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You might not always think of it this way, but any experience you design will be a story.

It’ll be a sequence of connected events with their own cadence, logic and meaning — a series of emotional moments of varying value to your users. And as a designer, you’ll want some moments to be seamless and forgettable, others more beautiful and memorable.

But to create good stories, it helps to get away from wireframes and pick up a pen — think more like a writer.

You can uncover interactions that you might not have considered if you think less about screens and more about narrative: What’s the overall goal here, how would you start the story, what are the key moments, how do you want users to feel, what might they want to do next?

I’ve been working on my portfolio website recently — trying to distil large projects into succinct case studies. In a way it’s been a test of good content design in itself!

Something I realised when I was getting this stuff down on paper was there are a few things I tend to do consistently when working on projects, be it a new app or service, or a large content-heavy website.

I thought I’d share them here because a lot of the tips and ideas I’ve found previously for my work have been from scrappy, ad-hoc, stream-of-consciousness blog posts like this one! …

A few weeks ago I was applying to work on a project and in addition to my usual pitch I sent the client a rather self-agrandising summary of ‘my current design principles’.

So pretentious! It makes me cringe.. 🙈

I don’t think it was a particularly good idea either, because it kind of needlessly limited my scope as a designer to a handful of soundbites.

Alas, I thought at least it might make the basis for a useful checklist for anyone who’s getting into UX Writing or content design.

Here it is.

Speak directly, cut out superfluous text

I think it’s a good idea to constantly interrogate your content, ask yourself ‘what can I remove?’ And keep asking yourself this. Over and over again. …

Content Design and UX Writing are becoming more commonplace, and teams are increasingly using content professionals to make their apps and websites better — but that’s not the whole story.

One thing that I think can go unnoticed when a company thinks about hiring a UX Writer or Content Designer is the tacit training and capacity building that these specialists do on a day to day basis, simply by doing their job.

Here are some ways a bunch of us Content Designers added value at the Education and Skills Funding Agency. …

Is there anything worse than Lorem Ipsum?

I was in a user research session recently and it convinced me that Lorem Ipsum should be outlawed.

User after user were flying through the screens we were testing until they hit upon a gobbledygook Latin brick wall. It was a part of the site that hadn’t yet been properly designed, but users didn’t know that, and it just freaked them out.

“I don’t understand this part,” said one user. “What does this say?” asked another.

Some users clicked back to see if there was something they had misunderstood on previous pages. …

Is there any point in blogging?

Don’t get me wrong, blogs are great if you want to see oil portraiture of ugly renaissance babies or Kim Jong Il photoshopped unconvincingly onto North Korean civil engineering projects.

But I’ve found in software development, people tend to roll their eyes and ask, 'blogging? what’s the point?'

Personally, I think blogging - saying whatever you want online - is one of the most narcissistic things you can do. But I think there is a point to it. Here’s why.

Tell me how that made you feel

When talking about publishing, it’s received wisdom to think of your readership first: before you do anything think of who you’re writing for. Now I don’t think that’s the case with blogging, or at least, you can get a lot more out of blogging if you let go of that idea. …

This post originally appeared on GOV.UK

At Defra, we’ve been redesigning all our guidance on GOV.UK so it better meets user needs.

We’re now starting to do ‘usability testing’ to see how people use our new content so we can see where we should make further improvements.

Some of the team will be doing usability testing for the first time, so it was great to get to hear world-renowned usability testing expert Steve Krug talk at a recent GDS event. …

This post originally appeared on GOV.UK

A few of us Defra content designers recently went to the government content design community’s first conference, at Impact Hub Westminster.

There were 150 of us. We swapped ideas and shared our gripes. We drank tea and ate biscuits (really nice biscuits).

One thing became immediately obvious as soon as we all met. As people working on GOV.UK, across various departments, we all face the same challenges.

Culture change is hard work

The Department of Health’s head of digital, Stephen Hale, kicked things off saying:

It takes resolve to stop doing things.

A sigh of recognition was heard across the room. As content designers, we’re often fighting against ‘the way it’s always been’. …


Pete Kowalczyk

Senior content designer working in health, wellbeing and education—

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