8 things I’ve learned about content design

Hinrich von Haaren

1. Keep it simple!

Don’t believe anyone who says ‘it’s complicated’. Use fewer words, not more. It takes guts to keep things simple and it’s hard. Be brave and talk straightforward.

2. Content design is problem solving

Content designers help people turn information into action. Behind every piece of content should be a user action. Don’t take the emergency exit labelled ‘People just want to know this’ — they don’t.

3. Specific = helpful

Talk about one thing at a time and make the information unambiguous. Don’t make people interpret what you say. They are there to do something. Help them do it.

4. Content is an image

Think about how the information will look on the page. The first thing people see is an image made up of headlines, buttons, lists whatever… Pair up with designers, print everything out, cut it up, take a fresh look. It works!

5. Don’t be an expert

When we work on a topic for a long time we can slip into expert mode. That takes us away from the people we write for. I find it helps to explain things verbally to someone and then write them. We speak much plainer than we write.

6. Don’t write in a bubble

Always share with other people. Do pair writing and content crits. Do these early on in the process. Content is communication and you have to communicate to get it right.

7. Let it go — it will never be perfect

Content isn’t silver and endless polishing won’t make it better. Instead, get it out and iterate when you can.

8. Document how you do things

Make a note of how you write about things, what kind of language you use, how you use design elements. Do this as you go along in a project. You’ll be able to use this stuff again later. These are your content patterns.

Hinrich von Haaren

Written by

I write, I delete, I rewrite. Stuff like that.

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