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Ways "The beginner’s guide to Contentful" could be more effective

The ideas that power Contentful are fairly new to the content world, so a tutorial for beginners could be confusing if it doesn't outline them properly.


To pave a simple path to productive, effective use of the product, a guide to using a headless CMS could benefit from explaining principles like content modeling a bit more before encouraging beginners to dive in.

I imagine someone reading The beginner’s guide to Contentful is most likely someone who's heard of the power of Contentful and how much headless CMS products can enhance content experiences. At this stage, this person may be validating not only if Contentful works for their team, but also if working with a headless CMS is worth the switch.

Here's a quote I came across recently from someone at the beginner stage of using Contentful:

“For me, it's really hard to imagine what a best practice content model for a simple company website should look like and which content types I need.”

This is from someone who has a technical background and is clearly trying to set up the best Contentful foundation possible. It's clear that understanding how content modeling works and why it is so crucial to the development of an effective Contentful setup takes time to learn, and isn't something a beginner will know right away.


So if I were to improve this guide, I would suggest one key thing: Don’t jump straight into Content Modeling

Creating a content model straight away — without understanding what a content model should look like to be effective for your site — could lead to a confused user and a complicated content model.

Content modeling is a complex concept to understand, especially if you don’t have a background in designing websites or databases.

People spend years of their careers understanding the best way to architect databases and design beautiful, consistent websites. While it will not take you years to understand how to make a solid content model, it can't be assumed it's widely understood.


Here are some suggestions I have if you’re starting with Contentful now:

  1. Follow steps 1 and 2 of The beginner’s guide to Contentful. Get started with your account — Contentful's onboarding process is amazing — and become familiar with navigating the product.

  2. Look at the product you're migrating to Contentful from a high-level perspective and try to understand what the simplest building blocks 🧱 of your product are. Think of stripping away all of the extra "decoration" of your site and boil it down to a few of its core elements. If you're looking for some help, take a look at my guide to 4 Essential Content Types You Need to Create Modular Pages in Contentful.

  3. Draw out those core elements and what information needs to be associated with them. If your core element is just a website page 📝, think of what information that page needs to have, like a URL or page name.

  4. Translate those core elements into fields in Contentful, as described in Step 3: Create the content model in the Contentful guide.

  5. Follow through with the rest of the tutorial and grow your content models from there.

From here, you would have a much more solid foundation to build on, and also a more firm perspective on how what needs to be done to build a powerful Contentful experience.


What if there was a process you could follow to make Contentful successful for your team specifically?


It's called the Waterfall method.


Teams I've worked with that follow this process were far more likely to set up a successful Contentful project than those who didn't.


Why? Because the process uses your current challenges to inform a vision their entire team can work towards, and make Contentful the tool to pull it all together.


Read more about the process we've defined for creating successful Contentful projects below.