Without content most web sites and apps are just an empty shell. This part is missing from most UX courses, so if you want an advantage over other job applicants, learn about content creation.
Writing for products and web sites is different to writing essays or fiction. Learn the key principles of online content creation, and the basics of layered or structured content designed for browsing and information retrieval.
UX Foundations: Content Strategy (Morten Rand-Hendriksen)
Content Strategists are responsible for the up front planning of how content will be created, stored, displayed, maintained, and updated. They look at any existing content model and create a roadmap to get to the ideal future state.
UX Foundations: Information Architecture (Chris Nodder)
If you’re interested in content, take this optional course on how to design the structure for sites and apps. It talks about the principles and also shows how you can research and test navigation and information architecture structures.
One way that content strategists, accessibility experts and information architects communicate their work with the rest of the team is through a style guide that will cover the visual design, typography, standard colors, and also the tone that content should be written in. These days, more companies are also moving to a design system, which takes the concepts from the style guide and creates a set of design patterns and development resources that are easy for designers to mix and match as they create interface designs.
Choose a popular site or app that you use regularly. Find a piece of content that is at least 500 words long. Calculate its reading age manually, using the technique in the Learning to Write for the Web course. Now, apply what you’ve learned to cut its length. See if you can get to 50% length but still retain its meaning and tone.
Share your before and after content with your study group. Run a group critique session where you give (constructive) feedback on each person’s edited content. Read this UXMatters article on the ground rules for critiques. You need to get used to giving and receiving this type of critique, because it will happen often in your work life.
Perform a content re-write for three areas of your target site. These areas should probably be the home page, a category page (if the site has them) and at least one content-rich detail page.
This will form part of your portfolio later. Save copies of the “before” and the “after” text. It’s interesting to create a presentation that displays the before and after text side-by-side at the same font size. Even if it isn’t totally legible on the page, it shows just how you managed to reduce and re-format the content.
When you’ve completed this project, go back to your site design project from Part 4, and see whether your content fits in the design. Here’s a learning opportunity for you… in the future, would you start with the visual design, or the content that has to fit inside the design?
Next – Part 6: Neglected Skills
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