Data and user needs in the Content Design Academy

This guest blog post is written by students of the Content Design Academy.

We are running our first 12-week Content Design Academy and we've got a stellar group of people working on a project for Action Duchenne. The charity helps children with muscular dystrophy and their families.

Here, the academy students share their learnings and experiences on working with data in discovery and identifying user needs.

Using data for content discovery

by Amy Noss

Part of designing web content for Action Duchenne meant looking at what pages the charity already has and how these are performing. That’s where Google Analytics came in.

The main lesson we learnt from this was not to get drawn in by impressive stats, for example, high traffic.

One page that stood out was for a Duchenne conference. It’s driving a lot of traffic and people are spending nearly 3 minutes on the page. At first glance, great.

But the priority user needs for Action Duchenne content are around supporting people with the condition.

Drilling down into the content stats

Pages that focused on priority needs were much further down the list, such as ‘Advice guides for adults.’ They tended to have a high bounce rate and a low entrance rate. So it was easy to assume they weren’t important. But they were clearly useful because time spent on these pages was at least 2 minutes.

We used the data to look at the pages that focused on support more closely. And we realised that a lack of data about them higher up the list told us a lot. There is a need for these pages but:

  • people aren’t finding them
  • they aren’t working hard enough to make people stick around on Action Duchenne’s site.

And that showed us where content gaps exist.

How data informs user need

We used our data to refine our user needs. This meant we could see where we should be focusing our efforts to design content that is searchable and usable.

With your user needs in mind, it can show you whether pages that meet those needs are being found, read and engaged with. If they’re not, you’ll get clues about why that you can add to your discovery research puzzle.

Identifying our user needs

by Ben Luby and Alicja Glowicka

User needs are the building blocks of our content. They are real-life needs expressed in plain language. They are not digital solutions. A badly written user need incorporates the existing or anticipated content.

How we discovered our user needs

We started with all the post-it notes we had filled from our Action Duchenne research. In our first session, we took notes capturing Lynette’s experience and exact words.

The most useful ones were quotes, real things, facts to be learnt, and emotions to be addressed. One word post-it notes are not useful as it is hard to work out their meaning.

Next, using Google Trends, we researched keywords. This gave us an idea of the topics people search for around Duchenne. With these inputs, we drafted our first user needs.

To develop the user needs and get an understanding of the language people use, we used social media and discussion forums. This helped us to find out more about people’s mental models and express the user needs in language the user would use.

Parts of the journey we focused on

We identified that the charity can add the most value to the users who are trying to find out about managing and living with the condition.

Ongoing support for families is part of the charity’s vision of building a positive Duchenne’s community. We also looked at helping to fundraise, as it is critical for the charity to continue their work.

The second one is around fundraising, as it is critical for charity to continue their work.

Translating the sometimes vague or abstract nature of post-its into real human needs was challenging. It is not a natural process and it was hard to avoid adding solutions.

Working with user needs

We added them and grouped them in a spreadsheet added ‘acceptance criteria’ for each of the user needs. Acceptance criteria define when that need is met.

They are ideally testable and make sure that the content we produce is actually appropriate.

Our next step was to create content based on user needs.

User needs – how they help with day to day content work

by Mel Dyson and Jess McArdle

As content producers, we know that working with content experts and different people in organisations has its challenges. Our team at work, for example, gets bombarded with requests to create content for the web. But what allows us to accept or consider these requests?

This quote from Sarah Winters rings true:

‘So many organisations are still focused on what messages they want to push, rather than what their users need…”

What we learned from our user needs work

User needs achieve:

  • less duplication, less work – maybe someone has an idea for some new content, but actually we find the user needs have already been met on the site
  • everyone can see exactly what they are getting – with user needs set, the content is always going to achieve what the user and the business needs it to
  • they focus us – the page just needs to achieve a set of goals, this makes our messaging clear and accessible.

How to build user needs

User needs are real-life scenarios expressed. They inform what we cover and how, and what the user needs to do for the need to be met.

A user journey should be set out, and from that, we can build user needs.

We don’t just finish here and assume that what we’ve done works for our users. We test, edit, iterate. We collect feedback from users and look at data on how they are reading and using the information.

The website should constantly evolve with the needs of users and the organisation's business strategy.

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