In early March I attended Convey UX, a three-day conference in Seattle focused on the impact of UX design, the possibilities of user research, and the importance of designing with humans in mind. The agenda included talks on everything from machine learning UX and designing for the pluriverse to designing for underserved communities. There were also interactive workshops, social breakfasts and lunches, and guided networking sessions.
One of the most impactful sessions for me, a senior interaction designer by day, was Wednesday’s workshop entitled “Integrating Content Thinking Into Your Design Workflow.” Led by Brittney Urich, the session focused on incorporating content strategy into our design process, and creating user-centered content while accommodating business and stakeholder needs. Content strategy is closely tied to UX design; it evaluates existing copy in the UI to ensure it meets user needs and creates a seamless experience. I went in not knowing what to expect, but hoping to gain a greater understanding of how content planning and UX design can work together. Content strategy isn’t something I focus on, or deal with directly in my current role, so I was excited to get started.
When attendees first sat down in the workshop space, we were split into teams and presented with one of five project roles: Creative Director, Facilitator, Project Manager, Strategist, and Subject Matter Expert. I was assigned the role of Project Manager, tasked with leading the team through the activity and keeping everyone on track. We began by learning what exactly content strategy is, and how it connects to UX design.
It turns out content strategy and UX design have a lot in common, like building around user needs and forming information architectures to guide the project. In many experiences, these two disciplines overlap significantly.
The day’s goal was to function as a creative agency redesigning a website for our fictional client, Locavore, a service delivering meals made from locally sourced, sustainable ingredients. While they are mission-driven and provide a great service, their website was confusing, basic, and lacked character. We as a team needed to reorganize how content was presented on the website to more accurately reflect the business goals of Locavore’s stakeholders, and the user needs of Locavore’s customers.
We began by conducting a three-minute individual site audit. Each team member took time to look through Locavore’s current website and take note of their initial thoughts on visuals, layouts, and the user journey.
Establishing Business Goals and User Needs
We then moved into establishing business goals and users needs. Through a brand brief we learned about Locavore’s business model, their intentions for website users, and the user persona of a potential Locavore customer. Using two colors of post-it notes (it was a UX conference, post-its aplenty) we individually brainstormed 5–10 business goals, and 5–10 user needs, before coming back together as a team and seeing where we overlapped.
Our goals included a lower carbon footprint, a variety of meal options, ease of use, transparency about the food sourcing process, and clearly labeled dietary aspects in each meal.
The next step was to establish website communication goals. We set a timer and individually brainstormed the first things we wanted users to think and feel when they landed on the website. I noted that I wanted users to feel inspired by the dedication to sustainability, feel trusting of the food, think about their current system for purchasing food, and feel excited at the chance to change their behavior to incorporate Locavore’s easy, sustainable method of purchasing food.
After two minutes, we came together as a team to share our think/feel brainstorm ideas, and began an individual brainstorm for what we want uses to know and believe after they’ve spent a few minutes on the site. I wanted users to know the logistics of the delivery service, know their meal plan options, and believe this is the best meal delivery service available.
The next step was to establish our brand identity. Using a worksheet full of adjectives, we marked each as a positive, negative, or neutral word to incorporate into the personality and style of Locavore’s brand.
Based on this worksheet, we determined that we wanted the brand to be organic, simple, trusted, and dependable, but not luxurious or exclusive. We wanted the service to feel accessible to all customers while still providing high-quality food.
We then moved into content mapping. Using a sheet of paper with four quadrants, we went through the current site and labeled all headers, sub-headers, buttons, links, and copy as “keep”, “transform” or “archive”, along with listing any new content under “create”. We analyzed which parts of the website had too much copy or unnecessary copy, which parts could be condensed or added to a new page, and which parts would benefit from longer and more involved descriptions.
After completing our content map, we created a paper prototype of our website using paper modules, and experimented with layout options. We referred back to our business goals and user needs from earlier to determine that high-definition photos of Locavore’s meals and quick statistics about their sustainability initiatives should live at the top of the page to grab users’ attention. These should be followed by meal plan pricing and profiles of local farmers who partner with Locavore.
As an interactive designer who usually focuses more on visuals and brand implementation than content strategy, I found this workshop extremely helpful. It gave me a better understanding of how to make decisions around things like communication goals, brand identity, and content mapping. In addition, I gained insights into documenting my team’s decisions to ensure we’re working towards our goals. It opened my eyes to how design and content inform one another, and gave me tools to improve my collaboration process and design workflow going forward.
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