Content as UX: Building a More Human Web

By 5th June 2019 No Comments
Content as UX: Building a More Human Web

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How are you enjoying this article so far? Whatever your feelings, I’ll bet you’ll agree that content is a vital part of the user experience.

Wait. Did I say “a vital part”? I meant “the critical part”. After all, every user journey, whatever its goal, ultimately involves a user getting to content, or adding their own. That content may be text, like this article, or it may be imagery, video, audio — you name it. But whatever it is, it’s the point of the user’s interaction with every site or product.

Yet traditionally (and all too often still) when we design websites or make products, we design visually, and the content spaces are left blank. If you’re doing things as most do, you’re probably going to show the wireframes or mockups to someone internal — maybe even your founder — and ask them to fill the spaces.

Ugh. At least, that’s what your colleague is probably thinking at this point. Now they have the burden and responsibility of filling the literal and metaphorical blank page — but a blank page that already has a goal or direction they’ve had no part in choosing.

Here I’m going to suggest an alternative way to consider content, where content is UX.

1. How Can Content Be UX?

I said above that content is the critical part of the UX. Let’s build on that now.

Content is user experience.

Look at a site like YouTube. The landing page is a list of content. Even better, that content is presented based on your (or my) past usage patterns. The data associated with that content — the image, title, name of the account that uploaded the media, total views and upload date — is also content. When you access a video, the comments beneath it are content.

Text beneath video is content

It’s all content. Content is the user experience. It’s what we’re here to use.

Okay, you say, but it’s YouTube. My product isn’t content.

Fine, let’s consider the example of a new computer. I just had to replace mine after six years of trusty service. I got a MacBook Air, and it came in a lovely box. Nice user experience. Other than the actual computer, there’s not much content here, right?

Not much content on the MacBook Air box

Well, no. But then I open the box, plug the thing in, and notice these little leaflets tucked away.

Leaflets inside the MacBook Air box

I’ve included the matchbox for a size comparison. I wear glasses, but I felt like I needed a magnifying glass to read the leaflet titled MacBook Air Info. In fact, I only read the first sentence (which hurt my eyes):

Review the Macbook Air Essentials guide before using MacBook Air.

“Right you are, Apple,” I thought.

But what’s this? The only other leaflet in the box is a MacBook Air Quick Start Guide. Is … is that what they meant? I hope so, because it has slightly bigger text, and it was the only other thing I glanced through before I turned on my thrilling new purchase.

Question: how am I ever going to start creating glorious content on that device, or access the glorious content accessible on the Web, if I can’t read the instruction content to get said device going? If I don’t need the content to get it work, then why include these crazy-tiny, unreadable leaflets with the product in the first place?

This experience doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence, nor the idea that Apple cares about actual people. Sure, the packaging is nice. But right now it feels like the business is in love with its own products more than its users.

Bottom line: content is user experience. Even in the Real World™.

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