A while back, Edgar Allan declared that its writers would now and forever be known Content Designers. It’s been game-changing for our work and for our clients. But we can’t deny that content design is a pretty hot term being thrown around in digital experience circles, and some folks might be a little skeptical. We’ve got you.
A few things we’ve heard in the past few years that we’ll answer today:
To start, while you’re likely to hear about content design in connection with app and platform development, it’s not the only place the mindset and methodology can be valuable.
Apps are perfect, pure content design projects. Every word is crafted to lead a user from one decision point to the next to achieve a specific goal: learn something, create a thing, monitor a system, play a game…the list goes on. So it’s natural that an audience-focused discipline like content design would fit well to create experiences with a high usefulness quotient.
But who said your website shouldn’t be useful?
Really, that’s pretty much all you should be going for. Whether that usefulness is as simple as helping clients validate that yes, you are indeed a legitimate business, to as complex as selling a product on the site, the days of me-centered brochure-ware websites are over. (Well, we hope they are. We’re doing our part to aid in their extinction.)
The audience-focused, info-first, user-centric principles of content design are vital to creating useful experiences anywhere someone needs to find and consume information or accomplish a goal — answer a question, sign up for a newsletter, purchase a subscription. That means great content design is as valuable on the typical URL as it is when the medium is downloaded from the app store. And it doesn’t stop there: How are your internal communications going over? Marketing emails? Inbound offerings? Your PTA newsletter: is that sparking a bunch of enthusiastic engagement? Content design is useful everywhere.
I’d say first that you need a solid brand strategy before even considering creating a web experience. Once you’ve got that, you’ll want to make sure all that good thinking, messaging, and audience insight makes it to your website, where it can be even more useful to your customers, helping them solve problems and buy your products.
That however, doesn’t happen by magic. Simply having a brand strategy doesn’t mean it will be well-applied to your digital experiences. But content design can help. The principles of content design demand that we consider a bigger picture — and a clearer “why” — when creating content than “because we said so.” That begins with considering your audience’s expectations, wants and goals (Do they really want to know this? How would they say this thing? Where would they be looking for this piece of information?) and leveraging the story, emotional connection, and context at the foundation of your brand to make sure what you’re saying and doing rings true.
At Edgar Allan, Content Designers are brand gatekeepers and work as the glue to hold an experience together visually, verbally and journey- or story-wise. So all the work you’ve done to differentiate your brand will work to your advantage all the way through from big idea to execution.
Your website should serve a clear purpose in your marketing strategy. (If it doesn’t, why are you spending money and time creating it?) That purpose is a triangulation of your company’s goals and your audience’s. Every brand site is different. You may need to create trust. Prove a point. Introduce a new idea into the world. Change minds. Explain and sell a service. Working backward from that purpose to the words, visuals, interactions, and journey that will get people — your audience — to take action or fulfill those goals is much of the work of content design.
Content designers are master-wordsmiths, deep-dive researchers, and multi-talented collaborators. They conduct research that discovers and breaks down audience needs to their roots. They consume and apply brand insight to connect with audiences. They work closely with UX designers and visual designers to determine not just the “what” of language on a page, but where, why, and how your site’s entire experience tells a story and meets audience needs. At Edgar Allan, they work from start to finish in a project, and are the keepers of the keys of story, site strategy and polish. And their main job is to ensure that the people who need to use your website to accomplish something can do it easily, making the business outcome more than worth the investment.
Content design as a practice isn’t really anything new. Smart content creators and strategists have been doing this work inherently for a long time. But, thanks to the work of Content Design London and various UX writing groups, we’re in the era of the content designer. It’s hot. It’s catchy sounding. It’s a great way to convey in two words that content is design. What it’s not is just a marketing ploy.
Done well, content design is a truly useful way to consider the most important entities in creating your website: your audiences. Work with a Webflow agency or other type of digital agency that operates with a content design mindset. It’s worth it.
Edgar Allan is a brand- and content-focused Webflow agency. Check out our blog to learn more about how we use Webflow to create awesome sites, plus more about our brand and project management strategy.