This is the second blog post by Kat Rose from Microform Academic Publishers Ltd on how she is using her content design training.
Using the user research
User research had taught me how customers were using the collection that I was editing and how they had found it in the first place. My next step was to write some collection highlights, to show the reader why the collection was worth reading. These highlights would be up to two sentences long and I would structure them around the core keywords which I had found through user research. I then arranged the highlights in order of their search popularity.
Adding tools to Sarah’s toolkit
Now I needed a way to check if my writing was as readable as I thought it was. Sarah had taught us to use words that the average reader could understand, but had I managed it? My early software searches didn’t really deliver much and I started to think about designing my own tool to do this. Thankfully I stumbled across a website that checks a text’s readability for you. I then used that website to edit my text until it could be read by someone in year 9 at school.
Selling what I was doing
As I moved into weeks 2 and 3, management became more intrigued by what I was up to. When I described why I was doing what I was doing, I made sure to explain how it could help the business to make money. When the website you are working on is a point of sale, your web pages are the pitch. Any business needs to make their offer at least as attractive as that of their rivals, if they want their customers to stay and buy something. Content design is an investment in sales and explaining that has got me much further than discussing user need alone could have done.
The highlights were so short that using the most popular search terms gave me all of the data I could fit into those streamlined sentences. For the paragraphs I was to write, I needed more direction. At this point I went back to my user research and used what I had found to write three job stories, each for a different type of user journey. I used the model that Sarah had taught us: ‘when…I want to…so I can…’ This job story model was really useful, as the information I had researched told me more about what the website’s users were doing than who they were.
Designing more than text
All 3 of my job stories made it very clear that anyone interested in buying a collection would want to know what was in it. I could summarise the contents as much as I wanted, but our users really needed lists of contents too. The problem here was that the website had just been redesigned and it was not a great time for me to start changing the design again.
When I went to see a colleague who was writing code for the website, I thought I knew how to get the contents lists on to the website. He heard me out, but explained that my idea probably wouldn’t work. As I started to defend my idea, I remembered Sarah saying ‘don’t take a positon’. I then stopped myself and explained the problem to him, at this point he came-up with a more user friendly idea about re-designing a button instead. His idea was right, so I built on it and he did too, until we had found a solution that we were both happy with.
Making the images work
The new website has more spaces for images than the old one, so I started thinking about how to put these images to work. Images can communicate messages more quickly than text, so the question became what they could tell the user. As the user’s main need is to know if a collection of documents has the information that they want, the images would also help to answer that question. What this meant from a content design perspective was being more specific in my choice of images. It seems like common sense now, but choosing a picture from the right time period and country was not serving any user need that the collection title hadn’t met. Every bit of content that I was creating or editing had to solve a user need.