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Content designers create patterns of content to guide the user and help them achieve their goal.
Ways of working
Content design is not copy writing. It may not even be about writing a lot of words. It’s a way of working that starts with the problem you need to resolve for users.
Work with others to understand the problem you need to address on behalf of the user. Other people in your team may already be doing that.
A content person comes in many guises and you may not be a part of the multidisciplinary product team. While you're gathering evidence about the user, try to build relationships across that product team.
Sprint cadence or workflow
In your team there may already be a sprint cadence that includes content design. Become familiar with agile practices such as the Kanban wall, daily stand ups and sprint planning. Understand the user journey and their needs. Get involved in usability testing sessions and iteration.
Otherwise, the content workflow may be separate from the product team. At the very least, make sure the team has real content to use, when they’re building a prototype. Also ensure your team uses real content when it does usability testing. Attend playbacks from this testing, to know how your content needs to change.
As well as designing the user experience with product team members, a content designer works to know the facts with subject matter experts.
Your aim from the outset is to simplify everything for the user. Your main task will be to set up a clear path for them to achieve their goal.
Start with a user story. You should create one for each piece of content, from user research. If you’re part of a multidisciplinary product team, everyone is likely to be using them as you design and build.
A user story will help you to pinpoint the user need from the outset. It puts the user front-of-mind and gives you a focus when designing and writing the content.
Next, create a structure for your page, based on the user story. Write up meaningful H2 headers to serve as signposts to help the user do what they need to do.
Working with subject matter experts
Share your way of working with your subject matter experts – in person if possible.
They're a great way of introducing your approach to a subject matter expert, which may be completely foreign to them. It will show them how you're focusing on the user, and what you're trying to solve. Ask them for feedback. Find out if there’s anything missing and if you’re on the right track.
You may have come to content design from a variety of backgrounds – such as communications, marketing, web editing, copywriting, technical writing, journalism.
Content designers need to know the basics of good readability. They’re aware how readers scan content. There’s a skill involved in improving content for ease of use. They will know how to create signposts for users, mix up the length of sentences and use active language. They work hard to make the meaning succinct and clear.
Plain language tool
Learn more about writing clear, concise, organised, and appropriate content for your intended audience using plain language tools.
Content design for transactions
As a content designer, your task is to get the user from A to B in the transaction.
When designing content for transactions:
- minimise the user’s chance of error
- maximise collaborative teamwork
- balance business and user needs.
In this guide we’ve used Service NSW examples.
The landing page explains the entire transaction to a user. It serves as the front door.
By having a clear guide at the start, users know where they can return to for more information, or to start again.
The start of the transaction gives the user a map – the steps to take, and what to expect afterwards. The purpose of the landing page is to give the user context. It will display on the agency site that leads to the transaction.
The user arrives at this page when they’re looking to do a transaction. They’re likely to arrive via a Google search or email link. A user should be able to find what they need to know about the transaction, and how to complete it.
The purpose of signposting the steps is to reduce the user’s chance of error. This helps the user move through the transaction with ease. The user can scan what they need to do so they can complete their task.