July 9, 2015
ASP.NET Web CMS: Structured Content vs. Blob Content

So far in this post series on ASP.NET Web CMS we've looked at architecture models and development models. Now it's time to talk content: structured vs blob.

In a multi-channel, multi-device world, the ability to reuse content is absolutely critical. Content reuse takes a variety of forms. It could be the updating of content on multiple websites or mobile devices, supporting multilingual requirements, or it could involve content for both digital and print. The idea of creating and managing separate versions of content for each channel/device screams of wasted time and effort. No one is crazy enough to do it this way (we hope!). 

To reuse content it must be structured. Also known as intelligent content, structured content simply means content is stored in a way that defines and describes it.

The opposite end to structured content is Blob (binary large object) content. Many CMS platforms continue to store content in Blob format. Essentially you have this large WYSIWYG editing environment where you write the entire content of your page, including images, multimedia and maybe some documents, and it's all stored as a Blob in the database. How do you know what this content is? How do you pull it apart to display it differently for mobile versus the website? How do you automatically resize images for mobile? The questions are enormous and the answer is really - you can't.

Traditional Web content like I describe above is HTML and only describes what the content looks like. Structured (intelligent) content is generally XML, JSON (Java Script Object Notation), or XHTML with additional tag sets which describe what the content means.

Structuring intelligent content requires using human readable tags that applications also understand and know how to process. You typically apply business logic to content processing at the presentation layer. For instance, a style sheet or ASP.NET view would know how to present a <Title> tag as an H1 for a web page; and how to apply a separate set of mark up for a print doc or specific mobile device.  

In addition, logic may be applied to structured content at the application layer. Content can be rendered dynamically based audience segments, visitor behavior, devices, business rules, and other factors. In this case, structured content supports personalization across multiple channels.

What does this mean for your selection of a CMS? Many CMS platforms continue to store content in Blob format. Others offer a combination of both. But if you really care about structured content (and you should if you want to create the best customer experience without a huge amount of wasted effort), you will want use a CMS that creates your content using an XML schema and store the content using a very granular set of tags, content, and meta data. Moreover, content should be fully separated from the presentation, use taxonomy or categories to define topics, and chunk the content either in elements (structure within a page) or components (XML fragments you assemble to create a dynamic page).

How you create and store content is critical to how you plan to use your content now and in the future. To help you better understand this, read our take on the future of Web Experience Management

We hope you are enjoying this post series on ASP.NET Web CMS. Here's the full list of posts in the series. 

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