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Domain modeling helps organizations discover and map the information structures and relationships that underpin the content and functionality they offer. In this context, an organization’s “domain” is the information space in which that organization operates. It encompasses the organization’s sphere of activity, influence, and interest relative to business and user goals.
A domain model is a formal representation of the concepts that are important to how an organization communicates and operates in a given domain. The modeling process identifies and defines key concepts, and describes the consistent, predictable relationships between concepts in the domain.
By uncovering the assumptions and tacit rules that plague most content ecosystems, domain modeling can help organizations facilitate the shared vision necessary to create resilient, scalable systems for communication across channels.
Domain Modeling is often more effective when it is informed by these complementary methods.
Observe users in action to understand how they perform tasks to achieve goals
Understanding the perspective and influence of those invested in a project's success
Card sorting is a method used to help design or evaluate the information architecture of a site
Understand the tasks and motivations of the user group for whom you are designing
- Research the domain
Identify what your domain is: this is your organization’s sphere of activity, influence, and interest relative to business and user goals. Once you have an initial sense of what your domain is, list the potential concepts that characterize the domain and your organization’s (and their users’) role in it. List these out in a spreadsheet.
- Identify and define domain concepts
Narrow your list of concepts down to the roughly 20 most central concepts that fundamentally distinguish this domain from other domains. Define your core concepts in 1 - 2 sentences based on primary and secondary research.
- Review and refine concepts and definitions
Review your concepts and definitions with stakeholders and subject matter experts. Elicit feedback on the relevance and accuracy of your selected concepts and their definitions.
- Model domain relationships
When you have a well-defined and consensus-based set of domain concepts, model the consistent, durable relationships between them. Use a tool that allows you to move objects around spatially and connect them with labeled lines (Miro is excellent for this). Add or combine concepts as necessary.
- Review and refine the relationship model
Present and solicit feedback on the relationship model with stakeholders and subject matter experts. Synthesize this feedback and incorporate it into model revisions. If necessary, conduct a second round of reviews to make sure you’ve teased out and accounted for the nuances of your domain.
Domain Modeling typically produces insight and solutions focused on these areas:
The structure of data elements used to describe a collection of content and functionality.
The arrangement and structure of categories used to classify content and resources.
A recommendation for structuring content, for example in a CMS or other digital store.
A recommendation for navigation affordances in a website or application.