Content design Storytelling

How to content design?

You need three things to design content.

Three things to design content

People Standards Patterns
For content design to make sense, you need to know who the user is and what they’re thinking. For content design to be consistent, you needs guiding principles and conventions. For design to happen quickly, you need to identify repeated problems and solve them.

Maybe you’re not convinced.

Do I really need people?

Yeah. They use and pay for your software. And they generally have a choice about the matter so you need to design with them in mind. Your users are part of the content design process.

Do I really need standards?

Double yeah. Without standards you’ll taste two flavors of confusion:

Internal confusion

No company ever sets out to work in silos”. It’s a communication problem. It’s solved when everyone agrees on how to communicate. When folks talk about the same thing in different ways, it makes effective knowledge transfer impossible.

Here’s a question: What does your product do? Can you describe it in a sentence using plain language? Here’s a less simple question: Would everyone on your team give the same answer? Would everyone in your company give the same answer?

In music, a harmony is achieved when two notes with the same wavelength are played simultaneously and the resulting chord is louder than the sum of its parts. The opposite of harmony is dissonance. Standards are like sheet music: they keep everyone in sync.

External confusion

Users feel the pain too. Inconsistency in terminology makes a system challenging to learn and frustrating to use. Ever navigate a neighborhood with multiple streets with the same name?

Consistent voice and tone is important too. It might seem like a nice to have,” but remember, some folks will use your software all day, every day. A disjointed semantic model and clumsy product narrative can slowly wear a groove in your users’ brains.

These are real humans with lives outside our software. Build a product that treats them with respect.

Do I really need patterns?

Not necessarily. Go ahead and build things from scratch every single time. You might be good at it. But it’s a pain in the ass. And every time you approach a design problem without considering what’s happened before, you risk introducing inconsistencies and making mistakes.

For users, repetition is a part of learning; conventions make a product easier to learn. Patterns are how you do this. So while, you could design content without patterns, it’s not recommended.


How to content design

  1. You need three things to design content
    1. People
    2. Standards
      1. Internal confusion
      2. External confusion
    3. Patterns

What is content design
Principles of pattern design

Content design

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What is content design? Content design done well answers two questions for users: “What does this product do?” and “How does it work?” Content design done really well