Lizzie is one of our new trainers. She’s currently helping the University of Cambridge design their content around user needs. Lizzie first worked with Sarah over a decade ago and was involved with GOV.UK.
What’s your content background?
I loved studying semiotics as part of my linguistics and literature degree – and continue to be fascinated by language components, and the construction of meaning. Teaching abroad introduced me to the importance of plain English before I even knew it as ‘a thing’.
My web journey began as an editor for an ahead-of-the-curve local council, where I was recognised as being “good at writing” and I’ve enjoyed solving content conundrums for many organisations since then, from the National Lottery to train operators!
I took one Sarah’s original content design courses in 2012 and soon after my capricious role title (web editor, content coordinator, IA writer…) finally settled as content designer.
What do you like most about working in content?
Turning quantity into quality can be very satisfying in itself. But knowing that your streamlined, user-needs focused content is actually going to help people do things more easily and find the information they need, without sighing and tearing their hair out, is wonderful actually.
As content designers we have a motto, ‘doing the hard work to make it simple [for the users]’ and that’s just it. It’s great to keep that in mind when untangling a messy ball of content.
I like it when stakeholders experience their content through best practice content design and realise it still says everything but is brief, friendly and engaging. They’re sort of overcome with relief!
What’s your biggest content hate?
When people think accessibility is just an add-on. It’s a must-have, and needs to be part of every content design decision. Stemming from that, I don’t like use of tables to present non-data content, video content without transcripts and images with words, used as the only way to give information or signpost the user.
Secondly, when you present your carefully considered content design and someone with absolutely no content best practice knowledge weighs in with alternative wording…
Finally, the “what do you do?” social exchange: “Web content design, which means… [explains].” “Oh right, what area do you specialise in?” I specialise in content design.
What’s the best thing about Content Design London courses?
They’re the bee’s knees. So much so that they’ll teach you why you shouldn’t use that sort of turn of phrase – because it reduces the proportion of your audience who will understand what you mean.
What I mean by “bee’s knees” is that they extremely good. They will equip you with the techniques and tools you need to design excellent content.
What’s your funniest content story?
Funny-cringe would be a previous prime minister – by a few years –still being referred to on a live content page as the PM.
Funny-happy happened this morning actually. On a phonecall with a stakeholder, they said how about 2 statements, like this and such and such? And I looked down at my pad where I had written down the exact same thing half a minute or so earlier. Though my statements were a bit briefer, and the wording was more consistent for minimal cognitive load. Sometimes content design is like working out a maths problem.