What Everybody Ought to Know About Content and UX Design

The crucial role of content in design

At the heart of any great digital experience is remarkable content. Yet, we often see our clients struggle to understand and plan for the central role that content will play in the experiences they are providing to their customers.

Content is the journey

The first consideration is that content is a major part of the journey.

“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.” – Jeffrey Zeldman.

Users come to digital environments to get information, to complete tasks, or to be entertained. Content is paramount to meeting those needs.

When we talk about designing content first, we are honouring the idea that the content itself is the raw material we are shaping into an experience. The digital channel may be one of several platforms for content, like a riverbed on which the water flows.

Understand the effort

Underestimating the effort it takes to produce and manage content for a digital experience is a common struggle we’ve seen in our work with clients.

Some of the things to think about when designing a website or digital experience are:

  • Who will be responsible for creating content?
  • How much time and budget needs to be allocated to content management and production on an ongoing basis?
  • When and by whom will content be updated and managed?

Design with real content

If page templates are designed with the expectation they will be populated with content closer to launch, the risk is in having the design “break” when actual content is input. We recommend designing based on real content. If this is not possible, using directional content which is as close to the final content as possible can be a good tactic. This might mean using existing material, or someone on the design team writing placeholder content. This practice can inform design decisions throughout the process. Content should never be an afterthought, as this leads to poor experiences.

Avoid using Lorem Ipsum at all costs! “Greek” text, a long-time staple of the print design process, simply does not provide the insights needed for how the design will perform when the content is ready – especially in a responsive design context. Typical pitfalls include underestimating line lengths and the need for text wrapping of headlines or other copy.

Flexible, scalable, web ready content

“Get your content ready to go anywhere because it’s going to go everywhere.” – Brad Frost

When creating content for digital platforms, there are some best practices to keep in mind. Creating content that is flexible enough to work across multiple platforms and screen sizes is not an easy feat but it is possible. Karen McGrane’s work on adaptive content is an excellent resource. Some best practices to keep in mind with digital content are:

  • Flexible, scalable

    content that will be usable regardless of the screen size it is viewed on.

  • Content parity

    across device and screen sizes.

  • Succinct

    , well written content that gets to the point.

  • Accessible

    content – alt tags for images, closed captioning for videos.

  • Digital rights

    – data protection, privacy – when creating content.

A match made in heaven

Great content and great experiences go hand in hand. In order to create compelling and engaging digital experiences, some upfront content strategy can go a long way. Having insight into the raw material that is the bedrock of the experience will help digital teams design and shape the best possible solutions.