Monday, June 1, 2015

Content or Design: Which Comes First

The fundamental design principle is that the user should always come first.

User-centered design or UX (User Experience) is based on a suitable standard and design principles which explain the why (the purpose of design), and rules (which explain how). But what do you do to effectively transition from UX Strategy mode into UX Design mode? What are all the ways and means you use to bridge UX Strategy to UX design? How do you transition into design mode? How do you kick start the design process? And content or design: Which comes first?

Content should always be an input for the design and not the other way around. Precisely and all too often people start with wireframes, which are a real bane of content. Defining the messages to convey, their order, and their wording is a capital step in the definition of a digital service. Constant interplays between content/information structure and user goals throughout the design process are important. Just because you have the business's content doesn't mean you have everything. They're not perfect - considering user flows (and needs/wants/expectations), as well as your own experience as a site creator, will help expose holes.
* what does the user want to know or do,
* what logical content structure is needed to do this,
* how can the information be packaged in UI to meet the users’ goals,
* does usability testing confirm this,
* do delivery considerations suggest modifications to the content structure,
* do the detailed UX design meet user expectation.

Content is more than just "important," it's the linchpin of the overall experience. When the user is done, it's the content that leaves the longest lasting impression, good or bad. Great content keeps people coming back, not shiny bells and whistles. Assuming the user research has been properly done and the decision is made to build a site to meet user needs, which hopefully align with business needs, start with the content before working on the visual and functional aspects of the design. Use a content strategy technique, which predates wireframes, Page Description Diagrams. A PDD is a plain text table establishing content prominence hierarchies and relationships without making layout decisions. The absence of layout and other visual treatments, which ought to support content instead of leading its creation, enables a focus on issues and language rather than filling-in empty layout boxes.

Every objective can be interpreted in terms of its pitfalls: The 'content first' mantra originates from Content Strategy domain and it was coined precisely to address this problem - the business mindset and language proliferating content of so many sites. The focus on what the UX should look like and what gimmicks it must include, along with the challenge of meeting these expectations is identified as the core obstacle to creating user-oriented content. Content which speaks to the user engages them more directly than any visual appeal could. Regarding: "build a site to meet user needs (which hopefully align with business needs)" could be thought of as unnecessarily guarded statement, if business needs aren't aligned with those of their customers there are two management paths to consider, the soft one - they change or the hard - they may as well cut the loses.

Content is the king. From research about what user wants/needs, then the logical content leads into some aspects of the initial design, but the design does not stop there. It continues as you collaborate with the wider team, in no particular order, Interaction design, Information Architecture design, Database design, Service design, HTML structure design, Visual design, etc. Only by collaborating together is the result greater than the sum of the individual parts - the sequence in which these design things happen will vary all the time. By collaborating in this way, new insights crop up all the time which need to embed feedback mechanism into the design too. The fundamental design principle is that the user should always come first.


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