Zahara Kanchwalla
Sep 12 · 4 min read

Ever visited a corporate website and come away unsure of what the company really does? Or worse, come away with too many messages that are confusing and disjointed for you to really understand? It’s almost like the Norman door when you don’t know whether it has to be pushed or pulled.

The fault lies not in you, but in the design that ignores content — the needs and behaviour of users, essentially it ignores the principles of cognitive psychology.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Today, users are looking at storytelling engagement that is well researched, trustworthy and authoritative.

With any corporate website or digital asset, the goal is simple: to guide users effortlessly to the right message and the right action at the right time. The key is that, with this goal, you need a new kind of designer who is actually a content writer and a user experience (UX) strategist. One who understands corporate positioning and communication strategy. And, marries it with digital engagement and user experience.

For example, to design a corporate website, one needs to create an architecture with multiple focused-sections and even microsites if it is a large website catering to diverse stakeholder groups. And, this is precisely where the content strategy comes in. A writer can connect the dots on gathering a broad perspective on the positioning and messaging. The more comprehensive and deeper one’s understanding of the corporate positioning, the better one will be able to build a cohesive narrative and arrive at a thought leadership strategy.

With any corporate website or digital asset, the goal is simple: to guide users effortlessly to the right message and the right action at the right time.

Here’s how a writer helps design with words in a content-first approach:

Defining the key message

There’s no one right path to designing. But, when we start with content, it helps us decide how a design should function rather than trying to fit the content into a design. By establishing what the content is first, we can create more structured designs to ensure the primary message is conveyed more prominently over others. As Jeffrey Zeldman puts it, “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”

At Rite KnowledgeLabs, we use content writing as part of our creative process to understand what is needed in a design. This approach works beautifully as it helps you look at the big picture of what needs to be conveyed and frame the storytelling narrative before proceeding with higher fidelity designs.

Creating a content architecture

The content-first approach works in building out the structure of a design and how the content will be presented. It helps to map user journeys and define a proper flow to guide the user towards the central message or goal. Essentially, we create a journey map or user diagram of only words, and then the visualizer distils it into creative visuals.

Creating a content architecture consolidates content elements, gives you different ideas to design concepts with, and it ultimately enables you to make strategic design choices with ease. The architecture answers how a user would navigate through the flow.

Not using lorem ipsum text

When we start with the design, we don’t use lorem ipsum text. The problem with using lorem ipsum text is that it isn’t a realistic appearance of what people are actually going to see when interacting with the digital asset. It also makes visualizers indolent in creating relevant content that will be needed for the final output, and it certainly doesn’t help developers in that they may not understand the significance of a design because the content that is part of a design isn’t there.

That is why we focus on fleshing out the content first and then basing the design on it. It ensures we’re telling a solid story and then creating the details to complement it.

Focusing on visualization

When it comes to defining the look and feel, it allows the visualizer to focus on just the user interface (UI) design without worrying about the user experience and content messaging. The visualizer can smoothly go into flow-mode when designing prototypes because, at this point, it’s all about making it look good, choosing the colour scheme, font, typography, imagery and other visual elements.

He or she doesn’t need to worry about what content to add, how the flow works, and what to design because designing with words has already addressed and defined all those points.

Essentially, design works around content. Content is what determines the right architecture to help users reach their goals. The content strategy is what determines the primary message that the audience needs to takeaway. It is what breathes life into design. From content emerges the concept and user flow.

Little wonder, businesses are realising that a disjoint approach to building a website doesn’t work. Not surprisingly, there are more designers emerging today that are more of content writers, business strategists and UX writers and are less of traditional designers.

Essentially, design works around content. Content is what determines the right architecture to help users reach their goals.

These “designers” create experiences that inspire and influence people to take action. Just that these “designers” work and think with words!

riteknowledgelabs

We are a full-service, content-first digital agency. Content strategists. Design thinkers. Digital experts. That’s us.

Zahara Kanchwalla

Written by

Zahara is the Co-founder & COO at Rite KnowledgeLabs. Passionate about Thought-leadership Content, Communication and Customer Engagement.

riteknowledgelabs

We are a full-service, content-first digital agency. Content strategists. Design thinkers. Digital experts. That’s us.

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