Hello, I’m Joanne, a new Content Designer at Co-op. I’m one of 3 new content designers who’ve recently joined CoopDigital’s design team. The team has a range of experience and skills from user research to interaction design. We’ve been recruited from both within and outside Co-op to build transformational, user-focused digital services.
Content design might be new to you. So, here’s what it is, how it’ll change what we put on Co-op’s website and why it’s essential for the future of the business.
What is content design?
Content design isn’t just writing and editing words.
Content design is discovering why someone has come to our website or web page – what they came to do, find out, order – then exploring the quickest, easiest, simplest way to allow them to do that.
Content design gives essential content only at the point that it’s relevant and through the most effective channel. That means we must understand the whole service – all the steps the user goes through to get their task done – to determine the most effective place to give the user information.
So, content designers will ask ‘why?’. A lot.
Why we need to design content
The internet has given customers power. Expectations are raised. People expect online services to be easy and straight-forward. If we don’t serve customers well, we’ll disappoint them, frustrate them, lose their trust, and consequently their business.The future of Co-op relies on knowing our users and making services that will make their lives simpler.
It’s impossible to have good services without good content design. Getting information to people when they need it, how they need it and in a way that they understand, is critical. Content is the service.
So, we research our services with real users. We’re building services that we’re proud of, that are revolutionary, but more importantly, are built with the user at the centre.
Words get in the way
Users interact with web content in a different way to print. They’re impatient. They’re usually on a mobile device and time-poor. So they skim-read, looking for headings and links that will help them get to where they need to be. 75% of each web page isn’t read. We need to edit content to a bare minimum and get out of the way, so the user can get where they need, fast.
Web content should only exist if we know that there’s a need for it to be there. People generally don’t want to spend much time on a company’s website. They usually know why they’re there and what they want to do. We need to make this easy. If we can’t explain what content is helping our users do, it shouldn’t be on our site.
And all content should be meaningful, written using words we know our users use and understand. This might not be what we call things internally. Each word is competing for our users attention – we need to make each one count.
Designing for all
We can’t control who views our website. We can’t assume any prior knowledge of the subject we write about, the user’s web experience or their personal circumstance.
By writing in a consistently clear, simple, honest way we open up our services to all. The average reading age in the UK is 9 years old, and many users have English as a second language. We should write in a clear way, get rid of jargon and service-specific terminology, be friendly but to the point. We shouldn’t be afraid to be obvious. If we’re not we’ll create a barrier between us and our users. And they’ll go elsewhere.
Designing with empathy
Each user comes to our site with their own story, situation, insecurities and struggles. What we think may be a simple field in a form could have emotional triggers for our users. What if someone is asked to enter their ‘home address’ and they’re homeless or in a safe house? Insensitivity can not just lose customers, but can upset and offend.
Regular user research with a diverse range of users will help us design empathetic services for everyone. And nothing underpins Co-op’s values more so than inclusive, honest, transparent design that puts users at the heart of the business and in control of Co-op services and products.