What is a content designer, and how could using one benefit your business?

Our senior content designer Florence Buswell explains why her job is so important…

If you work anywhere where content is important, you can’t have failed to notice the idea of content design snowballing faster than a LinkedIn poll about work-life balance. But if you’re confused about what it actually means and when you’d actually use one, you’re not alone.

What is content design?

In a nutshell, content design is a way of writing that’s informed by data and insights.

What does that actually mean?

If you’ve ever been on a website and thought how easy it was to do what you needed — whether that’s find information, book something, buy a product, you name it — a content designer’s sticky little paws have likely been all over it. We work hard to understand what users want, and rarely start writing without researching why we should, which is where the data and insights come in.

We want to know what motivates someone to come to your website, what information they want, what turns them off completely — each of these forms a block that builds the whole picture to help us create something that answers your user needs.

How do you know if a content designer is right for your project?

Have you got a problem?

I mean that less aggressively than it sounds. One of the key things all my content design clients have had in common is that they’ve had a problem they want to fix. Some of those are bigger problems — they want to get more people using their products or services, or are struggling to get cut-through in a busy market. Some of them are smaller — users aren’t completing desirable online journeys, or there are pages cannibalising the stronger efforts of other ones. All of them are problems that the skills of a content designer could help answer.

How should your team work with a content designer?

The biggest piece of advice I would give anyone looking for a content designer (or indeed any content discipline) is to bring us in EARLY. Nothing will make a content designer’s eyes roll further back into their head than designs covered in Lorem Ipsum. Copy isn’t an afterthought — it’s pivotal. How we write and present information can make the difference between someone using your product or not.

Getting good content design right also takes time; it’s not about stringing sentences together. Remember what I mentioned earlier about user needs. A good content designer will help you discover where you should be putting your content, in what format, in the way your users want and expect it. That close attention to a user’s behaviour, really burrowing into what words are going to land — it’s not easy.

Can I give you an example?

I remember for one of my most memorable clients I wrote a total of five pages for them over a six-month contract. No, I wasn’t being lazy. Each page answered the exact complex problem people needed, and the team and I worked hard to make sure this happened. Most importantly, perhaps, was that the company we worked for understood that it would take time to make it happen too. These pages are still top of Google for these popular search terms now, years later.

Where can you learn more?

There are two websites I still use now as resources that articulately demonstrate what content design is.

The first is GOV.UK — https://www.gov.uk/guidance/content-design

The second is Sarah Richards’ content design website — you can read more about her approach here (https://contentdesign.london/content-design/what-is-content-design/ )

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