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Building a Content Framework

Ann Rockley
Prsident, The Rockley Group Inc.

A content framework is a library of content types and metadata along with detailed guidelines for how to use the framework to create specific customer experiences. A content framework provides the underlying concepts, best practices, guidelines and structure to enable you to rapidly design, build, test and deliver an effective customer-centric content experience. This article provides an overview of the components of a content framework.

The development and delivery of content can be haphazard and disjointed which usually results in an inconsistent experience that does nothing to build customer loyalty and solidify their experience with the organization. You need to develop a framework that can be used as the guide for all your content delivery that provides a consistent, repeatable structure for success.

A content framework consists of:

  • Customer needs and task definition
  • Relationship management lifecycle (RML)
  • Architecture to support the RML
    • Content matrix
    • Structured content types
    • Metadata

Know your customer

Central to your strategy is your knowledge of your customers. Look at all the research you have (for example, Web stats, customer purchase patterns, customer support, marketing strategies). If you don't have existing research, find ways in which you can collect information (for example, focus groups, user group conferences, customer support, marketing staff, task analysis). It is only when you have a solid understanding of your customer and their needs and tasks that you can begin to focus your delivery and your content management strategy on customer requirements.

Relationship management lifecycle

The term customer lifecycle is becoming familiar to organizations involved in customer relationship management initiatives, Web content initiatives, and marketing initiatives. A customer lifecycle defines the progression of steps a customer goes through with your product or service.

For example, a simple lifecycle could include:

  • Explore
  • Buy
  • Use
  • Maintain

There are identifiable customer behaviors at each stage in the lifecycle. For example, in the explore phase a typical customer might want to:

  • Find out what products are available
  • Compare product options
  • Get an understanding of the features

A relationship management lifecycle builds on the basic customer lifecycle, but defines:

  • The customer tasks at each stage of the lifecycle
  • Content types that help the customer accomplish the tasks
  • The directions the customer could move in
  • Desired directions for customer movement
  • Ways in which you can deepen the customer relationship through information selection and sharing

When we view a standard customer lifecycle, we view customers as an anonymous group, but when we build a relationship management lifecycle, we view our customers as individuals. At the simplest level, we provide an optimized experience for the customer and at the deepest level, we give each individual the opportunity to tell us something about what they want, and we give back a better more in-depth set of information and experiences. This process builds value and increases satisfaction.

The underlying architecture

The architecture that supports your relationship management lifecycle and content management strategy includes:

  • Content matrix
  • Structured content types
  • Metadata

Content matrix

Content types do not exist in isolation; you need to provide a collection or matrix of content types for each phase in the lifecycle. Each content type is related to another or many others and helps to create a complete integrated suite of information for the customer.

Integral to the matrix is an understanding of the content flow. The content flow identifies how a customer satisfies their need for information and identifies the organization's desire to move the customer in a particular direction.

The benefits of a content matrix include:

  • Comprehensive content requirements (no gaps)
  • Complete understanding of how customers can use the information
  • Identification of desired customer paths through the content
  • Plan-of-action for content creation and positioning

Structured content types

At each and every point in the relationship management lifecycle you provide content to assist the customer in reaching their goals and accomplishing their tasks. This content should be categorized into common, consistent identifiable content types. For example:

  • Product overview
  • Product feature(s)
  • Product comparisons
  • Testimonials
  • Case study

Content types should be structured to ensure consistent creation, delivery and reuse. A structured content type consists of a group of required and optional content components that combine to form the structure of a piece of content such as a product overview or customer testimonial.

The benefits of structured content types include:

  • Increased opportunities for content reuse
  • More consistent messaging
  • Predictable structure to support rules-based personalization
  • Templated authoring
  • Reduced cost of content creation
  • Reduced localization costs


Although metadata is typically required to optimize search and retrieval, it provides a much broader role then that-metadata is integral to the customer relationship. Metadata makes it possible to identify customer areas of interest, deliver personalized content, and identify relationship critical content.

Metadata plays many roles in supporting the customer experience through:

  • Search
  • Navigation
  • Personalization and relationship management
  • Web site traffic reporting

And metadata supports content authoring and content management through:

  • Content Reuse
  • Content retrieval and storage
  • Workflow


A content framework plays a critical role in customer-centric content management. It ensures that you have a clear, repeatable structure for your content that ensures you meet customer needs, support organizational goals, and optimize your content management strategy.

Copyright 2006, The Rockley Group, Inc.