Thomas Schedler
Thomas Schedler
Co-Founder & CEO – Sulu GmbH
Sulu's technical Master Blaster. Tries to keep our code on it's toes and to master Heston Blumenthal recipes on his very seldom free days.

Mastering Structured Content: A Comprehensive Guide to Structured Content CMSs

Organizations today are facing increasing demand for multi-channel, multi-format content. Content management systems (CMSs) have long facilitated the creation, editing, and publishing of digital content, but this increased complexity requires a more robust publishing tool. A CMS that inherently supports structured content offers an efficient, flexible, and cost-effective way for organizations to manage their content creation and publishing processes and stay competitive.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the benefits and features of structured content management systems, we’ll demonstrate how structured content can address common pain points in content creation and management, and how using a structured CMS like Sulu can lead to improved efficiency, consistency, and scalability in content production for businesses of all sizes.

Get started with structured content with the Sulu CMS.

The Future of Content Creation with Structured Content Management Systems

Structured content management systems are a relatively new generation of content management tools. Because of their ability to manage content efficiently and affordably, they play a key role in the future of content creation. 

  • More granular content control, which promotes consistency, accuracy, and quality across all pieces of content, great and small.
  • Easier to reuse, repurpose, and personalize content to meet the needs of different audiences.
  • Create once and publish anywhere instead of dividing your focus across specific channels.
  • More efficient collaboration between content creators, which can help organizations reduce costs, increase productivity, and raise the caliber of their content.

How Sulu's Structured Content Management System Works

Sulu, as a structured CMS itself, separates content from presentation with a standardized templating and Blocks system. This modular structure drives easier, simpler, faster, and more reusable content modeling and rendering.

“Because Leankoala thinks in Blocks, it plays well with Sulu,” as Nils Langner, co-founder of Leankoala, explains. “I’m a stickler for corporate identity, and Sulu’s block-based approach makes it easy to keep the look and feel consistent because each content element can be identified separately.”

Content modeling in Sulu involves three main components:

  • Define the structure of content by creating content types 
  • Specify the fields and relationships for the content types.
  • Configure how content types are presented.

This process allows users to create reusable templates for different types of content and enables them to publish content to different channels and devices. Sulu’s simple drag-and-drop interface makes content modeling easier for non-technical users.

Sulu’s modular content modeling is efficient and flexible enough to satisfy both content editors and developers. By equipping users to create and manage content types and templates in this way, Sulu helps organizations standardize their content creation and publishing, reduce errors, and ensure that content is delivered across required channels and devices. Especially for organizations that need to manage large volumes of structured content, Sulu can be a powerful tool. 

Developers, don’t get confused!

On the dev side, Sulu uses the term “content type” to refer to the smallest unit of a structured data model. This isn’t the same thing as “content types” such as blogs, social media posts, etc.

Key Features of Sulu's Structured Content Management System


Templating with Sulu CMS

In Sulu, each page has a page template. The page template controls two things: the structure of the page (via an XML file) and how that structure is rendered (via a Twig file with HTML code).

The structure of a page consists of properties, each of which has a (content) type. The default page template, for example, defines the following properties: title of type text_line, URL of type resource_locator, article of type text_editor. When a content manager opens a page in the administration interface, they can change the values of these properties. Frontend developers can then access these values and render them according to the desired design.

Modular components with Blocks

Blocks are Sulu’s way of keeping content neatly separated so it can be recombined in any way. Each Block contains content types, which are fields such as date, text, media selection, etc. Sulu Blocks are predefined by the developer, based on the needs and information architecture of the site. Content managers can then add and order Blocks how they like. 

Testing and deployment automation

The Sulu CMS helps carry out automated testing and deployment through CI/CD support, version control system integration, configuration management, Docker support, and the extension marketplace. These capabilities enable developers to automate builds, testing, and deployments; containerize applications, and access the functionality they need through a vast marketplace of extensions.

Bring-your-own frontend development

Sulu is frontend independent — developers can use WebJS, Twig, React, Vue.js, Angular, Bootstrap, and more. This flexibility means developers get maximum freedom in their technical choices for the frontend stack (which is exactly how many devs like it). This frontend freedom also makes it easier to recruit developers or adapt to existing properties.

Multilingual content management

Multilingual capabilities are a core feature of Sulu, not an afterthought. For example, Sulu can handle all languages, including character sets and those not read from left to right. A single Sulu installation grants you unlimited sites, and you can add a translation for any piece of content — a page, article, or media metadata. You can also optimize for search engines with comprehensive SEO-friendly features specific to multilingual needs. You can set content and media (such as images and videos) as non-translatable so they can be reused across locales without any translation. Alternatively, these can be duplicated and adapted for each locale — if, say, the alt text is different.

Sulu’s multilingual abilities keep content structure and navigation in sync because they are the same for all languages. The editor can specify per language whether a page is visible in the website navigation or not, but cannot change its position. 

API-first approach

Sulu promotes API-first development through key features like its content API, decoupled architecture, JSON representation, extensibility, customizable content types and templates, webhooks, and event system. These features enable developers to easily access and manipulate content programmatically, build frontend applications using their preferred technologies, integrate with external systems, ensure consistent data consumption, and react swiftly to content updates.

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Benefits of Sulu CMS for Enterprises


Scalability and onboarding

The backend of Sulu is all Symfony, granting a flat learning curve for Symfony developers. This means you have access to a worldwide pool of experienced developers to recruit from, and you can onboard them much faster. Time is money!

Content managers can combine Blocks however they want within the parameters you set. This means there’s no breaking of branding guidelines, fewer mistakes, and maximum creativity for your content managers and editors. Sulu’s well-documented editor interface with helpful explanatory texts can also reduce the time needed to onboard new editors.

“Before, our salespeople needed a few days to build a landing page. Now it’s a matter of two hours — and that’s only because it’s the time it takes us to sign off the content,” says Nils Langner, co-founder of Leankoala.

With no entanglement between the frontend and backend stack, your backend Symfony developers can be set to work writing, maintaining, and extending your business logic while frontend developers get to focus on building beautiful, intuitive user experiences.

High-volume content production with standardization

With site-wide standardization, you can avoid entering the same information over and over. You also have a single ‘home base’ to modify every occurrence centrally. All the while, your editors can exercise their creative freedom to organize content however they want.

“Many users from different markets edit their local websites, so Sulu’s user-friendly interface is a real bonus,” says Maria Oberndorfer, Marketing Project Manager at Rhomberg-Sersa. “I see this in editor training sessions: in a relatively short time, my colleagues can edit their website independently.”

Uniform branding guidelines

Sulu’s features help enforce your unique branding guidelines. With less that can go wrong, your content managers won’t have to waste time chasing down inconsistencies, and your developers will be thrilled to spend less effort doing maintenance.  

“Each brand had strict design and styling requirements. With Sulu, Webstores created one central library of components for Stern, but were able to apply different designs for those components on a brand-by-brand basis,” says Christian Schoorlemmer, Webstores head of UX. 

Content reuse across properties

Content reusability makes for a consistency to your messaging that will cement you more firmly in your user’s minds, and reinforce your SEO best practices. Not to mention, the boost in efficiency will save time and costs. If you change your mind about a certain piece of your website or need to spin up a new campaign quickly, you have the agility you need to make changes rapidly and site-wide. If you’re impatient to grow and your current CMS is holding you back, the ability to reuse content promotes sensible scalability.

“The Rhomberg-Sersa team can quickly add a new site within the existing installation, pull in 90% of the content from the existing repository, and add special touches for that particular country,” Claudia Fischer, head of MASSIVE ART’s Business Unit Experience, explains.

Operational consistency across brands and markets worldwide

Sulu’s features, like multisite, localization, etc., ensure operational coherence and a unified experience across diverse online properties. They enable organizations to efficiently manage multiple websites, tailor content for different markets, maintain consistent approval processes, track content revisions, enforce branding guidelines, and streamline asset sharing.

Automated quality control and deployment

Sulu’s highly structured setup lends itself well to automated testing, monitoring, and deployment. Clearly identifiable, standardized blocks make for easier monitoring. Additionally, high-traffic sites rely on uptime for revenue, and you need to know right away if advertisements aren’t loading.

Experience the benefits of Sulu CMS for yourself — try our demo now.

Case Studies: Success with Sulu CMS


Rhomberg-Sersa: Consistent branding for a global market

Rhomberg-Sersa, a multinational railway infrastructure group, operates in many markets worldwide. They went with the Sulu CMS to help strike a balance between their need for central control versus being able to tailor marketing to local conditions. With Sulu’s multisite capabilities, Rhomberg-Sersa was able to work in many different languages, reuse content across multiple markets, and operate independent brands in select locales. The Sulu CMS handled all of Rhomberg-Sersa’s complex business needs with out-of-the-box features.

Küchengötter: A high-traffic site with reliable uptime

Küchengötter is a high-traffic recipe website, welcoming up to 7 million visitors a month. Their success meant they needed to rethink and improve web page performance and protect against outages that were eating into their revenue. Once Küchengötter implemented the Sulu CMS for their relaunch, they saw a significant performance increase, savoring snappy load times despite a complex data structure and high traffic levels. Additionally, the elimination of regular (sometimes weekly) outages delivered an improved user experience, with an uptime of 99.99%. Küchengötter’s now Symfony-based backend reassured the team that their new site is future-proof, and they could access a wide pool of Symfony devs to speed up and ease their recruitment.

Best Practices for Using Sulu CMS


Planning and designing content models

Content modeling in Sulu consists of content types, attributes (or fields) of each content type, and the relationships between the content types. Determine your content types and the attributes that make up each content type, and then map the desired relationships and hierarchies of your content. Finally, decide which content will be static, dynamic, or smart content. In Sulu, smart content is a powerful content type that allows the content editor to dynamically configure an aggregation of content. We offer examples of content modeling techniques in another article.

Creating and managing content types and templates

You model, input, and validate data when creating and managing content types and templates.

An XML file tells the system how to build the data, which exists as an entry form in the admin interface. Next, you determine which attributes (form fields) the input form should contain, what Blocks are available, and what content types they contain. We have covered content modeling attributes in full in another article. This method, as opposed to expecting the developer to write all the forms they need, is much faster, easier to maintain and update, less error-prone, and avoids boilerplate code. 

Establishing content relationships and hierarchies

Developers predefine Blocks based on the needs and information architecture of the site. Next, you establish parent-child relationships, using the "Structure" field type to create hierarchies and relationships between content items. Utilize taxonomies and tags to classify and categorize content, create connections, and facilitate content discovery. Finally, aim for intuitive content discovery by ensuring the content hierarchy and relationships are reflected in your navigation and SEO.

Leveraging content reuse and localization

Reusing content across properties helps reduce repetitive, wasted work. When you establish relationships between translated content versions, you maintain consistency and enable easy navigation across languages. Every change or update for both content reuse and localization is modified centrally — saving you time, effort, and headaches.

Optimizing workflows and collaboration

Automating quality control and deployment helps ensure sites are stable and resilient. You can implement content versioning to track changes within the hierarchy and maintain a history of updates. XML templates define the backend editor forms for adding and modifying content — no coding necessary!

Integrating with other systems

As a 100% open source, 100% Symfony-based CMS, developers who use Sulu have a great deal of choice when it comes to what technologies they’d like to employ. Sulu also has pre-built, commonly used integrations like Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Matomo, and Sylius.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is Sulu CMS?

Sulu CMS is an open-source content management system, fully based on Symfony, that allows users to create, manage, and publish content for their websites and applications.

How does Sulu CMS differ from other CMSs?

Sulu differentiates itself from other CMSs through its focus on content reuse and flexibility. It provides robust content modeling capabilities, efficient multilingual support, and an API-first approach for seamless integration with various platforms.

How does Sulu CMS support multilingual content?

Sulu supports multilingual content by offering built-in localization features. It allows users to create and manage content in multiple languages, providing efficient translation workflows and language-specific content variations.

What is the API-first approach?

The API-first approach in Sulu prioritizes the design and development of the system's API, making it the primary means of interacting with the CMS. This approach enables easy integration with external systems, applications, and frontend frameworks, providing flexibility and facilitating headless or decoupled architecture.

How can Sulu CMS help enterprises with content management?

Sulu helps enterprises with content management by offering a range of features and benefits. It provides a user-friendly interface for content creation and editing, streamlined workflows, content versioning, SEO tools, and the ability to establish content relationships and hierarchies. Additionally, Sulu enables content reuse, multilingual support, and seamless integration through its API-first approach, empowering enterprises to efficiently manage and deliver content across various channels and platforms.

Structured CMSs lead the way

By separating content from presentation, the Sulu CMS offers consistent branding, time and cost savings, efficient workflows, scalability, enhanced SEO, agile content publishing, comprehensive multilingual support, API integration, and content reuse for enterprises. Structured CMSs are driving the future of content management through more fine-grained control over content creation, management, and publishing, and we’re ready for it.

Get in touch with Sulu to see how we can transform your content management process.