Separation of Content and Layout

Another flaw in most website publishing systems or content management systems is a tight coupling between website layout and managed content. Adobe Contribute does not even draw a distinction at all: its fundamental unit of content is the page. If you want to have the same content displayed on multiple pages, you have to edit it in both places. This is unacceptable. Building the best website means that you need to display the same content in multiple ways.

Going back to the concert hall example, you might want to have a full calendar that lists all upcoming events, a feature section on the homepage that displays the shows from the current week, and an archive that lists all previous shows. In Vae, content is organized according to what type of content it is, not where it is displayed, so these would all be stored and represented as Events. Making one change in Vae will update all the relevant parts of your website.

In the next chapter, we will look at how Vae organizes content into structures in much greater detail. But one other important point here is that a webpage layout is likely to change over time (both during development and after), but the fundamental types of data you are storing will remain fairly constant over time. A concert hall will always have Events. A restaurant will always have a menu. For this reason, content on sites powered by Vae is resilient to both small site design changes and complete site overhauls. Your data lives in a meaningful hierarchy, no matter how it is displayed on your site’s pages.

By the same token, Vae is completely agnostic to the display technologies used by your site. You could use the same Vae content in a Flash site, an HTML site, and an iPhone application. You could even do these all from the same account.

Example content organization on Vae

Let’s take a moment to examine a sample content organization on Vae.

Consider a record label’s website. What kind of data might they have to keep track of? Perhaps the Artists signed to that label, those Artist’s albums, information about the artist, information about their albums, and some general information about the record label.

One way to structure this would be:

  • Welcome Message (rich text)

  • Contact Information (rich text)

  • Artists

    • Name (text)

    • Bio (text area)

    • Albums

      • Title (text)

      • Cover Art (image)

      • Price (text)

      • Weight (text)

      • Inventory (text)

In the root level of this website, we have a Welcome Message Section, a Contact Information Section, and an Artists Collection. We’ll learn about collections and sections in the next chapter, but for now, just know that they can hold content.

The Artists collection that contains a Text Structure called Name, a Text Area Structure called Bio, and a Collection called Albums. It’s important to notice that Artists is a Collection which contains another Collection, Albums. Vae allows you to easily mirror a real-life data hierarchy on your website.

Finally, Albums is a Collection which contains a Text Structure called Title, an Image Structure called Cover Art, a Text Structure called Price, a Text Structure called Inventory, and a Text Structure called Weight. Those last three attributes will be good to keep track of if we decide to set up eCommerce on on the record label’s website.

Of course, this is just the beginning of the content that we might want to manage. Imagine other content that you might have for each artist, for example MP3s, Press, Tour Dates, or Blog Posts. In Vae, managing that content is as simple as setting up the necessary structures.