In the marketing world, the word “content” is used a lot. Content marketing, content strategy, website content, blog content – it often becomes almost synonymous with “copy”, but those are two very different things.
Copy refers to the actual words that go on your website pages or make up blog posts.
Content, on the other hand, refers to everything contained within an asset and therefore is inclusive of both copy and all elements of design, such as videos and imagery.
Why Are We Even Talking About Aligning Content and Design?
It may seem obvious that two critical marketing departments would have to collaborate to ensure an effective final product, and for years these two functions have been doing just that. And the way digital technology is evolving has only emphasized the importance of establishing alignment between content and design.
Content is About More Than Content
Every brand is doing some form of content marketing today, which has put pressure on companies to churn out blog posts, email newsletters, thought leadership pieces or videos and podcasts, all with the goal of increasing searchability and driving traffic. As a content strategist, I think this mindset is great – with one caveat. Brands must ensure that content isn’t just quality (i.e. it provides relevant information to the right audiences in the right way) but that it delivers a great user experience.
Bad content won’t deliver a great user experience (or even a good one), but even excellent content won’t do your brand any favors if the user experience around that content is poor.
We often get clients who are looking for content strategies, but the first thing we do when we get this request is to audit their website to see how that content strategy would be applied from a user experience perspective. If your website is hard to navigate, slow to load or includes broken links or confusing labeling, implementing any type of new content is like putting a band-aid on a broken arm–it’ll be visible, but it won’t help.
Content is About the User
The trend toward cleaner designs with more white space and a minimal amount of copy is great from a UX perspective, but poor from a search engine optimization perspective – unless it’s done right.
The first thing content strategists and UX designers should discuss is the user themselves.
At Fishnet, we say, “give them what they want.” The final product is for the user, after all. You should fully understand your user persona: what information do they care about? What is the primary action they want to take when they get to your site? How do they like to get content – some users in your target audience might really like white papers, while others gravitate toward highly-visual information like videos or infographic-type content.
Build the user experience for the user, and the content and design will come together to complement what that experience should be.
Changes in User Behavior Require a Collaboration of Content Strategy and UX
User behavior has changed drastically as technology has evolved, specifically for mobile.
People use their phones for everything. They want the most important information, but they want it quickly and in a way that is simple to understand and act upon.
UX Magazine sums up this preference by saying that reading has been replaced with skimming, and skimming has been replaced with glancing. This news isn’t shocking – we all do it. So how should brands respond? The collaboration between content and UX becomes critical when considering these behavior trends.
UX and content together influence behavior.
Many B2B websites for e-commerce really have to focus on how content and design work together because of both the quantity of information the site needs to contain and the various actions different users will want to take on the site. Grainger, which sells industrial supplies and safety products, consistently is ranked as one of the best B2B e-commerce sites. It helps users easily search for and find the items they’re looking for, and relevant information about that item. Users who move to purchase can act on a buying decision easily. Without a combination of UX design and content strategy, this experience would be much different and you (the customer) would likely lose interest and move on.
UX and content together reinforce an idea.
The user experience isn’t just important for e-commerce. Imagine you’re looking into attending an event. An event webpage with a good user experience would contain important event information in an easily-navigable way, with visuals to not only illustrate the experience but help guide you through to purchasing tickets or signing up. We recently launched this event page for MIT’s AI and the Future of Work Congress. You can see how the combination of design and content draws users in and helps reaffirm their desire to attend.
UX and content together tell a better story.
If your brand has a unique story to tell, content and UX design can help you make a big impact with your audience. Apple, even though it has massive brand recognition, still offers a great website experience with bold visuals and minimal content, so users become immersed in the products and the aspirational world of Apple. Not every brand can get away with such minimal content, but when UX design is applied to content strategy, the brand story can come alive. Medline is a B2B medical supplier whose website tells a compelling story about the brand and its connection to the customer while offering a simple, efficient and user-friendly site experience.
User demands are high, and they should be. If people can’t get what they want with your brand, it’s not difficult for them to find it elsewhere. To attract leads, convert leads, and increase brand loyalty, the quality of your content needs to be high, but the quality of the experience around it needs to be high as well.
Increase your brand’s performance with a website that offers effective content and a great user experience. Contact us today.