What content designers do when they’re not writing

August 13, 2018 by No Comments | Category Content Design

This post was inspired by Leisa Reichelt’s excellent summary of what user researchers do when they’re not researching.

Content designers:

  • work as part of cross-functional service teams in the Scottish Government
  • support public sector colleagues who are designing new services, or improving existing ones
  • create and maintain content on

People who haven’t worked with content designers before often assume that we a) only get involved towards the end of projects, and b) spend all our time writing.

But content design’s not just about putting words on the page. As well as finding the right formats, keywords and tools, we’re involved at all stages of the content lifecycle.

The main thing we do is translate users’ needs into clear, simple, accurate and accessible content that’s easy for them to find. But to be able to do that, we have to understand what these needs are, and advocate for them throughout the different phases of a project.

Here are just a few of the things we do when we’re not writing:

We work with service teams

  • Help interaction designers, developers, user researchers, service designers and policy professionals understand the content challenges users face, such as accessibility or readability issues
  • Create content and prototypes to support user testing
  • Work with product owners, performance analysts and developers to make sure the tools and platforms we use meet publishers’ needs

We research

  • Observe user research, review research and consultations, analyse data and feedback, look at the questions users are asking online and check the search terms users are typing into search engines to find out what users’ needs are
  • Look at current digital services and carry out audits of existing content to see how it’s performing
  • Carry out gap analysis to see if there’s content that users need, but doesn’t exist
  • Create stakeholder maps so we know who needs to be involved in the work
  • Create journey maps so we know how to structure content in the best way for users

We plan

  • Develop content strategies so content’s planned, delivered, governed and maintained in a consistent and agreed way
  • Draw up content plans with stakeholders that detail the user need for each piece of content

We share what we’ve learnt

  • Write blog posts, about the work we’ve been involved in
  • Put together and deliver presentations, workshops and show and tells about our projects, and the insights we’ve gained from events we’ve attended, like ConCon7
  • We run Community of Practice events for content designers in the Scottish Government and the Scottish public sector

We check how content’s performing and improve it

  • Make revisions and factual amendments so content’s relevant and up-to-date
  • Analyse site analytics and on-page feedback and use our findings to decide if changes need to be made
  • Carry out usability testing to see if users understand our content
  • Review language and readability to make sure our content’s accessible

We take part in Digital First Service Standard Assessments

  • Prepare by reading relevant material about the service, and meeting with content designers from the service team to find out how they made their content design decisions
  • Meet with delivery teams to agree roles and responsibilities, how they’ll share information about their work, and what structure their presentation will take
  • Assess what the team has done to take user needs into account, and make sure their content is accessible
  • Write contributions for the assessment report

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