Integrating User Experience and Content Strategy: 3 Real-life Insights and Lessons

September 22, 2015 by Anthony Quiroz in User Experience UX Content Lessons Blog Post Feature

As User Experience and Content Strategy continue to evolve with technology and research, figuring out how to integrate the two has become increasingly more important, as well as more challenging. What was once equivalent to solving a flat, 100-piece puzzle — figuring out one part, then another part and fitting them together — is now closer to tackling a Rubik’s Cube, requiring a nuanced understanding of the complex interdependence of all parts.

Understanding and navigating this emerging relationship between UX and Content Strategy isn’t cutting edge anymore, it’s the minimum threshold for digital viability. After all, without understanding its dynamics, solving a Rubik’s Cube, which has approximately 43 quintillion possible arrangements, is virtually impossible.

Ethologist and UX Design Strategist Anthony Quiroz (@TQ_AZ), who co-presented our Digiday webinar on September 17, shares three important insights on the modern integration of UX and Content Strategy.

Mobile has changed the way we read content

Lesson 1: Understand that mobile has changed the way we read.

A study of more than 2,000 people by Microsoft found that our average attention span is eight seconds, down significantly from previous research conducted in 2000 that found we have an attention span of 12 seconds.”

The rise of mobile devices has shortened our attention spans to the point that we consume information completely differently today than we did even just a few years ago. Our reading has become skimming, our skimming has become glancing. In the Microsoft study above, “Forty-four percent of study participants said they have to concentrate really hard to stay focused on tasks.” It’s an uphill battle for us to focus on anything for very long, let alone a dull website. The most dangerous assumption you can make is that your customer is the exception. They’re not, and it’s important to approach it that way.

It now requires a seamless interplay of content and design to lengthen a reader’s attention span long enough to accomplish, well, anything. For designers, that means considering how “the fold” has changed — no longer just one, but multiple folds, with an emphasis on vertical scrolling — and also what that means for content: “Those designers who create compelling and successful long pages are aware of the fold. … They prioritize content that leads the user down the page, content that makes the extra effort pay off.” For content creators, that means accurately identifying what immediately connects with the target reader and highlighting it — linguistically and spatially.

What does this mean?
It’s not good enough anymore to have compelling designs and interesting words — do your designs make your words more interesting? Do your words make your designs more compelling? These are the questions you need to answer to connect with the modern reader.

Facilitate a great UX for user research on mobile

Lesson 2: Facilitate a great UX for user research on mobile.

“Seventy-one percent of in-store shoppers who use smartphones for online research say their device has become more important than their in-store experience.”

Customers are researching and self-educating themselves more than ever prior to making decisions. And they’re primarily doing so on their mobile devices: “Nearly 40% of e-commerce website visits are coming from mobile devices.” Having an integrated experience that prepares for this step of the modern consumer’s decision-making process is not just a good thing to have — it’s a necessity. You need to be there with an answer the moment a thought, question or need pops into their heads.

What does this mean?
Good design helps you be there, good content helps you provide the answer, but great integration of the two helps you build trust — and is ultimately what gets you their business.

Mock up your designs and your story

Lesson 3: Mocking up designs? Mock up your story, too.

“Users often leave Web pages in 10-20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people’s attention for much longer…”

Storytelling has become an essential part of crafting a good UX — because “stories connect with human beings on an emotional level.” People are searching for experiences that resonate with them, and resonant experiences are built around emotion. It’s no longer about figuring out the design, figuring out the content and mashing them together at the last step. The creation processes need to work in tandem. This changes how UX goes about wireframing design concepts. The days of only showing gray boxes and lorem ipsum text are over because it’s so reductive — seeing only a layout isn’t enough to capture the full intent of the design.

What does this mean?
It’s not just about designing a mobile-responsive website with best practices and nice aesthetics. It’s about how the design connects with users and fulfills their needs. You can’t show that without the story. Including keywords, titles and phrases that demonstrate the narrative that you’re trying to tell helps to form a more holistic picture of a consumer’s full experience. Doing so increases the likelihood of engaging customers with content and actions that will resonate, which leads to more time spent on-site and greater opportunities to reach conversion points.

This is where the rubber meets the road today.

This is why UX Design Strategists and Content Strategists need to collaborate early and often — not because it’s easy, but because it represents the most effective way to connect with today’s consumers. The integration process is always evolving, just like the fields themselves, but as long as you focus on understanding the consumer and follow the lessons above, you’ll be able to successfully solve the integration problem, no matter how messy it may start. Just like a Rubik’s Cube.

Do you need assistance solving your own integration challenges?

Ethology’s goal is to optimize every part of the digital experience to drive measurable results. Our team can help you create a customer experience that drives the right traffic to the right places, maximizing conversions and directly impacting your bottom line.

Get in touch with Ethology

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About the Author

When you first meet me, I might seem like a mellow guy. But start talking design and you’ll see me turn into an animated, hand-waving, whiteboard-sketching maniac. It’s not just design that I love. For me, it’s about crafting amazing experiences — even when I’m not at work. Just ask my family. I’m always busy researching our next great road trip, restaurant visit, home improvement project or hike. To me, the thinking and planning is almost as much fun as the doing. Almost.