Why Content Experience Is Part of Experience Design
All too often content teams and experience design teams continue to operate in silos. One team hacks away at developing materials they hope will look nice in a house another team has built—a house both teams hope the user will buy, or at least rent for a while.
But what good is that Banksy original doing hanging in a room no one knows exists? Why keep that fine wine down in the cellar when nobody wants, or needs, to leave the kitchen? Whose idea was it to hide your coveted poetry collection in the guest bedroom when your visitors are already in the library?
When content is treated separately from the house it lives in—even when you’re expecting the same visitors—there’s no guarantee the guests will stick around for the tour. That’s why content experience is so important.
What is Content Experience?
Content experience refers to the entirety of content and the context in which it lives. Not only does content experience include the content assets (articles, resources, videos, photography, social media and distribution channels), but it’s also the words that comprise navigation, the language that prompts users to take action, and the physical ways the content is displayed on a page.
For a content experience to be successful, all the house’s builders must be on site: content producers, UX and UI designers, developers, marketers, SEO specialists and leadership teams. “Content” is an umbrella term that often means different things to different teams, which is why it’s imperative to make sure you’re all on the same page.
5 Things to Think About When Considering the Overall Content Experience:
- Do the words we’ve chosen achieve the desired results? Words have different meanings and can encourage or result in different actions or outcomes. For example, “Contact Us,” “Get in Touch” and “Let’s Chat!” each has its own connotation. Apply analysis and metrics to ensure your foundation is strong and make changes when necessary.
- Is the content SEO optimized? Are pages named correctly? Have keywords been researched and analyzed? Is the page responsive? Do images have ALT tags for accessibility? Is the content original? Are there any broken links? All of these things, and more, will impact how well your site is indexed in search engines. It is hard for a user to find your house if you haven’t told them how to get there.
- Do the design, content assets and tone of writing each speak to the same user? A lack of consistency can be confusing.
- Is the content credible? Nothing kills a content experience quicker than a lack of authenticity. Your content can be the key to establishing trust with your user, typically one of the first steps in conversion. This is a huge part of the overall content strategy that includes everything from the words you choose to the color you display them in.
- Does the content experience reflect the buyer experience? Users arrived at all different stages of the buying process. Whether they’re researching, looking for specific answers, buying their first house or their second, is your overall content experience able to help them out and leave them satisfied no matter where they are in their journey?
The Medium is the Message
Marshall McLuhan’s famous quote has never been more relevant. How a message is delivered (the medium) directly influences the message; so much so, it can change what your message actually is.
You may think your message is something like, “Our product is the best toothpaste brand in America. Four out of five dentists agree!” But if that content is displayed on an unprofessional looking page with broken links, if the images chosen are pulled from Google and not original or purchased legally, if the text is ridden in typos or sounds spammy, and if the user cannot find proof of who those dentists actually are or why this toothpaste is the best, then you’re sending a very different message to your users.
You’re telling your users you don’t pay attention to detail. You’re telling them they’re not worth the time it takes to leave a good impression. You’re telling them your desire to sell toothpaste is more important than their desire to improve or maintain their oral health.
The Halo Effect
Like Uberflip points out, the content experience can have what’s called a halo effect.
A good content experience can turn users into avid fans even if there are things to be forgiven (more on that shortly). However, it can also have the reverse effect and turn that halo into horns, blemishing your entire reputation based on one bad experience. It can impact views on your product, your content, your company values, employees and more.
This happens all the time.
When teams work together the message becomes clear. This can improve trust in your brand overall, allowing users to forgive minor mistakes on one side as long as they’re made up for on the other side. For example, great content that took a little digging to find, or a few typos on an otherwise well-designed site can be accepted as human error. Users are willing to forgive to an extent, and are more likely to do so when everything’s otherwise working together.
The goal is to create one medium and thus one unified message, an impossible feat if the content experience is not considered as part of the experience design.
Tear down those silo walls. It takes a village to build the house of your dreams.