Why we value content design at RSA

Content designing

Isn’t content design just one of those buzz-phrases that infiltrate the digital industry every so often?

I don’t believe so.

In the wider digital industry, you’ll see the focus given to UX and UI design, and wonder why the critical stage of content often gets overlooked.    You might naturally assume that Content Design is a phrase that copywriters have assigned to themselves to help instil a content-led design process.

Whatever your view, let’s take a logical step back for a moment.

The process of design is about creating something which combines function with form. It’s about the aesthetics, sure, but it’s also about structure, flow and purpose.

Every piece of content is an interaction with a user, and how we create that connection will be different for each piece of work.

Designing with purpose

What we want to say, and how we want to say it, relies heavily on context and purpose.  I believe where the real ‘design’ comes in is where we have purely functional content.

I’m not talking about long-form content articles that require a reader to stop for a moment, read, digest and move on (although of course flow and structure will indeed be a part of the content creation process).

I’m talking about the content that is so well crafted it becomes almost inconspicuous to the user.

Ben Barone-Nugent said ‘I dream of interfaces where all my words can cascade away during the journey’, making the point that a user shouldn’t even have to think or pause on the words, a concept that’s also been echoed by Jared Spool.

To design interfaces with a content flow this simple, we must start with understanding our user, and our objectives.

Here at RSA Digital our content designers work closely with UX and Design at sketch stage to agree the necessary content hierarchy and information architecture, even before we even start to write any words.

In my opinion even wireframes need content input — to avoid the dreaded ‘placeholder’ copy where it may not even be needed.  This not only gives more accurate user testing results, it saves much time further along in the project.

Whether the purpose of the page is to capture data, or to lead the user to their next task, we need to have a clear understanding of where we are in a user journey, and how the content will be tested.

Content designed to evolve

Functional content (or micro-copy, as it’s sometimes referred to) forms an important part of navigation, sign-posting, and instruction, so good content design should take into account plenty of iteration (based on user testing) and scope for continuous improvement.

Unlike a long form article that gets published and largely remains as is, functional content is there to be optimised as and when it needs to be throughout its life. So it requires a slightly different mind-set; a mind-set that can be user-centred, flexible, and pragmatic.

Only after we’ve collaborated with UX and UI experts to make sure we’re on the same page (literally and metaphorically) do we start to put pen to paper (or keys to keyboard) and write some actual words.

For functional content the thought process is almost as important as the output; you may not want the user to remember the words, but you want to know that you did your very best to make them forgettable.

And whilst ‘content designer’ might not be a perfect description, it certainly gives more of a nod to the skill that lies in crafting functional copy than ‘content manager’ does.

Sadly content is still an after-thought in many organisations but here at RSA Digital we understand the importance of a content-led design process, and the value of words in our users’ experience.


If you’re interested in Content Design roles here at RSA Digital why not drop us a note.