Content designers work across government to make services and information simpler, clearer and faster for users.

Content designers work across government to make services and information simpler, clearer and faster for users.

Good content design allows people to do or find out what they need to from government simply and quickly using the most appropriate content format available. It’s based on research into user behaviour, analytics and feedback.

Content designers work as part of cross-functional teams, have strong editorial skills and understand the web, digital technology and user needs.

Why content design is important

Government has a tendency to publish content that is more focused on what it wants to say than what users need to know. This can make language and processes difficult to understand and act on.

Content designers take complex language and processes and make them simple to understand and act on. And this helps people to find or complete something they need to do.

Start with user needs

Content design takes user needs and presents them in the best way possible.

A user need is something that a user will need to do or find out from government. This could include

  • getting married
  • working out whether they’re able to claim a benefit
  • paying a council tax bill
  • finding out how much business rates they have to pay

There can sometimes be more than one way to present content. So, content designers work with different content formats and tools to present content in a way that responds to the specific needs of different types of users.

Skills content designers have

Content design is not the same as ‘writing copy’. Content designers write content:

  • in plain English — to make sure it’s accessible and because people don’t want to read complex text
  • based on user needs — checking if and how people are already using the content
  • using analytics — finding out what people are searching for to see if there’s a need for the content
  • based on user experience — talking to the people who will use the guidance or services you’re creating, to find out what they need and test that they can easily use the content you create
  • using on-page feedback — making sure content is maintained, kept up-to-date and continues to meet user needs

Sometimes content design is not even about writing content, but involves:

  • auditing existing content and identifying gaps in user needs
  • running content planning workshops and meetings with stakeholders
  • influencing stakeholders towards a user-centred approach to content
  • developing standards and guidelines for content design and strategy
  • reviewing content produced by others against digital standards and guidelines

Content strategy

Content designers work with a content strategy to make sure content meets users’ and organisations’ needs.

A content strategy helps to guide you in planning, creating, delivering and governing content. It can also help you to avoid duplicating content, which produces poor search results and confuses users.

Having a content strategy helps you to consider how long your content should be published for and what will happen to it after it’s out of date.

Maintaining content

Good content design makes sure content stays accurate, relevant, current and optimised both for users and search engines. Content designers work with subject matter experts to help them do this.

When content is no longer accurate or useful it needs to be withdrawn.

When should content designers get involved in a project

Content designers work on services end-to-end. This means content should not just be handed over to content designers, only once a project is under way. For example, you shouldn’t bring in a content designer ‘to add the words’.

Content designers should be involved from the start of projects, helping with discovery and determining users’ content needs.