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Last updated: 31 Jul 2018

content-publisher: 3. Initial Domain Modelling

Date: 2018-07-23


Content Publisher is a new publishing application for GOV.UK that has the ambition to eventually replace existing publishing applications such as Whitehall, Specialist Publisher and/or Mainstream Publisher (exact scope of this is to be determined). This ADR aims to document the considerations and decisions made initially in modelling the domain for this application at the start of the project.

We aimed that the new model would enable us to:

  • be compatible with GOV.UK's publishing pipeline
  • model data that is stored in existing publishing applications, so it could be a migration destination
  • try to avoid some of the problems we had identified in the modelling of existing publishing applications

Approach to modelling

In modelling we considered whether we should:

  1. Take a light touch to modelling the domain and evolve it as we learn more
  2. Map out all of the known concepts from multiple publishing applications and model the system as a whole

Option 1 would allow us to initially develop faster as less time would be spent researching and agreeing on concepts, however it could be at the expense of the cohesiveness of the model. Option 2 risks building rules based off assumptions that may not be correct or may change rapidly as the application evolves.

Modelling different localisations of content

We considered that there were two different approaches for localisations of content in GOV.UK publishing:

  1. Publishing API and Mainstream publisher consider different localisations to be different documents (with a common id) and can be published/edited separately
  2. Whitehall model consider the localisations of a piece of content to be part of the same document, with each change to a localisation reflected in a shared history

The Whitehall model has the advantage that data can be shared between the primary locale with translations, but has the disadvantage that a particular locale of a document has a history that is associated with a wider range of pages.

It is relatively simple to adapt the content of Whitehall to the model used by Mainstream publisher, however it would not be simple to adapt the Mainstream model to a Whitehall one as the document histories are not consistent.

Modelling different document types

The expectation is that Content Publisher will support a wide variety of document types, thus we want to choose a scalable approach to modelling them so that the logic for them does not become unwieldy.

The approaches we considered were:

  1. Whitehall/Mainstream Publisher approach of using inheritance
  2. Publishing API approach of using a single model that can store schemaless data

Option 1 offers a more explicit means of defining the various document types and characteristics. However it does so at the expense of greatly increasing the number of models to be considered as part of the domain. We felt that in our existing publishing applications that the burden of modelling the document type as a core domain concept made the models difficult to understand.


We decided that:

  • We will take a light touch to modelling within the application and evolve it as we learn more about the requirements of the application. As we feel we are insufficiently informed of the needs to model further.
  • We have decided names for the following concepts:
    • Document: A piece of content in a particular locale that can have many versions.
    • Revision: A particular edit of a piece of content, represents a document at a specific point in time.
    • Edition: A particular revision that was published to GOV.UK or is the most current draft piece of content.
  • We have decided not to name the following concepts:
    • The association between all documents that share the same content_id and have different locales. There doesn't appear to be a name for this in GOV.UK currently.
    • Data that is shared between revisions of documents in different locales. We don't know whether this will actually be necessary and will re-consider it if and when it becomes necessary.
  • We will model content in different localisations as distinct documents, in a manner consistent with Publishing API and inconsistent with Whitehall.
  • We will store document type specific data within a particular Revision via schemaless data (JSON) rather than modelling each document type as a domain object




By taking a light touch to modelling now we will need to be cautious in how we evolve it and/or be prepared to take time out to re-model should it become unwieldy.

By taking the approach to modelling localisations in a manner consistent with Mainstream publisher instead of Whitehall we risk in the short term creating problems with users accustomed to a different way of working. It does however mean that this will be consistent with the Publishing API which improves its consistency with the whole GOV.UK stack.

By modelling document types within a single concept (Revision) we risk a lack of enforced consistency between content of the same document type due to the lack of schema.