17 Contentful Best Practices

Tips and Tricks From The Trenches
Contentful is agile, flexible, and scalable; it is builder-friendly, and your developers and content team will love it!

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17 Contentful Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks

1. Prefer SSG
2. Leverage Content-As-Code
3. Set Up The Right Content Governance Model
4. Leverage Tasks
5. Use SSO or MFA
6. Set Up Reusable Content Types
7. Build Flexibility Into Your Content Types
8. Help Your Content Authors With Help!
9. Name Your Content Type Fields Well!
10. Name Your Content Articles!
11. Establish Naming Conventions For Your Content Articles
12. Help Your Content Authors With Validations!
13. Promote Content Findability & Browsability
14. Localize Your Content!
15. Improve Your Content Author Experience With Apps!
16. Never Use Default Media Handling for Images
17. How To Perform Global Copy Substitution?

Contentful is a new-age content platform that you can use to power your digital presence across many channels. It is agile, flexible, and scalable; it is builder-friendly, and your developers and content team will love it compared to traditional content management systems. However, just like any product in this space, it is easy to get off on the wrong footing without expert advice. In this article, we will introduce you to a library of Contentful best practices, tips, and tricks that will put you on the path to long-term success from an architecture and operations perspective.
Without further ado, let’s get started! Contentful best practices, tips, and tricks, here we come …

Contentful Best Practice #1: Prefer SSG
While there are multiple ways to deliver content over the web to your end users, we strongly recommend using Static Site Generation (SSG) whenever possible. SSG essentially is a process of compiling and rendering a website or app at build time, with the output being a bunch of static files, including the HTML files themselves and assets like JavaScript and CSS. This makes your website or app faster, more secure, easier to maintain and operate, and more scalable, reaping the benefits that a Jamstack (or SSG) architecture provides.
If you have large sites and you are concerned about long build times with SSG, then you can consider using Incremental Site Regeneration (ISR) with Next.js or Deferred Static Generation
(DSG) with Gatsby.

Contentful Best Practice #2: Leverage Content-As-Code
“Point-and-click system configuration” is so passé in today’s cloud-first technology landscape and teams that leverage agile development practices such as infrastructure-as-code, continuous integration, and continuous delivery expect more from their content management systems. With Contentful, more advanced agile teams can employ a content-as-code approach to ensure that they can automate provisioning of environments, and migration and testing of their content model and code changes, enabling software development teams to create high-quality software and to deploy quickly. As you evolve and mature your own agile development practices, embrace content-as-code to reduce the risk of releasing early and often.

Contentful Best Practice CMS As Code Workflow

Figure 1: Contentful Best Practice – Content-as-Code (source: Contentful)

Contentful Best Practice #3: Set Up The Right Content Governance Model
When embarking on your Contentful implementation, it is important to plan ahead for the right Content Governance model for your needs. There isn’t a one size fits all approach that makes sense. Some questions to consider when defining your Governance model include:

  • Do you have regulatory or compliance requirements that dictate the usage of separate Contentful Spaces?
  • Do you have just a handful of content contributors, editors, and publishers, or do you have a large content management team?
  • Do you have content contributions from multiple teams or departments or even companies around the world?
  • Do you have content in multiple languages and content translators that should only be able to contribute content in specific languages?
  • Do you need custom roles?
  • Do certain types of content need to go through a legal review?

Contentful is a key tool in delivering and managing your digital presence, possibly across multiple channels, and you need the right Content Governance model for your organization to ensure the right checks and balances.

Contentful Best Practice #4: Leverage Tasks
Leverage content entry tasks to organize your content team’s work and ensure that stuff doesn’t fall through the cracks. The Tasks app allows you to create, assign, and complete tasks on a content entry within the Contentful Web App (or Compose and Launch); tasks can be assigned to one or more members of the content team. An incomplete task will prevent the accidental publishing of the associated content entry. For example, you can create tasks for editorial or legal review, or tasks for translation into specific languages.
Tasks are only available on the Enterprise tier of Contentful

Contentful Best Practices Tasks List And Edit

Figure 2: Contentful Best Practice: Tasks (List My Tasks, Content Entry Tasks List, Edit Task)

Contentful Best Practice #5: Use SSO or MFA
Given that Contentful holds important enterprise content, it is crucial to secure your Contentful organization and ensure that only authorized members of your content management team are able to login and manage content in Contentful. A best practice is to require your users to use multi-factor authentication (MFA) and not just username/password to login to Contentful. And if you have an enterprise SSO tool/provider and are on the Enterprise tier of Contentful, then that is an even better option. Contentful SSO works with all Identity Providers that support the SAML 2.0 protocol, including Okta, Microsoft Azure AD, OneLogin, Ping Identity, Auth0 and G Suite.
Single Sign-On is not available on the Community or Team tier of Contentful.

Contentful Best Practice #6: Strike the Right Balance
When building a website that pushes the envelope in terms of UI design, you will face conflicting considerations in your Contentful implementation. You will need to balance the wants and needs of your UI Designers, your Content Management team, and your developers.

● Your UI Designers will want the website implementation to stay true to the design.
● Your content management team will want to be able to update site content efficiently—they should be able to modify copy and imagery without needing to be a web developer or graphic designer.
● Your developers will want to build a palette of reusable page sections or components and empower the content team to manage the site—the developers will not want to get bogged down with routine website maintenance requests.
● All your stakeholders will want to optimize website performance, and your project sponsor will want to manage your project budget and timeline.

It will be important to make trade-offs and strike the right balance to ensure that you end up with a website that looks unique and amazing, is maintainable by your content team, and doesn’t blow the timeline or budget.

Contentful Best Practice #7: Build Reusable & Flexible Content Types
When building your content model in Contentful, it is important to dissect your UI designs to identify reusable content types and minimize the number of one-offs that are only used in one section of one page. This guideline usually translates to—build flexibility into your content types to avoid many similar content types and make it easy to change presentation without having to re- enter content if/when you need to change the presentation. As an example, you can have a “image with text block” section which supports a configuration setting on whether the image is displayed on the left or the right. As another example, you may have a “set of cards” content type that supports a display style configuration setting which allows you to choose between a static grid of cards and a carousel of cards.

Contentful Best Practice #8: Help Your Content authors with Help!
When creating your Contentful content model, don’t forget that you can include instructions, help text, and examples to help your content authors understand specific content type fields so that they are not left guessing. Often enough, when you build flexibility into your content types, you will introduce various configuration settings that can easily get confusing. Does the alignment setting apply to text within a text block or the placement of the text block on top of the hero image? When a content type supports multiple display styles or multiple animation options, you may need to provide more information about each option to avoid confusion. Bottom line—help your content authors with help!

Contentful Best Practice #9: Name Your Content Type Fields Well!
Very early on in my software development career, I realized the importance of software design at a micro level in addition to the macro level. My favorite assertion was that you should “design each line of code”, and an important aspect of this was naming your classes, methods, and variables. When I first started doing content management system implementations in the year 2000, I carried this dictum forward into content management and evangelized the importance of naming your content articles, content fields, and any content templates well. At XTIVIA, we have stressed the importance of this in all the different Content Management Systems we have worked with, and Contentful is not any different. This is crucial to ensure that your content is maintainable by a team for the long run.

Bottom line: pay attention to naming your content type fields and don’t treat this as an afterthought—your content management team and developers will thank you for this!

Contentful Best Practice #10: Name Your Content Entries!
This is another best practice that flows from the philosophy in Contentful Best Practice #9 above. Incorporate an author-friendly name in your content types that is not displayed to end users. This will make it easier for your content team to identify the purpose of specific page sections and articles when there is no obvious “title” field in your content type. And even if there is a “title” field in your content type, it is generally a best practice to add a “name” field that is for use by content authors only.

Contentful Best Practice Name Your Content Entry

Figure 3: Contentful Best Practice: Name Your Content Entries!

Contentful Best Practice #11: Establish Naming Conventions For Your Content Entries
This is yet another best practice that flows from the philosophy in Contentful Best Practice #9. In most, if not all Contentful implementations, it makes sense to establish naming conventions for your content and incorporate them when naming your content entries. In our experience, we have found it handy to prefix any global content entries that are used in multiple locations on your website with the prefix “Global” or “Shared”. For example, you might have a CTA banner that promotes a free trial for your product and is used in multiple locations in your website, and you may give it a name “Shared – Free Product Trial Banner”. This has the benefit that a content manager editing this page section on a specific website page does not accidentally update it in a manner that would be inconsistent with using it on multiple pages.

Another common naming convention in XTIVIA projects is to prefix page specific content sections with the page title—for example, you might have a landing page called “Equipment Financing” and you might prefix all the page section names with “Equipment Financing Page” leading to “Equipment Financing Page – Farm Equipment Loans Hero”, “Equipment Financing Page – What We Can Finance CTA”, and so on.

Contentful Best Practice #12: Help Your Content Authors With Validations!
Add appropriate validations in your content types to ensure
“proper” content entry by the content team and avoid “bad” content. Note that Contentful provides a rich set of validations and not just the ability to “require a field.” Some options include:

● Size: ensure that the field value is within a specified range
● Predefined values or an enumeration: only allow the user to select an acceptable value
● Regular Expression: match a regular expression
● Image dimensions: you can specify minimum and maximum image dimensions to ensure that content managers only add images that comply with the intent of that content type

You can see all the available validations here. And don’t forget that you can specify custom error messages to help your content team when a validation error occurs. Reduce the amount of friction for content authors / site builders every chance you get!

Contentful Best Practice #13: Promote Content Findability & Browsability
One of the goals of a successful Contentful implementation is to make it easier for both your external and internal “users” to find the content they are looking for, and find more related content once they find content they find useful. How do you do that? You can use Contentful tags to organize your content within the Contentful Web App, and you can add categories to the Contentful content model, and use them to optimize the “search and browse” experience of your end users.
For example, you may want to categorize your customer case studies by customer industry, customer use case, and/or your products. This will make it easier for a user browsing your case studies to find relevant case studies for their industry and/or use case. Or if they are looking at specific products or services that you offer, they may want to filter your case studies by the relevant product or service offering.
It is important to establish the right taxonomy that fits your content inventory, and leverage it consistently as you manage content. Learn more about best practices related to tagging content from our friends at Upland Software.

Contentful Best Practice Categorization

Figure 4: Contentful Best Practice: Tag and Categorize Your Content

Contentful Best Practice #14: Localize Your Content!
As discussed in one of our previous blogs on Content Modeling Patterns, Contentful enables publishing content in multiple locales (i.e. language-region pairs such as en-US, en-UK, es-ES, fr-FR) with localization and actually supports three main localization design patterns. It is important for you to choose the right localization approach based on your needs.

● Field-Level localization—this design pattern is best when you want to publish all supported locales synchronously and where you have smaller content types with fewer fields.
● Entry-level localization—this design pattern makes the most sense for scenarios where you want to be able to publish individual locales of a given content asynchronously.
● Content type-level localization—this pattern allows for asynchronous publishing and even supports different fields for a given locale if your use case requires this.

Contentful Best Practice #15: Improve Your Content Author Experience With Apps!
With the Contentful App Framework a huge variety of enhancements to the Contentful web app are possible—integrating with external SaaS products or even integrating with your in-house APIs and databases. Use Contentful apps to improve the content authoring experience so that your content team can accomplish all their tasks within the Contentful content platform without having to go to an external Digital Asset Management system or a Personalization System as examples. Other examples include creating a custom color picker or a zip code look-up that automatically fills in the city and state to reduce friction for your content team.

Contentful App Framework Tutorial - Color Picker Entry Editor

Figure 5: Contentful Best Practice: Use Apps to Improve Your Content Author Experience!

Contentful Best Practice #16: Never Use Default Media Handling for Images
As discussed in our previous blog on Content Modeling Patterns, the most basic media-handling approach is to use the default media tab within the Contentful web app. Your content managers can use the web app to upload and manage media (i.e. assets) using three basic fields—title, description, and the file attachment, and tags. However, in our experience, you never want to use this approach, as you will regret it in the long run. You almost always need more meta-data fields for your media assets and our recommended best practice is to wrap the default media in custom content types that add the desired meta-data fields to the core media asset. For example, you might want to add alt-text to images for accessibility and possibly even SEO purposes. Another recommendation is to use the “Image With Focal Point” app that allows you to set a focal point for an image, helping content editors center an image and crop it effectively for different devices and screen sizes.
Contentful Best Practice #17: How To Perform Global Copy Substitution?
Sometimes you run into scenarios where you want to perform global replacement of specific copy when you have business changes. For example, you might change your contact phone number for support or choose to rebrand your product under a new name or in case of subscription services switch a service level name (from “free” to “community” or “team” to “professional”). In many Content Management Systems, your content team might be struggling to figure out all the locations where the old copy text appears and replace each one manually. In Contentful, a best practice is to leverage the “Content-as-Code” approach to script the copy replacement—the migration object comes with functions that apply transformations to the content in entries and you can use them to automate specific copy replacement.

In Conclusion

We hope that this bag of Contentful best practices, tips, and tricks will serve you well as you embark on your Contentful implementation program. If you are looking for the right Contentful coaches and specialists to help set you up for success, then XTIVIA can help. Please get in touch with us to learn how we can help with your Contentful implementation as your Contentful partner.

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