Good content design leads to great products with a purposeful user experience. Having a content-first design and development process ensures the achievement of product goals and efficiency. That’s why the design-driven big brands of the world, Airbnb, Apple, Uber, Zomato, Nike, etc all have positioned themselves as content-first companies.
Content design is building better experiences through all forms of content.
Content design is the outcome of the UX design process combined with content accessibility. It looks beyond a text-oriented mindset, which is why content design isn’t necessarily always text. Hence the outcome is also an amalgamation of excerpts from UX, communications, SEO, design, strategising, branding, and copywriting processes.
The process of content design revolves around attention to details of users’ needs and not just their wants — and this means identifying their needs through research, data analysis, and synthesis. It focuses on content-specific design to create a good user experience. It is a realisation of what form of content would serve the users best, visuals, audio, videos, words, infographics, charts, or a mixed assortment of the same.
The success or failure of content design projects depends on the real needs of the user, and the needs want, and motivations of the site visitors. The content design process helps to make good sense of the problem and assists the outcome before going straight into the solution.
Content Design Process
The content design process consists of alignment, research, strategy, ideation, execution, and iterations.
The content design process begins with the alignment or the kick-off. In this phase, a thorough understanding of the client’s needs is done through a stakeholders’ questionnaire. Content designers, UX designers, and developers understand the purpose, constraint, and objective of the project to decide the scope and guide research in the next step.
The research or discovery phase is the most crucial part of the content design process. This phase is all about conducting a thorough research roadmap, getting a grasp of target users, finding a connection between the two, and synthesising the research. The research phase helps to uncover the problem statement and the underlying needs of the problem statement.
Research can be conducted in the form of workshops, usability research, content audit, desk research, expert research as well as any other form of qualitative and quantitative research where there is adequate data and evidence of what people want, need, and expect from a product.
After going through the alignment and research phase, a strategy document is created. This document contains all the details that will help towards designing the product, keeping in mind the business goals and users’ needs.
Putting together a strategy document guides and proofs the entire product design and development. It ensures that the end product has a human touch to it. It ensures the outcome and helps to build a product that people are comfortable interacting with, irrespective of the communication channel they choose to opt for. Some of the key steps in the content design strategy phase are -
1. Understanding user needs and mapping user journeys
Content designers create content strategies for a brand in a way best suited to serve users. The user journey provides a detailed view of where the communication with the user needs to take place. Every individual touch-point on the user journey requires some form of content to help the user meet their requirements.
Figuring out user needs includes not just having an idea of who the users are but also understanding how they behave. This is formalised with the data from the research stage. In this stage, we try to understand the problems and work towards solving them same. The idea is not to simply increase the overall traffic of a page. Instead, it is to ensure successful long-lasting design and interactions with people.
The user journey on the other hand shows the user’s relationship with a brand or product, over a period of time and across various communication channels. This usually consists of all the steps that the user follows when communicating with the product. User journeys can either be B2B (business to business), B2C (business to consumer), or as Larry Ellison reiterated — the future of the enterprise depends on humanizing the customer and employee experience. Human capital management and customer service are the foundation of a successful modern enterprise. That future is not “B2C” or “B2B.” It’s B2H (Business to human).
2. Information architecture and navigation mapping
When information regarding an app/product is given too early/late, it leads to frustration for the user and makes them leave the interaction midway. Thus, understanding audience needs and when they have those needs can be a crucial differentiating factor between failure and success of the content created.
Identification of the content and its functionality through research synthesis and defining the relationship between the website’s content and usability. Information architecture and navigation plans help to identify how users would find information seamlessly and increase the possibility of encouraging them to take desirable actions.
It helps them to set their workflow, priorities, and language requirements in order.
3. Strategising for emotions, tone, and voice
Emotions are crucial to the shaping of content design strategy. Emotion is the layer that comes before setting ups the tone and voice. It is used to create informed and each word with rationale for the user to interact with, and helps right till the end of their product usage journey. Emotions are crucial to content design because voice changes according to the mood of people. Thus, it is important to figure out what concerns users might have when interacting with a product and that’s exactly what this part of the content design strategy addresses.
The tone and voice understood by users are of utmost importance in content design. The simple reason behind this is that it helps users trust and connect with us. Users are bound to abandon a product/app when the words used in it don’t align with their sentiments.
The language and design put together by writers and content designers aren’t for machines. Instead, they’re designed keeping in mind the people who sit behind those machines. The tone and voice used to define a well-designed product must be reflective of the user’s vocabulary and changing user mindsets. Opting for conversational design helps put together the right content, at the right place and time and in the right order.
After content design strategy and putting together all the necessary insights about the users and their needs, comes the execution stage. The fundamental principle here is the needs of the user. Then comes the format of the content. Both the writing as well as structuring hold equal importance in content design.
Content designers don’t work in isolation and content design isn’t simply writing. Instead, it is a collaborative venture between multiple teams to figure out the best possible solutions for end-users, ensuring their needs are looked into. Thus, content designers work together with researchers, UX designers, engineers, and product owners to execute the best possible solution hence, words.
Sharing and feedback
One of the most important steps to content designing is gaining feedback through a crit (short for content critique). It is the phase where all that’s been worked on is shared for honest feedback. Performing a crit helps gain newer insights that enable to work on the piece of content and make it even better. Crit is invaluable for reminding the content designer why the content would work and to understand whether the solution is in sync with the strategy.
Although most often people feel nervous and uncomfortable getting feedback for the work done, it is a necessary step in creating the best possible content. Content designers should keep this process polite and make sure to offer a possible solution to the problem being addressed in the feedback.
Post feedback stage, necessary changes if any, are made and that’s what leads to the final step of content design — Iteration.
Content is never fully done. It is necessary to check whether the requirements for a piece of content are met, to ensure success. Content designers are constantly iterating to see whether something is clicking with the user. Iteration helps to review content strategies and delete information that isn’t satisfying user needs.
By keeping a track of how content design is doing after publishing and setting live, necessary adjustments as is deemed fit, are made. Taking in feedback from stakeholders and users not just helps to make the content design better but also improves the overall experience of the user, when interacting with it.
The content design process is really useful in creating content that people truly need and use. It Includes UX writing, content strategy, and content communication. For any work that requires understanding the user and putting their needs into content that is relatable and easy to use, the content design comes in handy.
The content design process ensures easy experiences for users and is an absolute necessity in today’s digital world. With brands working hard to provide easy interactions following a content design process enhances the overall user experience, helps to achieve business goals, and creates long-lasting design solutions.