A beautiful film poster. That memorable birthday card. Our fondest memories of a picture book we read long ago. A photograph that makes you smile. A website you keep returning to. What’s common to them all?
Content design. In each instance, content design is that invisible and unnamed vitamin that gives each of them the magical ‘something’ and makes them all attractive in a unique way, and thus, unforgettable.
In the digital space, with its constraints of limited real estate, along with short attention span of end-users who are spoiled for choice, content design has additional dimensions.
Content design in user experience
In the context of digital, content design occurs in three key stages.
First, actively ‘designing’ the content as dictated by the brand persona and values; at the same time, actively serving the business goals and customer expectations. This is no small challenge. It is contingent upon mindful collaboration among diverse stakeholders, and getting to the heart of the brand, beyond its digital avatar. Here, we’re taking a holistic approach to produce holistic ‘brand design’ – something that the customer can bond with, intellectually and emotionally.
Second, putting content – words, images, videos, podcasts – in the same frame as other building blocks of the digital property. Essentially, a design that is woven with content as its centerpiece, in all its variety and range. The messaging is unambiguous, and the communication comes through as decisive and positive. That way there’s no strain on the cognitive ability of the end-user, leading to the perception of a ‘well-designed’ website, by extension, a ‘strong’ brand.
Third, and this is perhaps the most important step, training the ‘content owners’ to ‘own’ and ‘shape’ their content in a consistent fashion, time after time. This is to ensure that the end-user’s quality of experience does not fade or deplete as time goes by.
Content design and its usefulness
But, let’s back up a bit. Why should content design be a ‘thing’ at all?
Because we are all in a hurry. Our minds are juggling a dozen threads every instant. We are constantly trying to multitask – doing two or three things simultaneously. And our attention span is in the range of 8 seconds today. A recent study by Microsoft concluded that the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds – shrinking nearly 25% in just a few years.
Getting user attention is tough – content design is the only way of gaining half a decent chance of grabbing some user attention. It is also how a brand can keep enticing the end-user back, time after time – with stories or a content narrative the brand continues to weave seamlessly.
A brand needs to communicate precisely, crisply. Furthermore, it needs to communicate in a language and style the customer appreciates and responds to. This creates a sweet spot – the balance between semantic and visual content. Brands that strike this balance are rewarded by the customer, with their attention, recall and at some point, advocacy. Otherwise, they will continue to swipe their finger to continue fishing in the sea of digital content… it’s a big sea and it’s easy to get distracted.
A symphony is a supremely artful articulation of a musical piece. It brings together several elements in a beautifully balanced unity. In the end, each individual element melts in humility within the whole, and the audience only hears the music.
Content design is the act of creating digital symphony. As more and more brands awaken to the value of the human touch even as they float in the digital cloud, content design becomes a ‘thing’ – a thing of beauty.
Published on 11 January 2022.