Why Marketers Need a Basic Understanding of UI and UX
They determine how accessible your information is and if delivery succeeds
Writers these days have an entirely different set of skill requirements compared to just a few years ago. Marketing content developers not only have to understand what kind of information buyers are seeking and when they seek each kind, but they also have to consider SEO and the general user experience.
That experience is important each time they visit a company site, landing page, or other digital asset. And that knowledge must inform every part of our writing and content strategy.
User Interface or UI determines the accessibility of the information
We typically think of UI as the controls used to access technology: checkboxes, buttons, menus, etc., that are used to interact with the technology. But UI has expanded to include how we interact with everything online, from search to information collection.
The basic UI question marketers must ask is “How hard is it to find and consume the valuable information we have for potential buyers and researchers?” For marketers, UI design is often driven by behavior analytics, like heatmapping, that tell them how the visitor is interacting with the site.
These interactions can be either positive or confusing, i.e. negative. This is not, in my opinion, solely a design issue. Writers must design their information flows to be easily consumable on mobile and for shortened attention spans. The UI elements marketing writers have to work with are head styles, active vs. passive voice, paragraph and sentence length, site architecture, and the hierarchy of the information being presented.
User Experience or UX is the success measurement of the UI
Everything we know about search engine optimization (SEO) comes down to one thing: Quality content in the right place at the right time.
Google has clarified this repeatedly. There are no tricks or magic bullets that make a site search-friendly, just the value of the information it provides. And the ease of accessing and consuming that information once a search is initiated. The UX, in other words.
For writer/marketers, this means mapping out user intent, matching the content being served to that intent, and making that content as easy to consume as possible. The tools for UX in marketing are quality, writing skill, message development, and visual design of the text, images and other media elements used to deliver that experience. Linking to relevant additional or deeper information is also a valuable UX tool that improves the buyer’s search for information.
It is not enough to brainstorm and write content willy-nilly
Papering a site with a barrage of content is not a strategy. A buyer/researcher is likely looking for one answer to one question at any given time in their search journey. Offering them twenty answers to questions they are not asking only serves to muddy the waters, confuse, or even infuriate them, all poor user experiences.
As I’ve written about previously, every piece of marketing content you do should fit into a content library strategy that addresses the specific questions visitors are likely seeking answers for.
- Are these people experts in this field? (Thought leadership pieces.)
- Who has used their product or service and what was the result? (Case studies, social proof.)
- How does their product solve my specific problem? (Product information, including documentation.)
- What will they be like to work with? (About, Support, and Team Pages.)
- How can I easily share this information with my peers? (Explainer videos.)
A disciplined approach to content creation and delivery
Once you’ve designed your information/content library and filled in any missing areas, the inbound marketing task becomes assessing performance and fine-tuning or upgrading library elements.
We can think of this as the UI design part of information or content marketing. Rather than bombarding visitors with random content, we constantly seek to offer them a better user experience through that refinement of our messaging and information flows.
Our skills are evolving constantly — or should be
One of the exciting things about content marketing is how quickly it is evolving. This is also potentially frustrating since there is no up-to-date handbook or best practices guide that you can easily check yourself against.
Even if you find a content marketing guide on Amazon (there are dozens), chances are almost 100% that it is out of date. For example, if it was published before November 2018, it will not address the key issue that is search journeys. It was in November that Google announced a fundamental change in their algorithm from simply providing the best answer to a query to understanding where in their buying or search journey a searcher is and serving up the best possible answer for their knowledge level at that time. This, in turn, changes the content library strategy, and on and on.
The point is that marketers need to pay attention to this stuff because your competition is likely already there. And if they aren’t, then you get the lead on them. I spend some time each morning scanning SEO sites, reading the content others are posting, and looking at analytics. I also get a regular newsletter from Google on their marketing products and services. When I find something I’m not familiar with, I do a deeper dive.
The articles I’ve published serve two related purposes: to help me with my understanding of emerging concepts and to share my experience with others. That’s another route to consider: don’t just learn about these things — write about them!