Designing your slots

One of the most important parts of any project is slot modelling: deciding how to organise your slots, the content contained within them, and the areas of your website, app or other channel to which they will be used to deliver content.

Slot modelling concepts

Slots are containers for content and are flexible enough to be designed to support many different channels and fit in with existing content production and planning workflows. Because slots are so flexible, this means that one set of guidelines won't match every use case, so on this page we have provided some general principles that you can use at the start of a project to help decide the best way to model your slots.

We'll examine various approaches and the advantages and disadvantages of each approach for users, developers, content producers and planners.

Granularity vs simplicity

The first thing to consider is the trade off between granularity and simplicity. In its simplest form, one slot could just represent an entire page. This approach is shown in the image below, with a page with a single slot and header and footer. We assume in this example that the header and footer are fixed and rarely change.

A single slot for all content on a page
A single slot for all content on a page

Using a single slot: advantages

  • It's simple to model: you could just have one type of slot and create slots to represent each page
  • It's easy for your users to learn, since there is just one type of slot for them to add content items to

Disadvantages

  • Every time you need to make an update to the 'page', you will need rebuild the entire page of content - even if you only wanted to change a single image.
  • Your planners and reviewers would need to review an entire page each time

In contrast you might choose a more granular approach, where each slot represents one area of the page or app and can contain a much more restricted range of content. An example of this approach is shown below. The page is divided into multiple slots, each containing one or two items of content.

More granular slot items
More granular slot items

More granular slots: advantages

  • If you only want to change one element of the page, you only need to update that slot. Everything else remains the same.
  • Content can more easily be reused, for example a banner across many pages.
  • Content reviewers can just concentrate on checking the contents of one slot and know that everything else is unchanged.
  • Developers have simpler slot types to support.

Disadvantages

  • You will end up with a larger number of slots, this could make it harder for users to find slots unless they are properly organised.
  • If every item on the page is defined as a separate slot, reordering of content may be time consuming as the content on many slots may need to be changed.

The hybrid approach

When deciding how to organise your slots you need to consider how often particular areas of your website are updated. For example, if you have a home page on which all the content is always updated in its entirety, then designing one slot for the home page might make sense. Users will be updating all the content for the page, so it might be simplest to contain all this content in one slot.

However, if you are more likely to change each item in isolation, then it might be advantageous to adopt a more granular design.

You will also want to consider how and when content is reused across your channels. For example if you have a banner that appears on every page of your website, for example "free shipping", you might want to define a single "Site wide banner" slot to allow you to update all pages in one go.

The best approach might be somewhere in-between: a hybrid approach. If you take a look at your website over time and identify which areas are frequently updated and which remain unchanged, you will identify patterns. There will probably be some areas of particular pages that are seasonal, some which change every day or few days and some which are unchanged for months at a time.

An example of this approach is shown below.

A hybrid approach. Frequently updated content is in individual slots
A hybrid approach. Frequently updated content is in individual slots

In this example, there's a banner at the top of the page and a carousel at the bottom of the page that are both used for promotions that are updated frequently. The area in the middle reflects the current season, so is only updated when a new seasonal collection is released. So in this case a hybrid approach makes sense, with a slot for the hero banner, one for the carousel at the bottom of the page and a slot containing all the items of seasonal content in the middle.

Slot permissiveness

Another factor to consider is how permissive you wants slots to be, that is how many different types of content the slots can contain. There are a few choices:

Allowing a slot to contain any content

  • This puts the burden on the developer to design their code so that they can render anything that is added to the slot
  • But it also gives lots of control and flexibility to planners and content producers

Limiting slots to a narrow range of content

  • It makes creating slot templates easier for your developers
  • It limits the choice of planners and content producers when updating the content that goes in these slots

Of course once slot templates are developed they can be re-used as many times as you like, so initial development time may be worth it if it leads to more flexibility when adding and updating content.

Other issues

If you are integrating Dynamic Content with an e-commerce system that is also designed around slots, you may want to follow your existing slot design. You might choose to have a 1 to 1 mapping between the slots in the e-commerce system and the slots in Dynamic Content.

It's also important to note that slots can refer to any area on any channel, not just websites. So the same slot could contain content that would be delivered to a mobile device, in-store kiosk or website or you might have slots for individual channels.

If you're a developer and want to know more about developing slots, see the slots section for more information and examples.

If you want to know more about adding slots to editions see the planning user guide.

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