Making content user-centered at Digital Services

Anita Y Cheng
Oct 4, 2019 · 2 min read

Content on government sites need a lot of work! San Francisco is no different. Digital Services is working hard making content as accessible and user-centered as possible.

We’re handling it all between 2 content designers, and we need more help. We’re looking for a senior content strategist right now, and will post 2 content designer jobs later in the year.

We need to recruit for a movement.

Digital Services designs content first

We sit on the design team. Before any mockups are done, we work together on figuring out what content needs to be where.

We make sure at least 1 content person participates in all design feedback sessions and product meetings.

We help design better services

Our content work is not just microcopy, limited to individual screens. Our work is a combination of information architecture, content strategy, and UX writing. We help residents succeed in complex processes like buying a home or applying for a cannabis permit.

We help departments understand what it means to be user-centered

The bulk of our work is in reframing our stakeholders’ understanding of their own services. We run workshops to create user stories and get buy in.

A content designer and Public Information Officer pose with a meeting room window covered in Post-Its after a workshop.
A content designer and Public Information Officer pose with a meeting room window covered in Post-Its after a workshop.
Fire department PIO Lt. Jonathan Baxter with DS content designer Anita Cheng, posing in front of a wall of Post-Its after a successful user needs workshop.

We write new user-centered services with subject matter experts. Then we train content leads at the departments to own their own content.

We are still figuring out what content work looks like in the City

We are less than a year into moving department services onto Everything’s still pretty new. We iterate on each workshop, migration, and training session.

We refer to how other government entities have handled content. GOV.UK, 18F, and federal plain language resources are all fair game.

We’re also still working on our content standards, striving for 5th grade reading level if at all possible. Check out our working content style guide at (We’ll need your help filling that out too!)

Join us!

We’re currently hiring content people. Apply at

You can also sign up for our mailing list at the bottom of We’ll let you know of any upcoming roles we have.

Read more about the work we’re doing, our principles, and more about the team.

Anita Y Cheng

Written by

Empowering people through design. Live-tweeter and over-helper. You can find her work and writing at

San Francisco Digital Services

Making services accessible and easy to use for everyone.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade