How content design enables design

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Our Content Design course author, Vinish Garg, explains why and how content design is so important to integrate in the wider product design process.

Vinish Garg

We often see that if product teams start with the design and then plan for the content at a later stage, their products struggle for different reasons. For example: they might need to redo some parts of the design, or sometimes it requires a change in the product architecture itself. This is because planning the content in context of the customers’ needs and goals can require new interactions or changes in the navigation design, or even in the usability of the interface itself.

Content needs design: an example

Imagine that a services agency has a live website and it is doing well. They plan to launch a blog as part of this already-running website. As a content practitioner, you might start with the basic idea of the elements of a blog post as:

  • blog title
  • blog excerpt or a teaser that you can show as an extract on any other page
  • a cover or featured image that becomes part of its metadata when the post URL is shared online, the preview shows this image
  • the publishing data
  • the author of the post

As far as the content of the post itself, remember that the post might include:

  • embedded video
  • audio file, one or more images or a gallery depending on the use case
  • some quoted text
  • a section on related readings
  • a message to take the audience to a related service or product by the same company if it makes sense
  • and even a few more units of information

And there are still more elements that could be added:

  • the author profile
  • an option to let the readers subscribe to the blog via emails
  • options to share the post on social media
  • see related posts callout
  • the CTA if the post talks about their services

While planning this structure of a blog post, you are planning the content experience and the design of the post itself.

Content design on the front-end, on the interface

Content needs to set up the right information hierarchy for the message, the logical placement of related content units, the space, the font size that communicates the hierarchy of information, and the units of information that make the content easily readable, or scannable. This is the front-end content experience and design plays a role in making this content more useful for the readers.

Content design on the back-end, for the architecture and strategy

So far, you have planned the content structure for how it appears on the front-end for the customers. In the language of content architecture, think how the author name is fetched—are they part of a taxonomy? Likewise how the blog categories are set up for the taxonomy—do these categories work in the search results? What if the organization introduces a new service in the future, will the future posts see the new services for reference?

Design needs content: another example

Imagine that you design an About us page. The design shows the content sections—the leadership, the organization story, the timeline, a note on their culture, and a section that links to the careers page. Imagine that one leader changes their name from Vinish Garg to Vinish Johnson. Are all the blog posts where Vinish Garg is an author updated for the new name? Is the author profile section also updated, automatically?

Now imagine that after the stakeholders see this well-designed About us page with real content, they want to add the organization vision to the page. Of course the vision needs its own styling and structure on the page. How will the design adapt or respond to this request?

Content design addresses all such basic challenges and more complex and advanced business challenges by keeping the architecture scalable. It keeps the design adaptive to scale, for devices, and for personalized experience in specific use cases.

Content and design work together

A content designer works closely with developers, designers, researchers, analysts, marketers, and people in other teams to plan the content that is usable and answers the audience questions, and provides the right information in context of their journey within the product.

If you’d like to know more about how good content design can help your product, Firehead has a new course.

Check out latest offering to help your career: Firehead Content Design course and get going!

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