Writing text for the web that meets the needs of the user as clearly, simply and quickly as possible.
Content design should enable people to use a service or get information quickly and easily. It involves choosing the best format for content and making sure it’s written clearly and based on user needs.
Some relevant roles: content designers, content managers, web managers, web editors, digital publishers, information officers
Principles of content design
Applying design principles
Understanding how the GDS design principles apply to content design
Promoting good content design
Communicating the principles of good content design to others (eg always starting with user needs and writing in plain English)
Platform and media choices
Choosing the right platform
- considering all publishing channels (based on user needs) and determining the best platform for publishing content and services
- choosing the right media (eg words, video or audio)
Understanding the GOV.UK proposition
- being familiar with the GOV.UK proposition
- understanding when it’s more appropriate to publish content through third parties or social media
Content planning and content strategies
- developing content plans and strategies that show how the identified user need will be met
- having a good understanding of the creation and format of GOV.UK as a central government service
Managing implications and risks
Understanding the implications of publishing content and then appropriately managing the risks of doing so.
Considering design context
Understanding the importance of content within the service and interaction design context (eg writing flat pages for informational purposes is different from using content within a transaction or service to instruct the user on using it)
Turning complex information into easily understood content
Making informed decisions
Gaining in-depth knowledge of a wide range of subjects quickly, in order to make informed decisions about the best way to present information (including which content format to use)
Turning complex subject matter into easily understood language, without losing depth of information.
Presenting information clearly
Presenting information in a way that users can understand.
Writing good content
Using plain English
Editing content to ensure it remains accurate, relevant and current, while continuing to meet user needs.
Stakeholder engagement and providing challenge
Challenging content decisions
Knowing how and when to challenge content that doesn’t meet user needs.
Communicating with stakeholders
Being able to communicate clearly with stakeholders at all levels, especially when challenging requests that don’t meet user needs or go against content design best practice.
- developing content that’s accessible by default, considering accessibility from the outset
- ensuring that services are accessible to all users, irrespective of cognitive or physical disabilities or other issues that may make use difficult
Using writing and editing tools
Creating content and images
Being confident in using Markdown and being able to source and edit images.
This involves being:
- confident using content publishing tools
- able to design for different digital channels
Editing and reviewing the work of others
Editing and proofreading
- reviewing the work of other content designers for consistency and accuracy
- taking responsibility for publishing that work after reviewing it
Understanding that when we (government) publish information, it has the potential to influence markets and affect end users - so it’s important that our content is accurate and clearly understood.
Analytics and search engine optimisation
Understanding and interpreting analytics data to improve content so it meets user needs and is optimised for search engines.
The Service Design Manual includes an overview of the content designer role.
GOV.UK offers guidance on:
- how to plan, write and manage content to meet the needs the public has of government
- using tools and evidence to back up content design decisions
The London Agile Content Meetup is a network for anyone who works with content, offering knowledge sharing and other resources on using agile to help improve content.
The Government Digital Service blog has collected useful posts on the subject of content design under ‘Some interesting things about how we do content design’.
The University of Reading assessed GOV.UK’s content principles and made recommendations for improving them in ‘GOV.UK content principles: conventions and research background’.