Just for fun, compare the Dutch and British government websites. Which website looks more user-friendly?
Overheid.nl / lots of content, not much clarity
Gov.uk / optimized with content design
Both websites contain roughly the same information, as long as you click far enough through. But the British site provides a much easier overview. Why is that? In this article, you’ll read all about the role that content design (not to be confused with content strategy) plays in the development of a user-friendly website. The steps listed below will help you get started.
What is content design?
From 2010 to 2014, Sarah Richards worked on Gov.uk, the website for the British government. Early on, she felt it was a bit of a mess. For every page she asked herself three questions:
- Does this page have a clear goal?
- Which task do users aim to complete here?
- Is that task a government task?
Only 4% of pages offered a clear answer to all three questions. She and her team began the challenging task of transforming the existing content to be simpler, clearer, and quicker to access. She cut back the number of website pages from 75,000 to 3,000. The project would go on to win multiple awards and UK citizens are now able to access the information they’re looking for much more quickly. Richards wrote about her experience in the book ‘Content Design’. In the book, she explains how to produce a website that is user-friendly by considering your site from the user’s perspective. You’ll discover the most important points below.
Is content design important for my SEO?
Content design is a convenient method to improve your website’s usability. A user-friendly website will encourage visitors to stick around your page a bit longer. They won’t return to the search results as quickly. Google will register that behavior and reward you with a higher ranking. So the answer is yes, content design is definitely important for your SEO! Reading tip: 5 reasons why User Experience (UX) is important for SEO
#1 Based on user input
It’s impossible to successfully (re)design your website without knowing exactly what your users are expecting. There are many different ways to find out what that is:
- Tracking tools like Hotjar – how many visitors are using your site at the moment?
- Qualitative/quantitative interviews with users.
- Real data on what your target audience is searching for on Google.
- Brainstorming with any team member responsible for client relationships.
Based on all this input, you can create user stories: As (who) I want to (what) so that (why) Let’s stick with the example of the government websites: As a citizen of The Netherlands, I want to apply for a new passport so that I can travel abroad.
#2 Start with the content
These user stories are incredibly helpful in redesigning your website. Focus on the most important stories first and take a look at how accessible your content currently is. Keep in mind that user stories don’t exist on an island; someone might come to your website with multiple questions in mind, or might mean something slightly different from the topic they initially Googled. For example, they searched for passport but really need an ID card. Or they might want to know the requirements for a passport photo. Make sure you supply a number of links to related topics so you don’t cause any interruptions to the customer journey. This list of alternatives will come to you partly through logical reasoning and partly through data analysis. Textmetrics can help you discover alternative keywords, for example.
#3 Readable text is essential
Now that you have a list of important user stories and related topics, it’s time to start writing. A readable text must be at the basis of great content design. Even if you eventually turn it into images or other types of multimedia content. Reading tip: Checklist for easy to read (web) text
#4 Consistent layout based on content
Only now has the time come to bring in graphic design. Shown above is a website example of the Dutch insurance company, ASR: the most important user stories are summarized in five categories. Anyone looking for something different can enter their question into a search or chat bar. Beyond that, there’s as little ‘noise’ as possible. No distracting banners or obnoxious boxes. The colors are consistent, as is the text. The trend of designing for mobile first is helpful in creating a user-friendly design; because there is so much less room on a smartphone screen, you’ll be encouraged to showcase the most important information first.
Conclusion: helpful in your content strategy
This article is an introduction to content design. Now you know that you can develop user stories based on user input: As (who) I want to (what) so that (why) With the help of these stories, you can structure your website in a logical, user-friendly way. First, write easy-to-read and SEO-friendly content, and only then can you get started on the graphic design of your website.