Dimitris Glezos

We Need to View Content as an Inseparable Part of Website UX

When it comes to website design, content is often an afterthought. Designers often insert their own dummy text throughout a website during the design process – on everything from product descriptions to CTA buttons – to act as placeholders for the actual content. The site is only passed off to the content or marketing team after the designs are finalized, and in some organizations, only after the page has been fully built out.

While this process can result in a functional website, more often than not, there is a disconnect between design and content that creates an unnecessarily complicated flow for the user; an experience that companies (should) always want to avoid. Today’s post shares why this sequence is being used for website creation and why we might want to take a step back and look at design and content as a unified step in the overall process.

How did we get here?

It was just a few years ago that organizations, both small and large, started placing more emphasis on acquiring customers through robust content engagement. There are a number of reasons for this shift in marketing with the most notable being changes to Google’s search algorithm to rank content based on its value for the end user as opposed to keyword density; HubSpot was an early proof-point that a business could succeed by following this approach, and their co-founder, Brian Halligan, coined the term “inbound marketing” to describe the technique of using content to attract customers to a brand online.

As this revolution in the digital marketing world began surfacing and reaffirming the concept that digital content is not only king, it has the potential to move customers through the sales funnel, many designers (although certainly not all) stayed true to the mindset “if we build it, customers will come”. This is where friction between content and design emerged, resulting in a poor online experience for users.

Let’s look at an example. Say a target user doesn’t enter into the right buying flow on your website. When content and design aren’t properly integrated, you’re left asking, is it because the design made the path too hard to find? Or was it that the user saw the path, but the content didn’t match their expectations or offer the right value proposition to prompt them to take that path?

How should we think about content?

In order to get behind the concept of integrating design with content creation, we need to redefine how we look at the term content. Content isn’t just stuff we write to rank highly in search engines or longform articles that describe products or services, content is anything that communicates a message to your audience. Your product descriptions, call-to-action buttons, infographics, photos throughout your website, and product or informational videos – it’s all content.

Organizations that use their website to successfully engage with customers understand that content isn’t a separate line item or deliverable, it’s an invaluable piece of the overall user experience.

Why is it important to merge content with UX?

Today, the average customer simply expects more. Compared to past generations, customers have more options for buying and they’re more informed decision makers thanks to the never-ending stream of information and customer reviews that can be found on the internet. This often causes the average customer’s expectations to be much higher despite having a shorter attention span for marketing and sales tactics.

Wanting the best of the best coupled with a highly competitive online marketplace makes it more important than ever for your website to speak to customers at the right time, gently guiding them through the proper flow and sales funnel. And the only way to achieve this smooth customer experience is for content to merge with design. It becomes critical for teams across your organization to understand how content can communicate and match user expectations. When users feel that an interface maps to them, they feel a sense of trust knowing that your company understands their needs and has a solution, making the entire interface and experience more successful while strongly influencing a purchase decision.

What can we do to make content and UX more integrated?

Every organization will have their own ideas for how to create the right workflow between content writers and designers, but here are a few tips:

  • Get everyone on the same page. For organizations with content and design teams working independently of one another, a kickoff meeting can get everyone on the same page, making sure the end goal of creating or redesigning the website is clear. Topics to discuss include target personas and content pieces like videos or whitepapers that can be great assets for conversion. Writers should also share which pages they’d like the copy to appear on and how much of it there will be so designers can weigh in on whether or not such plans are feasible within the design they’re thinking of.
  • Say goodbye to “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet”. Whether you’re a designer, content writer, or anyone in between, you’re familiar with the sentence that begins with “lorem ipsum” (heck, it might end with lorem ipsum) that is used as filler content. Substitute this with proto-content as early in the design process as possible to ensure that design and content communicate the right story to the user. Even if the proto-content isn’t finalized, the value or expectations that the content is going to communicate will remain the same.
  • Set regular reviews and don’t be afraid to make changes. Content and design should never be set in stone. The teams working on a website creation or redesign project will want to set regular reviews to ensure that the site’s pages are completed in parallel, not independent of one another. Once a page or series of pages is completed, discussing whether or not the page(s) communicated the right story for the customer can determine if the teams can move forward with the other sections of the website.

Ok, content and UX are integrated.
What happens if we translate content?

For global organizations, translated content should provide multilingual users with the same great user experience. And while there are many ways to localize content for different locales, there’s one commonality across all localization workflows: using professional translators in some capacity – either for the actual translations or in the review phase.

Professional translators have the skills and experience to translate your content, not word-for-word, but with cultural sensitivities in mind. With the right translator or team of translators, you can ensure that your website content, design, and interface maintain the same power and influence for the translated version(s) of your website(s).

And if you’re one of the many companies that uses WordPress to publish website content, there are also tools available, like Transifex Live and its companion WordPress Translation Plugin, that allow you or your translators to translate in-context. From a UX perspective, this helps ensure that translations fit within your site’s overall design and provide the experience that was originally intended.

So why do we need to view content as an inseparable part of UX?

By supporting user needs with your website’s content and design, you can achieve just about any business goal whether it’s to educate people or bring them together around a common interest or to motivate them to take action or change buying habits and behaviors. And with the best writers sharing many of the same values as UX designers – empathy for users, a passion for clarity and consistency, and a deep understanding of user needs – getting your teams on the same page might be easier than you think!

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