If you’re familiar with the term “user experience”, you might immediately think of research, testing, wireframes and prototypes. While these are all essential when developing a digital platform, content itself is also vitally important to create a positive user experience.
There is a lot to be said on this topic, but we’ll start with a summary of key tips to consider when developing your content strategy. These go a long way towards creating an optimal user experience that is engaging, informative, and scannable.
Let goals be your guide
- Keep your audience at the forefront and consider what questions they might ask as they read your content.
- Think about what other information might be relevant in the context of your post or article, and link to it
- Think about the actions you want your users to take and provide clear calls to action (with links!) within your content
- Carefully consider the placement of links and call to action buttons so they show up in obvious positions and the user can easily take the next step or find the answer to their next question.
Keep it short and sweet
According to user experience experts Nielsen Norman Group, users read about 20% of the words on a web page. Eye-tracking studies indicate that users frequently do not read content end-to-end, but rather scan areas of text (one exception is long-form content where the final content is the user’s goal).
- Create a wall of text with few breaks
- Highlight keywords
- Have one idea per paragraph
- Use sub-headers
- Use bullet points
- Link relevant text within paragraphs (linked text helps highlight key words, and helps with wayfinding)
- More tips on how to write for brevity
Make it scannable
- Use the inverted pyramid style of writing. Start with the most important information first, or begin with a summary of the page.
- If your page gets a lot of return traffic and includes an important link, button, or download, consider adding those actions at the top and the bottom of the body of your page so return users can get what they want quickly and can avoid scrolling to the bottom.
Create good “information scent”
Information scent is what guides users to find information on a website. It includes the mix of cues people get from link labels, context clues and familiar patterns like underlined links or navigation structures.
Users prioritize their time, and prefer not to click unless they’re certain they’ll find what they want. Vague wording, jargony navigation or overly general labels make users hesitate, and go elsewhere looking for certainty. Good information scent guides site visitors to the pages that contain the content they’re looking for. Help them by making your links, navigation and tagging categories concise, descriptive, and free of jargon.
- Avoid grouping anything under “general” or “miscellaneous”. Anything that is too vague users will likely avoid altogether (nobody has time to “explore” what an unclear label might mean).
- Avoid links with generic wording like “click here” or “learn more”. Instead, link specifically the words that describe the page or action you’re linking to.
Don’t: “click here to see a list of winners”
Do: “See the list of winners on our awards page”
- Improves accessibility for users of screen readers that skip content and read only the links on a page
- Provides more context for all users, reducing confusion
- Creates better scannable content
Use plain language
- Avoid technical jargon. Unless you’re certain that your key audience will know certain technical words, use more common terms.
- Avoid internal-speak.There are probably a lot of terms you use regularly within your organization without thinking about it but that aren’t meaningful to everyone. If there are terms you want your audience to understand, be sure to define each term the first time you mention it.
- Avoid marketing jargon or overly-cute language. It’s nice to give a website some personality, but avoid marketing jargon for navigation or category terms.
- Plain language is easier to read for everyone!
- It is more accessible to users at all reading levels, folks with cognitive disabilities, and people who speak a variety of languages or use translation tools.
- Using plain language helps keep your writing concise and more scannable.
Content strategy is about much more than copy. A good content strategy considers content hierarchy, categorization and placement as well as thoughtful word choices that create a smooth and accessible user experience. By thinking strategically from the audience’s perspective - about what they’re looking for, and how they will navigate to that information - you can deliver an experience that smoothly guides users to their destinations.