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Beyond Words

“Content people should not be stuck with just words” lamented Sarah Richards to the co-founder of UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS). Sarah’s team had just 5 templates in their content management system.

Gradually, it became a collective effort. With her team starting to work with designers, developers and user researchers.

Content design was thus conceptualised. Since then, it has been gaining prominence across businesses and organisations of all sizes. Recently, Facebook changed their Content Strategy team’s name to Content Design. The Head of Division Elisabeth Carr noting that –

“We know that our work, along with the work of other companies, has helped shape a particular branch of the discipline, and we believe that it’s distinct enough to warrant a distinct name.”

What exactly is content design?

The crux of content design is representing information in the best way possible. Content designers work based on ‘what would people want to know’ as opposed to ‘what do we want to tell people’.

Before writing the content, content designers understand the user and what they would need. With this approach, writing becomes simple, straight forward and human-centric. Minimalism is the maxim.

What is content design based on?

As mentioned before, content design is human-centric. It completely revolves around how humans behave. Here are the premises that form the basis of content design –

  1.       Users are human

While there is the often-tried technique to impress with complexity and be taken seriously, people recoil at heavy volume. Content is thus about what needs to be conveyed and what can be left out.

The language needs to be unambiguous and indicative to resonate with the user and facilitate a decision. 

  1.       Humans are busy

On an average visit to a webpage, people read only about 28% of the words. Evidence shows that the majority scan the page visually. The goal then is to write something that is simple and logical where users can take in information without much effort into reading.

Content that just goes in without having to be read properly, very intuitively, is the ideal. Information needs to be put across quickly, making it accessible to users within seconds.

  1.       Humans are mistrustful 

Consuming information is pathological and for that reason content is powerful. If users trust a particular site, content designers and strategists can control users’ thoughts using language. 

On the flip side, if users feel that something doesn’t work, they look for alternatives and the reservoir of goodwill is lost. Hence, content designers understand user behaviour, analytics and incorporate feedback to provide the best user experience.

How can we make the most of content design?

The content design approach starts with user data. You can dive into user behaviour, ask questions and get answers to know your audience. After learning what is right for them, you can plan your content and serve your audience better.

After data, comes discovery. You start learning what your audience is searching for, the key words they use, the top things they search about, how they are affected by the topic etc. Use what you have discovered to make a mind map of what will work.

Your mind map needs to cover the priority list of content, words to be covered and an indication of your writing style and tone. Then, the first draft is written. The goal is to convey what the audience needs making it easy for them to digest.

Looking at the first draft, you need to ask yourself these three questions for every sentence written –

  1.       What is the best way to give this to the audience?
  2.       Would the audience need this from us?
  3.       At this point, what is their perception?

Sometimes, by writing less you may be saying more. If you feel that a picture might convey what you are trying to say quicker than a bunch of words, go for it.

Essentially, content design urges you to become better informed and equipped to provide the audience a greater experience. Get started with the basics and delve deeper into the practice of content design!

Looking to redesign your content? Reach out to us at TOSS the COIN and we’ll kick start something amazing!


Amazing take aways…in today’s context . “what would people want to know’ as opposed to ‘what do we want to tell people’.” …. Brilliant Summation

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