Core skills

You may have come to content design from a variety of backgrounds – such as communications, marketing, web editing, copywriting, technical writing, journalism.

Empathy

One of the core skills you will need to develop as a content designer is empathy.  This means building empathy for the user. You will do this as you research, gather evidence and test your prototypes with them. It also means having:

  • empathy for the needs and ways of working of people in your team
  • respect for the specialist knowledge of your subject matter experts.

Plain language

Content designers need to know the basics of good readability. They’re aware how readers scan content. There’s a skill involved in improving content for ease of use. They will know how to create signposts for users, mix up the length of sentences and use active language. They work hard to make the meaning succinct and clear.

If you make your content easy to read, you aren’t ‘dumbing down’. You are opening up your information to anyone who wants to read it. You are making it accessible. You are trying not to exclude people based on their education, cognitive function or reading ability. Design London

User mindset

As a content designer you may feel less in control of the words than you’re used to. This is a good thing.

During usability testing you will be uncovering any assumptions you and your team has made about the user. Testing with users finds your blind spots. There are words that we’re used to in our agencies that we never question. Put them in front of a user and you soon find out where they are. It’s all about what they want to read, not what we want to tell them.

As a writer, you might find a point in the design process where you realise they are no longer your words. The user owns the words and the experience. Let that be your goal.

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