Contentful Tutorial: A Beginner’s Guide for Content Creators

Traditional content management systems (CMSs) are growing less popular in the wake of headless CMS platforms. Among the fastest-growing static site-CMS combos is Gatsby.js and Contentful.

Headless options allow content creators to focus on what they do best while web developers offer more customization, omnichannel, and cybersecurity capabilities. These websites are more agile and have countless indirect benefits, including site speed and search engine optimization.

For a more detailed side-by-side comparison of Traditional and Headless CMS, check out our Contentful Vs WordPress article here.

In this beginner’s guide for content creators, we’ve put together a quick Contentful tutorial to help you transition from the traditional to the headless CMS. Thanks to the headless approach - wherein content formatting and creation occurs in a separate workspace from the actual web design - this transition is surprisingly simple.

Getting Started with Contentful

If you’re a content creator partnering with a web development agency, chances are that the webmaster is merely providing you a login to your pre-existing Contentful workspace. It’s best to confirm with your web development team that they are setting up your Contentful workspace for you.

In the scenario described above, the development agency already maintains a Contentful subscription and includes your cost within the overall hourly or package rate that you pay the agency. However, if you are a content marketing agency needing your own Contentful subscription, setting up a Team or Enterprise account is likely your first step.

[Source]

At first glance, a Contentful subscription appears pricey. But you must take into account that the headless features afforded you with Contentful give you the option to push out content in a million different ways. For example, you can build content for a website and a branded app from the same workspace. 

This pro-level CMS flexibility, combined with a crack development team, will allow you to do anything for your clients. In stark contrast to traditional CMS programs like WordPress, the only limitations for a brand’s owned media is the imagination of the content creators and developers.

Contentful Tutorial: Step-by-Step Guide

Content creators will enter their Contentful workspace and see a minimal layout, especially if they’ve been accustomed to WordPress and other traditional CMSs. Thankfully, this makes the content creator’s job simpler - they can leave design issues to the developers while focusing solely on content creation and management.

Space Home

Once selecting the organization (website), you will enter what is called the “Space Home.” There are two main tabs with which you will become familiar:

  • Content Model

  • Content

In the Content Model dashboard, you can define page parameters. It’s important to understand that you are not designing a web page, but you are formatting that web page for content purposes.

You can Add a Content Type by clicking the blue button on the top right corner.

In the example above, the user created an Article content model and structured it according to his/her specification. You can Add Fields by clicking the blue button on the right. To delete a field, click the gray minus sign to the right of the field you see in the fields list.

When adding a new field, you have several options to choose from. It can be helpful to play with a few different fields to get the hang of how each of them work. These fields will guide you and your content creators within the Content workspace (which we will discuss soon).

You can further customize the settings, validation (establish a particular pattern or sequence, like required fields, before allowing the content to be published), and appearance.

Content

After creating a Content Model, you can navigate to your Content dashboard to input the content you want utilizing the content models you create.

You can add as many Articles (in this example) as you want. After you create multiple content models, you will have more formats to choose from on the top right corner.

Traditional CMS users will begin to feel more at home once they open the content model (an Article in this case). The content model includes many of the popular fields seen in CMS programs, including Title, Slug, Publishing information, Cover Image, and the Content itself.

If you do not see a field you’d like to see in this workspace, simply return to the Content Model dashboard to edit the model or create a new model altogether.

Writers will be able to input their content in the main input and utilize all the necessary article settings, such as bold/italics, headings, embedding media, etc. When adding images or video, these items are referred to as Assets within Contentful.

Asset Management within Content

Adding alt text is not available with Contentful. However, you can establish the equivalent (for SEO purposes) by editing an asset’s title and description (see below).

Beyond cropping and rotation, all other image/video editing should be done outside Contentful.

Publishing Content

When you are ready to publish your content, you can select the Publish button on the top right corner when you are inside one of your content pieces, such as an article. Or, you can set publishing ahead of time if you added the field in your content model.

Communicating with Developers

When working in a traditional CMS like WordPress, the platform has literally thousands of available plugins and design tools. Nearly all of these tools are stripped away within Contentful. 

The reason for this is two-fold.

First, WordPress - as an all-in-one content management and website design tool - offers all it can with a price. That price is that as your site matures, you will not be able to fully customize it without the extensive help of developers. And in most cases (and thousands of dollars later), some of the more nuanced web features are simply not available at all, even to the most accomplished developers.

When using Contentful as a headless CMS, your development team has free reign to produce nearly anything from scratch you can imagine. This will increase your initial costs, but over time, you’re more likely to save money as you scale your website.

Second, Contentful is a headless CMS, which by definition means that its sole purpose is to help individuals format, build, and maintain website content. Design tasks rest with the developer. 

As such, it is critical that the content creation and development teams communicate well. Content creators need to express their vision for web pages and site functionality with as much specificity as possible. This collaboration allows developers to take all design tasks off the plate of the content marketer and build the best site design the first time.

In many cases, the cost of working with a Contentful/Gatsby developer team greatly diminishes over time since the content creators. The website is built the right way with plenty of scaling capabilities and fewer opportunities for web page glitches.

Recap: Contentful for Content Creators

Contentful really is that simple. Content creators have little to know design tasks to manage while they focus almost exclusively on building quality content. 

The rest lies on the shoulders of developers who are no longer constrained by the default clunkiness and limitations of traditional CMS platforms. As a result, developers can minimize costs in the long-term by producing a scalable, personalized bundle of owned media solutions.