The Content Design Academy: slow, uncertain and real
This guest blog post is written by Dorothy Eyo, Lee Baker and Pete Woodhouse. They are all students of our Content Design Academy course and here are some reflections of what the've learnt along the way.
Content design can seem like a strange, mysterious, and long-winded way of creating website content.
But the Content Design Academy has opened our eyes to its massive potential to base your content on real needs. This is, quite simply, how you make websites as useful as they can be.
The beautiful chaos that slows us down
For the first 2 to 4 weeks, I was the girl in the Zoom chat box asking “What are we doing?” because honestly I didn’t understand a lot of things.
One day I went through my week 2 notes and saw where our instructor told us “Embrace that feeling of doubt you feel in the journey.” This statement is what has helped me get through; that chaos in the content design process is okay, and why not? Especially as we are trying to create something helpful out of the research we have gathered.
I love how content design slows you down to really think about the results you want and the process to achieve it. Until now it never occurred to me how creating content without user research is just like shooting darts with blindfolds - it’s like bringing opinions to a data fight - I totally do not recommend this.
I believe the work of the content designer is so important because at the core of our work is a deep respect and empathy for people. Eager to see what I get to do with this skill.
Lose your certainty on content and improve it
One of our first tasks for our project to help the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) serve its users was to read transcripts of interviews with people who might benefit from its content. We were meant to pinpoint real user needs. Wading through the notes, I was immediately thrown into uncertainty.
The man in my interview kept saying he was muddling along - he had never gone to RNID for help - his needs were met. And, yet… Maybe he would need help in the future, he started to wonder. Anticipating needs that users might not even have devoted much thought to: that is the magic of user-centred content design.
Uncovering needs, looking for patterns, prioritising them – it is a world away from the certainty over content I’ve experienced (one chief executive said breezily of website visitors: “we know what they’re interested in!”).
But there’s no better way.
Content design is real, it isn’t just a bunch of buzzwords or a trendy technique, it’s a real skill with real career possibilities. And by keeping things real, the Content Design Academy helps you take the first steps to become a content designer.
It does this in two important ways:
Getting to work with real practicing content designers, whose valuable experience in tried-and-tested approaches, shows you how to create the most useful content in real situations.
Tackling a real-life brief from a real charity (this year, with RNID) is a hands-on experience. This gives the confidence to apply the content design process in the real-world, and proves it isn’t an abstract theory, it’s a practical process that gets results.
You can trust that, with the right research, user needs will emerge and can be prioritised. The resulting content will be sure to help real people, complete real tasks, in their real lives.