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WhiteboardAre people leaving your website because they can’t find the information they need? What you need is better content not more content. Let’s look at content design from your audience’s point of view.

  1. Don’t think of content as just words. It’s about providing information in a format that best meets your audience’s needs. This could take the form of images, diagrams, calculators, links, Q&A, videos, charts, infographics, spreadsheets or a combination of these.
  2. Timing is important. Does your audience need an answer to a specific question or are they looking for step-by-step instructions? Are they under pressure when they are visiting your website and need to find answers quickly or is it a leisurely browse and a journey of discovery? Put the answers to their most pressing questions right up front where it's easy for them to find.
  3. Balance business needs with audience needs. It’s important to differentiate between what you need to convey and what your audience wants to read. These two requirements must be carefully balanced or your audience will go elsewhere. This is especially relevant if you have detailed and complex product information or compliance requirements.
  4. Use their words. What common terms does your audience use when searching for information about your industry? People search using words they are familiar with. What questions are they asking? Google Trends can help you identify popular searches as well as the suggestions that you see at the bottom of Google search results pages.
  5. Examine the searches on your own website. Google Analytics can give you valuable information about what content is important to people visiting your website. What pages are the most popular? What are people searching for on your website?
  6. Understand how people read. Most of the western world reads the same way except for those with a cognitive or physical impairment. If you use words that are familiar to your audience, they will be able to read faster and will be able to absorb more of your content. People only read a small percentage of the page, typically in an F-shaped pattern. As people skim read over familiar words, the brain fills in gaps. That’s why writing in ‘plain English’ is so important.
  7. What should you write about? Message boards, discussion groups and your experience of interacting with your customers can all provide clues about what matters most to your customers.
  8. Make it easy for your customers. Decorative fonts, embellishments and things that whirl, flash or twirl are not a good idea. Remember you are competing with every other distraction in their lives. They may be reading on their phone or at work, so don’t make it hard to read your content.
  9. People change. It’s important to make sure that you regularly audit your website content to make sure that it still reflects the priorities and interests of your customers. If you’ve kept abreast of latest trends and hot topics on forums and message boards relevant to your industry and audience you will get a sense of what the emotive topics are and when it might be time to update your content.
  10. Good content meets a need. What is your customers job-to-be-done? What are they trying to do and when will they consider the job to be complete? For example, making a reservation at a restaurant – the job might be complete once they have found the phone number or a booking form has been submitted and acknowledged.
  11. Headings and subheadings tell the story of the page. Your audience uses headings and subheadings to predict what information they will find on a page and whether they are in the right place. When deciding what to include in your headings and subheadings, think about what’s most important to your audience and put that first. 
  12. What information do you put first? There’s generally a small amount of content that is important to the majority of your audience. Make sure that information is easy to find on your home page.
  13. Make your content accessible. This includes using meaningful links, providing image descriptions, using ‘true’ headings and using transcripts and captions for videos. Find out more from
  14. Use plain English. Keep your sentences short - no longer than 15 to 20 words (8 words or less is an easy to read sentence), use active verbs and use lists where appropriate.
  15. Avoid using jargon or specialist language. Don’t assume knowledge, if you need to use industry-specific words, make sure you explain the terms first.

Richards, Sarah (2017) Content Design. Content Design London

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