Designing content transformation

Square pegs do not fit comfortably in round holes. Nor does the structure of content as suited for one environment fit comfortably into other channels and media. To flow, content needs to adapt – to transform.

When developing communications solutions, we must ensure that a message delivered through multiple channels adapts its form and structure to each medium.


For content to adapt to multiple channels, we need a storage structure that supports this concept.

Presenting structured content

A content infrastructure that supports multiple channels requires each pairing of content type and output to have a defined transformation. Sometimes, individual pairings require multiple transformations to cope with delivery contexts such as grouping and linking.

Transforming content for authoring

In the same way that we map content for end-user consumption over various channels, we must present that content within the content management environment. The authoring channel requires a bespoke transformation; one that supports saving changes back to the source.

Mapping paradigms

While mapping stored content to the authoring environment is fundamentally the same as mapping to any output channel, one factor makes it more complex: the mental models appropriate for consuming content – the clusters and sequence – are unlikely to match the models and paradigms suited to management.

Fig 1: Comparison of content management associations with user paths

Mapping content for display within your CMS’s authoring environment demands a perspective based on business-focused relationships and affinities. The end user, however – per Figure 1: Comparison of content management associations with user paths – follows a haphazard route through your content: one based on desires and personal expectations.

Information architecture

Information architecture deals with the design of data environments, particularly the transformation of data into meaningful content – i.e. information – as relevant to the audience.

Degrees of information architecture complexity

In a single-channel system, information architecture focuses primarily on cognitively-effortless presentational structures within the channel. When dealing with multi-channel content delivery, the transformation between storage and each channels optimal presentational structure is a larger, and more important, undertaking.

Optimal models

With an adaptive-optimised content store serving multiple channels, we have three sets of content structures and paradigms:

  • The informative content consumers expect in various environments,
  • The best storage model, given the technical platform; and
  • The way content owners and managers think about their message.

Each of these needs to be understood, and the transformations between them must be defined.

The easy option

Many content management systems ignore the transformation between the content storage model and author-suited paradigms. They incur development cost, and platform vendors claim their systems are already perfect.

Failing to transform content structures so they suits the authors’ mind sets guarantees that those creating and managing the content will struggle. It increases the probability of misunderstanding and errors. And errors in communication can have severe consequences.

The Excolo advantage

Excolo understand that content is the carrier for communication.

The communication process

Communicating is more than telling someone something. Communication encapsulates an idea in a form the recipient can understand; one that is relevant and meaningful. Most people handle this instinctively when dealing with others face-to-face.

To communicate effectively through digital media, we must model our systems on this same process. The interfaces we use to craft and then deliver our message must suit the ways we think about the concepts we are trying to express.

Platform agnostic

When modelling the information architecture for a system, it is easy to be influenced by the capabilities and paradigms of the chosen platform. Such an approach results in a solution that serves neither your best interests, nor your customers’.

Excolo’s approach focuses on the human-content interaction points, mapping those to platform-independent storage structures. While this may require a further translation to platform-specific structure, it encourages a solution based on communication needs rather than technical constraints.

© 2014, Excolo