What is content design?
Content design also known as content strategy involves the process of researching and designing digital products to ensure a good user experience before the users start using a specific product or service. Content designers collaborate with multiple teams such as engineers, UX Writers, graphic designers, researchers, and more to create the best design in delivering the content that supports users’ needs.
Mentor Beatrix Holland, a Content Strategist at Indeed in Japan, favorite definition comes from Sarah Winters: Content Design means using data and evidence to give the audience what they need, at the time they need it and in a way they expect.
In a nutshell, content designers design the content to fulfill the users’ needs and expectations.
The must-have skills as a Content Designer
- Good writing and editing skills
A content designer must be able to write well to attract users, engage with the users through the design that comes with the content.
- A fair understanding and working within the UX design process.
This will help to speed the workflow efficiency, decision-making process, problem-solving process, and working with other team members.
- Design Thinking
Does the content design suit the users’ needs? Does the design content match the expectation of the target users? Will the content design add some confusion or the user’s understanding towards the service or product? You need to think about your audience's digital knowledge skills as well. How can you ease the digital experience for your users?
Take into consideration the design principles that can be applied to simplify the user’s experience.
- Strategic Thinking
Understand the users’ needs and expectations on the content that you are going to deliver.
- User focus
Understand and meet the users needs, based on both qualitative and quantitative data, and evidence.
Beatrix added that project management skills and stakeholder management skills are equally important to excel in this expertise.
"I'm sure a lot of people will outline the basics, so I'll say that a few skills that I think aren't mentioned enough are project management and stakeholder management. Content design often involves negotiating complex sets of requirements while asking difficult and even uncomfortable questions. Being able to build good relationships within your team and across your organization is essential. Content designers will also often have to advocate for their own requirements and processes and drive those parts of a project, so good time and workflow management skills are really important.”
Content Designers vs UX Writers
Apart from writing and editing, content designers hold more responsibility for the design of the content, planning the strategy to deliver the content in a specific context, handling, and managing the content on digital platforms. UX Writers are more responsible for the copy of the content. Read more on What is UX Writing.
However, Beatrix highlighted that she would encourage people looking for a writing or information architecture-based role within UX to really pay attention to the tasks and not the job titles. Some companies use titles differently. There is a lot of debate within the wider industry about how titles and tasks should be divided and described but I think it's totally fine to concentrate on the skills you have, the skills you want to develop and finding a job and a product team that's a good match for you.
The principles of good content design
- Serve a purpose
Each design element and content have to serve a purpose that eases the user experience. As a content designer, you need to research and plan strategy for your users to be able to reach the end goal of their digital experience.
- Easy access
A good content design should offer easy access for users to navigate the product and increase their understanding of the product. For example, clickable links, smooth transitions, and fulfilling the users’ needs and expectations.
A content design should be structured straightforwardly. The content should be direct, clear, and support the user throughout the customer journey.
Clear content design using appropriate language and avoiding jargon is more likely to lead to a cluttered-free user experience.
Define the content design using a consistent style,tone and feel. It is easy to use a service or product that is predictable as it could provide a sense of control, trust and safety, as well as reliability.
According to Beatrix, good content design has shared outcomes more than shared principles because there are lots of methods and processes that you can take to get there. But a good content experience is one where the user has the information they need to progress and meet their goals- whatever those might be. You're looking for information that is clearly expressed, appropriate for the context and consistent across different surfaces.
The Not-To-Do List as a Content Designer/Strategist
- Adding difficulty for users to end their journey
The content design strategy might add more confusion for users to complete their journey.
User’s mind: “Okayyyy, what just happened here? Should I or shouldn’t I click this button?”
They could even escape the journey ASAP.
- Overcrowded designs
Unclickable links, jam-packed content on a single page, weird color coordination will turn off the user to use your product or service in a heartbeat.
- A design without a goal
A content design that does not assist user’s to achieve their end goals is meaningless and will frustrate the users.
Learn How to Fix Your Visual Content with These Pro Tips.
- Irrelevant content
The place where you insert your content and how you display your content is important. The parts of your content have to be connected that guide users from the start till the end of the journey.
- Adding content too late in the design process
Beatrix explains that a less productive content experience often comes from adding content too late in the design process. This means that information is trying to fit into the space left available rather than the flow being constructed around the information that the user needs.
“There are some trends that I personally am not a fan of, for example, the fad of 'funny buttons' or introducing humor into every possible experience. When you're writing for a linguistically diverse audience (and you always are!) humor can introduce unwanted friction and cause confusion.” - Beatrix.
Resources on Content Design
Beatrix Holland (ADPList Mentor)
Content Strategist at Indeed
ADPList Profile: https://adplist.org/mentors/beatrix-holland
LinkedIn account: https://www.linkedin.com/in/beatrixholland/
Editor and Writer:
Content Marketer and Writer at ADPList
LinkedIn account: https://www.linkedin.com/in/famr/