Understanding how different content types work together is integral to content delivery, it helps to define content for quick scanning from visitors, based on a logical placement process which is generally determined by your layout.

To do that effectively, it helps to understand the function of content and to break it down into base states.

I call them content types:

  •  Purpose – the reason the user is there
  •  Context – provide clarity for content
  •  Tool – allow for easy interaction


This blog article is purpose content, in most cases, it is why the user is here, to consume information. This information has tiered relevance, from high to low, generally the user will determine the relevance with their own mental priorities, this is normally dictated by the task they are trying to achieve. For example, you are here to learn about “content”, that is your purpose.


Context content offers contextual relevance, Can the research/opinion be trusted? Do they have the knowledge, expertise or experience? Is this still applicable?  The publishing date, author name, any reference acknowledgements or links are all context.

The ability to comment on, rate, discuss or debate the article, has contextual relevance too, it transforms dead content to living content which stays relevant because it is maintained as awareness or discovery takes place. It also enables discussion and opposing opinion which in turn creates greater contextual reference.


Tools that make user interaction with content easier, either capturing it for consumption later(readers), adding it to lists(List Gorilla), or RSS interaction, Digg, Twitter etc. The Tool attribute is a functional attribute that aids the dissemination of content through familiar user toolsets or social tools.

How content types swing

If you’re coming here to learn about “Content Attributes”, then the article is more valuable to you than the name of the author, but if you’re coming here to find information about the author(me), then the article is no longer the highest priority, the fact that I wrote it is probably more important. It’s also swapped the content attribute, from being a contextual attribute(Author), to being a purpose attribute, the Article is now the contextual attribute.

More tips for getting the best out of your content

Wireframe it

Wireframe your content, it helps you to build a visual requirements list. Here’s an example content wireframe, you can get even more focussed with your layout expectation by drilling into content types and listing them.


Keep the content types clearly defined in your layout and have a clear plan for what context types you’ll be looking at using and lay out examples before hand. Clearly label items and make sure there’s applicable white space surrounding them so that it doesn’t get lost in the purpose content. Ensure visitors can visually look and hook for context.

More than just layout

Visitors should be able to visually distinguish between content items so make sure it is clear, concise and understandable. Content scanning goes deeper than understanding the content types, it goes into understanding the mind of the visitor, and how to effectively get them information in the easiest possible way. Adjusting the flow of the content through “writing for web/mobile” techniques will give you an edge.

Images are context

The images you select are context, ensure they tie into the story, it will help visitors clarify the meaning. Take the time to check the image and make sure everything is in order, check the background for items that might not be good context.

Make it easy to engage

Most of these points are about visual and content engagement, but it goes beyond this into simple usability engagement.

  • Ensure visitors can reply on the same page and see previous replies, or discussion threads.
  • Engage with your visitors when they ask questions, people will engage better if you respond.
  • Allow your army to shoulder the burden of response and help build a stronger Enterprise Community.

Irrelevant content

If you’re presenting the user with irrelevant content, an example is click through advertising or interstitials, remember that the visitor deals in relevance, be sure that you offer value don’t irritate your user.