content writing ux

The Role of UX Design in Content Writing

User experience (UX) design focuses on the user above everything else. It asks questions such as, “How can this website better cater to our target audience?”.

But catering to the user experience is not just something for designers to keep in mind — content creators can also affect and improve UX.

Let’s take a look at some of the most important considerations of content UX:

Should I Focus on Design or Content First?

When you’re creating content for web pages, it helps to have the content first on hand in order to help define the design.

According to GatherContent, “content is UX”. A List Apart founder Jeffrey Zeldman has been quoted saying, “Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s just decoration”.

According to InVision, there are a few distinct reasons that support the need for content before design:

    • Having content first helps designers come up with the right design. This allows the designer to plan the design according to the general goal of the piece.
    • It saves time, and it speeds up the overall production process. Design revisions tend to take a lot of time compared to content revisions.
  • The goal is to communicate with the users. The design itself should be able to communicate. In order to communicate properly, you should know what to say/what message to send with what you’re creating.

content writing ux

At the end of the day, content and design are inseparable. They work the best together.

This content-first order of operations is perhaps less important for blog posts, which tend to follow a set design of sorts. Of course, if you’re working on a special piece that incorporates lots of different media and interactive elements, the content-first rule should certainly come into play!

Regardless of what you’re writing, to provide the best user experience, you must start with a user persona in mind. After all, if you don’t know who you’re writing for, how will you be able to judge whether or not it’s useful to that audience?

If you need help defining your personas, look to your competitors. How do they cover various blog categories and structure articles to speak to the needs of their stakeholders?

The Role of Formatting in Content UX

One of the easiest ways to improve your content UX is with helpful formatting. Great formatting improves readability, which we’ll discuss as a separate topic after this section.

A few easy ways to improve formatting:

  • Use a high contrast design, like black text on a white background. People shouldn’t have to squint to be able to read your content. On that note, make sure that your font size is large enough for your target audience. For example, if you’re writing for someone aged 60+, your font size should be larger than if you were creating content for a millennial.
  • Incorporate lots of white space to make the reading experience seem less overwhelming (especially for long articles).
  • Use descriptive subheadings and descriptive link anchor text to build expectations around what people can expect associated with each.
  • Incorporate screenshots and other media (such as video) to break up text and help visual learners. Using screenshots can help streamline processes and messages that you want to get across. With proper tagging, adding media can also help with SEO.

CoSchedule provides additional formatting considerations for improving content UX:

Increasing Readability for Better Content UX

Sophisticated search engines like Google incorporate a number of factors into their algorithm that determines how to rank content. The question at hand is, “Does readability rank?”. Is it worth spending time on this in order to improve rankings?

Yoast SEO, one of the most popular WordPress plugins, claims that readability indeed ranks. Readability has been becoming more and more of an important factor for ranking because of implications surrounding voice search and more human-like algorithm sophistication.

To be sure, there is a difference between being able to read words, and being able to read easily and with understanding.

Flesch Reading Ease Score

The Flesch reading ease score provides a measurable way to determine the readability of a piece of content. The higher the score, the easier it is to read the text, or the lesser effort readers need to exert to read the sentences. The Flesh reading ease score encourages writers to use less complicated words.

In general, the higher the score, the more readable it is, and the higher it can rank on search engines. Yoast can help you with readability, as can the free Hemingway editor.

Bucket Brigades

Using bucket brigades is an old-school copywriting technique that allows you to continuously draw readers deeper into your content. KreativCopywriting explains it like passing along a bucket of water through a human chain to put out a fire.

Using bucket brigades involves the use of short and punchy copy between big ideas, such as:

  • Look:
  • Here’s the deal
  • But wait…there’s more
  • But you’ve probably wondering
  • Still not convinced?
  • Now:
  • What’s the bottom line?

The structure of the content keeps the reader glued to what’s about to come next. It also makes the content feel more like a conversation: like the reader and writer are having a one on one conversation.

The good news?

You can use this technique anywhere in your content.

(See what I did there?)

A few final tips for improving your content UX in terms of readability:

  • Limit the focus of the topic. Don’t go off on a tangent unless it’s relevant and useful.
  • Be legitimately helpful. Match the user intent of the search query. Don’t try to hard sell someone who’s using search queries that refer to the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey.
  • Find an emotional connection and use it to keep the user reading!

The Impact of Website Structure on UX

It’s important to note that no matter how good your content is and how hard you work to incorporate UX best practices into a given article, you’re ultimately at the UX mercy of the website where the article will be published.

Though the content itself is an important focus when it comes to providing a great user experience, there are several other elements to consider when it comes to providing a complete user experience.

Diving deep into each one goes far beyond the scope of this article. That said, the following considerations will provide a basis from which to expand your understanding of the user experience on a greater scale.

Here are some basic principles to help improve the user experience surrounding the consumption of your content:

  • Easy to navigate: Make it easy for people to navigate your website through clear menu naming heuristics (ex: “blog” not “news”) and a prominent search bar.
  • Fast loading: 53% of people will leave a mobile page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. No matter the device, make sure that any barriers to immediately accessing content are removed.
  • HTTPS: Google Chrome users now receive warnings when they’re navigating a website that isn’t secured with HTTPS. It’s also an official ranking signal. Install an SSL certificate if you haven’t already so that people don’t have to worry about the safety of their data while browsing your website.
  • Mobile-friendly: Most people access content on mobile devices over desktop computers. Follow mobile-first design best practices, like using enough whitespace, so that people don’t accidentally click things they didn’t mean to.
  • Accessibility: The internet is for everyone. If you don’t factor accessibility best practices into your UX process, you’re alienating audiences unnecessarily.

content writing ux

Final Thoughts: The Role of UX Design in Content Writing

You may already be using some of these UX best practices in your content but there are probably a few things you could do a better job of incorporating.

Do you have any other tips for other content creators looking to provide a better user experience for their readers? 

Follow Maddy Osman Online

Learn more about her process and experience on her website, and read her latest articles on Twitter: @MaddyOsman.

Maddy Osman

Maddy Osman creates engaging content with SEO best practices for marketing thought leaders and agencies that have their hands full with clients and projects.

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