Beyond words: Using content strategy for better UX

We know an important part of creating a great user experience is getting the right information to the right person, at the right time. And a clear content strategy provides the framework to make this happen. But did you know that content strategy can help with more than words? It can embed empathy into your service, architect content systems that will deliver the experience you design and build robust teams with the right skills to sustain digital products.

In this session, Sally will share some practical advice about other ways a content strategist can help with your projects, plus give you tips on incorporating content strategy into your own UX toolkit.

Sally Bagshaw – Beyond words: using content strategy for better UX

So what do you think of when Sally says the word “content”?

Most people think immediately of the words, or more to the point what’s going to replace the lorem ipsum.

<insert content here>

The problem is that the words tend to come at the end of the project, after all the research and design has been done.

(Does everyone recognise this..? the red content strategy book)

Sally will be looking at…

  • empathy
  • content systems
  • teams

Empathetic content – content in the right tone that people can read and understand. Content is deeply emotional. You will be experiencing emotions when you consume content… the content can make you feel excited, or terrified, or confident. While it seems obvious, you have to make the content readable – meaning it has to be clearly understandable in context.

Bad example – a letter from a life insurance company explaining they would not be paying benefits. It’s full of jargon and has a very cold tone, out of step with the context of someone who has just gone through a bereavement. There’s no empathy whatsoever and that’s something we can work together to avoid.

So where to start? Embed content questions from the beginning of the project. Understand how people are feeling when they are dealing with the content.

A simple worksheet to help can ask:

  • intent – why is someone reading/view/listening to this content?
  • emotion – how are they feeling?
  • tone – what tone is correct

Useful tools:

  • You can use Hemingway to get a rough score of readability. It’s not perfect but it’s a great sanity check.
  • You can assess whether people understand it with a cloze test, where you take a chunk of text, remove key words and ask people to fill in the blanks. If they can fill it in with a reasonable level of accuracy, the text is understandable.
  • alexjs.com can remove biased language

Content systems – infrastructure that enables people to use content the way they want. Content management at scale is very complex, but the users don’t care – they just want consistent, clear information.

You can start by looking at a content model. A great example to understand this concept is to analyse a recipe, as it has a clear and familiar structure.

In content systems we care about metadata as well as the visible data. Tags are great in content systems, so long as you have a really strong taxonomy. They tie in to things like calls to action, so they cross over with component systems.

Great teams come from processes and culture that enable smart content decisions.

People are the hardest part of the system – people are messy, they care, they have opinions about things. Teams are super important to the content process.

If you have a large content and transformation project, consider…

  • how it impacts roles and responsibilities
  • approvals and workflows
  • training and skills development
  • recruitment and team structure (any new roles required? changes to PDs?)
  • community of practice

A common gotcha is agile project teams handing over to traditional teams for BAU. How do you equip them to use processes designed around an agile mindset, with iteration cycles?

In your next project, think about:

  • editorial (as normal)
  • empathy
  • content systems
  • teams

Peope are at the heart of what we do. They use the content, they create the content. Let’s make sure they are better equipped to do so, because that’s good UX!

@snappysentences | slides | speaker notes