What Is Content Design and Why You Should Pay Attention to It

The quality of your content is one thing. How you present it to audiences is another. You can deliver exceptional thought leadership content that addresses your market’s pain points. However, if it doesn’t have good design behind it, it may never have those eyeballs on it. That’s why content design is so critical to enterprise content marketing!

In this post, we’ll explain what content design is, why it matters, and how to do it right.

What Is Content Design?

Content design describes having a strategy for the design behind the content, focusing on how to best serve an audience with the information they desire when they need it.

Sarah Winters defined the concept with this core message, “Content design is a way of thinking.” She also shared, “It’s about using data and evidence to give the audience what they need, at the time they need it and in a way they expect.”

As you can see, it’s much more than just “design” aesthetics. It’s more layered than that with:

  • Planning for the creation of objects or assets
  • Interactive opportunities
  • Ensuring high readability
  • Providing the best UX (user experience)

Content design requires collaboration on the part of many content team members. Those include content creators, programmers, data analysts, content strategists, graphic designers, and more.

Why Does Content Design Matter?

In considering the importance of how you design content, you have to consider how people consume it. According to Statista, mobile devices were responsible for 54.4 percent of website traffic in Q4 2021.

mobile traffic

Image: Statista

In this chart, you can see that mobile’s share steadily grew and overtook desktop. That means that people primarily use smaller screens, so the flow of content must be mobile-friendly.

Another driver of content design is that no one’s a digital novice anymore. Most people spend plenty of time online and interact with all different types of content. As a result, they have higher expectations about the experience of consumption. They’ll no longer overlook poor design or organization of content.

Organizing Information: The Basis of Content Design

The first critical component of designing content is determining how to organize information for users. It’s about helping that person access the content they want and need. You can consider these questions as the framework:

  • What is the hierarchy of navigation and content?
  • What messaging should come first (i.e., awareness/top-of-the-funnel)?
  • Where does each content piece fit in the overarching content strategy and customer journey?
  • How can UI (user interfaces) be the most intuitive and useful?

Those become the foundation for a content designer. But you may be wondering what someone does in this role.

The Content Designer Does…

This role is investigative and curious in nature. They are looking for challenges and gaps in the content hierarchy and content lifecycle.

That requires research to best construct that user journey and how its content aligns with it. Content designers balance company directives with user needs, trying to advocate for both. The role can vary by organization, and the output of a content designer can be content, strategy, and more.

Content Design Best Practices

What should your enterprise content team focus on to be content design-centric? Let’s look back to Winter’s definition of concentration to provide insight.

Research is Always the First Stop

Content designers don’t produce anything until they conduct research on audiences, usability, product, markets, and more.

User Needs are Next

In this step, you develop user stories to document what you learned during research. The basis is what users want and respond to, which you can determine through organic ranking. That’s because Google loves high-quality, unique content.

When you develop content ideas that meet the demands of your users, you deliver something helpful. Doing this also builds trust for your brand and customer loyalty.

Creating a Journey Map is Key

In conjunction with user needs assessments, journey mapping of the customer is vital. It should include online and offline actions a user takes to make a purchase or decision. It should help you define three things:

  • What are buyer motivations when they access your content?
  • How much work (or clicks) does it require for visitors to find what they need and what might they learn along the way?
  • What information do they require, and at what point?

Consistent Messaging Should Exist Throughout

Your content strategy defines your company’s key messaging by product, buyer, or other segments. That story you’re telling shouldn’t change. Consistency supports recall and provides clarity on your value proposition. While there are differences based on product or audience, messaging should remain constant.

Along with messaging comes language and readability. Your brand should have a voice and tone guide that outlines how you use language. Readability means how “easy” it is for audiences to understand the content. Some readability best practices include:

  • Writing in active vs. passive voice.
  • Using shorter sentences and paragraphs for skimming.
  • Breaking up chunks of text with bullet lists and other ways to organize content.
  • Avoiding overly complex words or jargon unless necessary.

Tone and readability have everything to do with how you say it.

Channels for the Content

Next, you’ll want to look at the channels and how they correlate to the journey mapping. You have multiple channels for content distribution—websites, social media, email marketing, paid promotions, events, and third-party amplification options.

Audiences tune into these channels at different times and have different expectations of what they’ll find. You should consider how channels reflect customer journeys. You’ll also want to know what channels historically perform well by reviewing content analytics.

Get more insights from Winters in the video below.

Putting It All Together: Creation

The last part of content design is crafting the content. It’s not just writing. It’s working together with many parties to deliver what users need and want. The culmination of all this effort is providing your target audience with something easy to digest, actionable, and relevant. When you do that, your content can drive real revenue results!

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