how we can find and add more meaning to our work.

Vinish Garg

Vinish Garg

I am Vinish Garg, and I work with growing product teams for their product strategy, product vision, product positioning, product onboarding and UX, and product growth. I work on products for UX and design leadership roles, product content strategy and content design, and for the brand narrative strategy. I offer training via my advanced courses for content strategists, content designers, UX Writers, content-driven UX designers, and for content and design practitioners who want to explore product and system thinking.

Interested to stay informed about my work, talks, writings, programs, or projects? See a few examples of my past newsletters—All things products, Food for designInviting for 8Knorks. You can subscribe to my emails here.

Vinish Garg is an independent consultant in product content strategy, content design leadership, and product management for growing product teams.