The phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is aptly suited to the user experience. In digital design, the user experience is the whole and content is one of its parts. Without the right content cues, your audience may not know how to navigate through your site or find answers. The user experience is more than content, but content is vital to the outcome.
Connecting Content With the User Experience
Consider this: You walk into a restaurant to meet a friend for lunch. The server is late arriving to your table, the place setting is basic, and the harsh light from the overhanging lamp is glaring in the midday brightness. However, you and your friend have a wonderful conversation about life and you barely notice the background details when the check arrives. That conversation completely changed your lunch experience—and that’s what great content can do for any existing user experience.
By the same token, some environments are so distracting that they take away from the conversation. Maybe the restaurant was playing music so loud you couldn’t hear your friend or the waiter was late, the food was cold, and you were overcharged. Even if the conversation was amazing, you’ll walk away overwhelmed by the other bad experiences. To maintain a strong digital presence, you need the right balance between content and other UX factors (e.g. speed, learnability, and information architecture).
Where Does UX Matter for Content and Vice Versa?
Everywhere. You may not think about the navigational menu cues on your website or app as crucial content points, but they are. Something that frustrates me greatly is seeing repetitive formats on website drop-down menus with different click functionality. Let’s say you have a “Services” section at the top of your website. When a user hovers over the button with a mouse, individual services appear in a little row. Some websites allow you to click on “Services” for an overview, while others only allow users to click on individual sections. The problem? The non-clickable and clickable buttons look exactly the same. In this example, some simple color differentiation would fix this issue from a design perspective.
From a content perspective, what you write in a navigational cue matters. Does “About Us” make sense or does “Our Story” describe the content better? For some sections, diverging from the norm can be risky. “Contact Us” is a better choice than “Get in Touch” because websites have trained us to look for that phrase—typically in the upper right-hand side of the of page. The language you use to frame navigational cues and content is just as important as the content itself.
Aside from basic navigation, UX and content come together in headings, interactive forms, CTA buttons, content layouts, and anywhere else that features the written word. Not only does a website or app need to function well, but it also needs to easily steer users to the content they want to consume. And it should NEVER mislead users.
Design Professionals and Content Developers: A Match Made in UX Heaven
One of the largest business trends of the last few years is breaking down organizational barriers. Sustainability means finding new ways to use the resources you have, and the same is true for UX. Why are we still treating digital projects as if they run down a conveyor belt? For UX to shine, marketers, content developers, design engineers, and audience analysts need to engage with each other from the beginning. Communication is the key to great content and to UX, so don’t be afraid to blur the edges around job descriptions to get a better end result.
If you don’t already have a UX team, consider creating one that includes every professional who can add value to the project. Don’t simply reassign website developers to the role of UX—ask marketers, content writers, and client-facing professionals to add information from their viewpoints.
4 Tips for Optimizing Your Approach to Content and UX
If you’re redesigning a website, creating a new app, or optimizing existing digital assets, here are some tips for ensuring your content and UX are on the same page:
- Start with a strategy. Planning out your project strategy will reduce the risk of miscommunication and delays. Take some time to really think about the purpose of the project before you think about the process. Then, create a standardized process for the design and content development. Assign roles and give everyone affected a copy of the process for reference. Everyone has a different perspective of UX and content. For example, designers often think of content in terms of how the block of text will appear on the page, marketers think about SEO terms and accessibility, and content writers are focused on the message.
- Partner with the right content team. Whether you use an in-house or outside team of writers, make sure they understand project goals (the outcomes you expect to see), audience personas, and how the content will appear. Remember: content, like UX, is an ongoing process. Hire a team you trust to develop relevant content over time, and commit to a long-term strategy.
- Every written word matters. From the page URL to the fine print at the bottom of your page, avoid slapping words into a textbox just because it’s there. Keep all messages clear, concise, and well-placed. If you don’t have enough content to make 10 impactful pages, create four carefully written pages. Get the message across as quickly and effectively as possible to create an exceptional user experience.
Think: Is it direct? Is it accessible? Is it actionable?
- Measure the outcome. Testing and measurement support all digital activities. If you can’t see the effect of your work, then you don’t know how to gauge success. Decide on a set of KPIs to monitor, map user flows, and adjust your UX and content strategies along the way.
When UX professionals and content strategists collaborate, they can effectively target the right users with the right experience. Everyone wins.
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