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The Content-Action Model

How to keep a website's various parts dancing to the same beat? And doing the job they're meant to do?

From downloading PDFs, submitting data, searching, analysing, or just getting the user to think of EMBL-EBI as great place: web pages are made to encourage and facilitate user behaviour. To get results we utilise content, actions, user types and goals — but the role of each constituent part is not always clear, nor is the combined effectiveness.

To monitor and understand we utilise the Content-Action Model (CAM). The method deconstructs our web "experiences" into a series a triples so we can individually validate and evaluate the component parts.

On this page



The tool we use to make our Content-Action Models is currently a document template (more on that below) that asks about our goals from different — but interconnected — angles. In effect, we deconstruct hypothesis about what we intend to achieve and track success and change.

CAM record contents:

  1. Organisational documentation: a firm organisational record about the agreed purpose of a portion of a website (such as an /about section)
  1. Itemisation of components and actions: specific components for each section; including:
  2. Overall purpose: informed by organisational priorities and UX research
    1. URLs
    2. Goals (user and organisation)
    3. User types (prioritised)
    4. Content (and who will make it)
    5. Preceding and following actions (what pages and actions)
    6. Organisational placement (which parts of the organisation are surfaced)
    7. Organisation purpose (how does the content map to overall mission purposes in tone or external focus)
    8. Content owner (who is “responsible” for the content overall)
  3. Relations between components: which user types are seeking this goal, and which content supports it?
  4. Relations across CAM Records: how this content relates to the content, goals or users in other parts of the website (e.g. jobs page). This exposes areas that may need new CAM for Web Systems record.
  5. Record of change and knowledge transfer: to avoid repeating previous missteps, and enable knowledge handover. The importance of capturing this cannot be overstated.
  6. Truth through perspectives: by asking the same question from many different perspectives, expose gaps/missed opportunities (e.g. website content, external content) or prioritise areas for improvement (e.g. page components that are surplus to requirements).

Making your CAM records

Grab the template

Already know how to use the CAM, here's the template.

Open the template in Google Docs
  1. Let us guide you
  2. Use the template

Future plans?

Working with the Web Content Committee, Communications, Training, Web Development and other teams, this model has been evolving since the end of 2016. Here is what we have planned for the next evolution:

  1. Visualise the data we've collected.
    • CAM records share connections. We can use those connections to see a bird's eye view of pathways between records and see which ecosystems are performing as expected.
  2. Performance measurement
    • By looking at the documented content and associated goals, we can use tools like Google Analytics to measure more than time on page, and begin to measure real success.
  3. A relational database tool
    • The Google Doc template is an interim step and we're building out a relational tool (currently we're evaluating Coda.io).

You can learn more about the Content-Action Model and our plans in this blog post

See the Code