Why you shouldn’t make assumptions about content

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We recently launched the new GlobalScot website, and I was scrolling through it when I noticed something odd. On some of the case studies and articles, the formatting was off. There were no spaces between paragraphs or styling on the sub-headers.

Article called 'New platform to support women-led start-ups' with no spaces in between the paragraphs

I had a chat with my content design colleague and one of our developers. Initially we thought there was a technical issue that was causing the content to display incorrectly, but then we found a few case studies without spacing issues. That’s when we realised it wasn’t a technical issue – it was a training one.

The case studies and articles are uploaded by members of the GlobalScot team, not our content team. Because we added a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor to the admin system, we assumed that it would be easy for the team to add their content, because they wouldn’t have to do any coding to format it properly. But we never explained to them how content should be formatted. We assumed that they knew, because we do.

It wasn’t their fault – it was ours.

Content design matters

Content is the design element that people most often forget about. It’s just words, right? Anyone can write words.

Wrong.

As a former content designer, I get frustrated when content is thrown into projects at the last minute as an afterthought. Content design isn’t just about copywriting. It’s about using the most appropriate content format to help people do what they need to do. It’s a skill that requires and understanding of user behaviour, analytics and user needs. Content can make or break your website.

The GlobalScot project team knew the value of content design. We had a dedicated content designer (also called Katie, as it happens) who helped research, draft and test the language that we use across the site. But she wasn’t going to have time to help with ongoing content creation, like developing new case studies and news articles, which is why we needed to help the GlobalScot team with their content skills.

What we did

Katie and I had a chat about how we could support our GlobalScot colleagues with content creation and upload.

We wanted to make it clear that we weren’t criticising them. How could they know how to do something that we never explained to them?

We decided to:

  • Set up a training session, where we would walk them through the WYSIWYG editor and show them how to do things like create sub-headings and set up hyperlinks. We would also use the session to go through some content design best practice guidance, and remind them of the content guidelines that Katie created. It’s a great style guide, but it’s only useful if people are aware of it and actually use it.
  • Create a basic how-to guide that people could refer to after the session.

How it went

Despite not being able to access the admin system until a minute before the session, it went really well. Only one member of the team was able to join us, but she is going to be writing and uploading most of the case studies and articles.

Katie gave a quick presentation outlining basic content design principles, and then shared some examples of how these could be applied to the types of content on the GlobalScot site. This was probably the most useful part of the presentation, because it showed how to apply the principles in a really practical way.

Then I did a quick run-through of how to do basic things in the editor, like add alt text to images and add a hyperlink to an email address.

The GlobalScot team member found the session really useful and said she will try out our suggestions with the next batch of case studies. We sent our documents to her afterwards so she could share them with anyone else in her team who is going to be creating GlobalScot content.

What we learned

  • Don’t assume that everyone has the same skills that you have. When you do something every day, it can be easy to forget that other people don’t.
  • Content matters. Actually, we already knew that. But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.

One Reply to “Why you shouldn’t make assumptions about content”

  1. A great example of why we have such a varied range of skills across our network
    and a reminder to all of us to communicate with each other – you don’t know what you don’t know until you’re faced with a problem and a solution.
    Love this!

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