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3 Tips: How to Use Content to Create Better UX

Great websites start with great content — content about your company, content about your products, and content about your team will attract the viewers you want. Without well-structured content and a captivating message your design and user experience (UX) is conjecture at best.

First things first: content

Designers and front-end developers are often asked by clients to create beautiful websites, apps or software; a reasonable request and one that can lead to great visual results. It's also one that can produce blank templates and decoration rather than a cohesive user experience. There is nothing inherently wrong with putting together simple 'templated' sites or apps, but your results with this method are severely limited.


Remember, content without a strategy affects your user experience no matter how well the site is designed.


Can UX, design & content work together?

We've found that the best online presence comes from a strong message combined with great visual design and thoughtful development.

Even during the print advertising era, the strongest most effective designs used combinations of targeted content and memorable images, not pre-made templates. You've probably heard “Form follows function” a proclamation originally coined by famed architect Louis Sullivan (Try constructing a building without functioning structural plans), it is one that aptly applies to the UX on your site. The whole of these disciplines working together will bring you the strongest of each piece.

3 Tips For Content-First UX

1. Keep designers and developers in the loop

Make sure your designers and developers understand the message and content focus of your website. Before building out the site there should be content work happening. From a content audit (understanding what content is there and if it's any good) to wireframes, there is information available that can help inform the design. In some cases there may be a content strategy statement to work from, or even sample content that's been created.

Taking a content-first approach means communicating the steps taken for content to the designers and developers constructing the site so they can incorporate them into their process.

As James Box and Ellen de Vries from Clearleft state in Gather Content's Content Strategy: A Guide for UX Designers:

Content can no longer be painted on or poured in. Instead, a piece of content is active and alive. It has a life-cycle that may have begun long before the design process has even started.

How this helps UX: Making sure the whole team knows the content goals and priorities puts user needs first when going into design and development.

2. Start with content early

This tip is especially true for the core user needs that your website is addressing. Bobby Anderson on makes a strong case for why 'content-first' is necessary:

By designing “Content-First” we’re stripping away all of the nonsense and focusing on what is important. Designing “Content-First” is about gathering your client’s assets and laying them out within the design in order of importance, optimizing the content for a web audience and ensuring that the message(s) and/or features that the client wants to get across to their users is consistent across all devices.

Having a content-first approach ensures you have everything you need before starting a project. This can help avoid endless rounds of changes and help save back-and-forth between your designers and stakeholders.

How this helps UX: Starting with content early ensures that users needs are not lost as the site starts to be built. If content is mapped out and planned for it cannot be overlooked during the build process.

3. Find sample content to get started

Don’t have content ready yet? Try designing with the current site content, if available. It won’t be perfect but it will get you started in the right direction. If you're unhappy with the current content, try designing with words that describe what you want the new content to communicate.

Rob Mills shares an excellent post on uxbooth about Using Proto-content for a Better User Experience. He gives the benefits of 'proto-content' when finalized content is not available:

Proto-content allows for content and design to be evaluated and tested together. That’s where the true value is. Content is design, design is content, and both are user experience. The better teams can get at treating these two disciplines as a whole, the more informed both content and design decisions will be.

How this helps UX: You won't end up with large gaps in content because you'll be using real examples (or something close to it) instead of lorem ipsum.

Use these three tips to create web experiences that enhance your content rather than overpower it. The content-first approach drives your project's UX by highlighting what is important to your users giving them the best overall experience.

Learn more tips on how well written, structured content can help your design.

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