5 things I learned from my first content crit
Just days into my role as a new content designer I faced a baptism of fire – my first content crit.
This meant the whole content design team – 10 of us – gathered to give frank feedback on my first content piece. No pressure!
I rise from the flames to share what I learned:
1. Crit is short for critique – not criticise
The first rule of content crit club is that you talk about content – constructively. The aim is to make the content as good as it can be.
I set up the content on a big screen and gave some background. The content was on Breastfeeding and your business. The user need was to make it as easy as possible for businesses to sign up to the Breastfeeding Friendly Scotland scheme.
We gathered around a table, discussed the content in sections and I took notes of some really helpful feedback.
If you’re not comfortable giving or receiving feedback in front of others a ‘silent’ crit can be another good way.
This works by printing the content out and sticking it to a wall in a large space. Instead of discussing the content, we put our feedback anonymously on post-its and stick it to the relevant bit of content.
2. The content crit rules
As I mentioned there are rules around content crits. We have posters around the office to remind us of them:
Talk about the work not the person
If you’re giving feedback don’t make it personal. Say things like ‘this could be’ instead of ‘you haven’t done this’.
Explain the reason for your feedback, clarify what you mean and give examples.
Don’t give personal opinions such as ‘I don’t like this’. Ask the person who wrote it if they’ve tried other ways.
Give some background
If you’re running the crit you’ll get better feedback on your work if people understand why you’ve done it. Explain who your users are, their needs and what you’re trying to achieve.
Tell people what you want feedback on
This will help them focus their feedback rather than make general comments.
Don’t talk too much
After you explain the background, let people review the content in their own time.
Take notes as you won’t remember what everyone has to say. Or ask someone else to take notes so you can focus on listening and understanding.
3. Many content heads are better than 1
‘Could we say stop instead of prevent?’
‘Would it be helpful to list contacts alphabetically?’
‘Could we use more inclusive language? It’s not just mums who breastfeed.’
I hadn’t thought of that.
That’s the brilliance of crits. It can be hard for 1 content designer to see every issue so it’s great to have a group of peers look at the content. Each bringing their own expertise.
Rachel, Senior Content Designer had been working on content around surrogacy so had lots of insight into using inclusive language. So instead of talking about ‘mums’ who breastfeed we agreed we should say ‘someone’ who breastfeeds. This then includes transgender parents and other caregivers.
4. Crits can help with user research
There’s no substitute for research with real users. In an ideal world we’d research every piece of content we publish. Sometimes that’s just not possible due to time and resource. In these situations crits can be particularly helpful.
As well as content designers we’re also citizens and users of Scottish Government services. We each bring our own views and experiences. I got really useful insight having 10 different people looking at the content from different angles.
5. It’s a good way to involve your stake-holders
I also got a free tip for future crits: invite your stakeholder. Hearing lots of people give the same feedback can help with tricky content.
It feels less about opinion and more like user centred content design.
It was daunting having my work critiqued by my new team. Thankfully everyone was both kind and constructive. As well as getting pointers on how to improve the content it also gave me reassurance I was on the right path.
In the end, it really wasn’t that bad. In fact, already looking forward to the next one…