Blog Post

Leveling up the in-product user experience with content design

Ashley Draper

Sr. UX Writer, Product Design

Bill Gates' assertion in 1996 still holds true today: "Content is king." And while so much has changed in the digital space since Microsoft’s cofounder coined the phrase, the words we use will always matter.

Today, people expect products to be clean, simple and easy to use. They want content that guides them seamlessly through their experiences. In a landscape where countless products compete for users' attention, people are more likely to adopt those that prioritize simplicity and clarity in their content.

Words set the tone and help your audience navigate your product. The right words cut through the noise, simplify complexity and empower users to complete their tasks.

Picture a polished app or a well-designed website — striking visuals, easy navigation and smooth transitions. Now, erase all the words! No button labels, no tooltips guiding your clicks, nothing but those nice visuals. That beautiful design would turn into a confusing maze very fast.

Words aren't decoration. And getting them right isn’t optional. A button image alone cannot communicate a share, submit or delete action. A wordless interface compromises:

  • Functional instruction
  • Guidance and comprehension
  • Storytelling
  • Ease of use
  • Brand identity
  • Accessibility

I get it; wordless might be a bit much. But if you consider that using the wrong word is just as confusing as no words at all, then it’s conceivable that design is nothing without words. Clear language can be the difference between a painful user experience and a delightful one.

Say less, mean more

According to a study by Jakob Nielsen, 79% of users don't read entire pages. They either scan or skim. Only 16% read word-by-word. This data underscores the importance of plain, simple language. Plain language ensures that all people can understand your product, including those with lower literacy levels or limited language skills.

At Cornerstone, we’re prioritizing plain language throughout our content design. Our product design team uses readability tools to aim for a 6th-grade readability score for all our written copy. This level boosts the adoption of our products because people will find them easier to use.

Our focus on plain language aligns with our human-centered design principles of simple, scalable, contextual, inclusive and data-informed (SSCIDI) design. We enhance the customer experience and our product design by making language clear. This is our fundamental strategy.

By collaborating with our customers, Cornerstone equips itself to make data-informed business decisions. These insights also let us provide content that resonates with users and supports a pleasant experience with our products. This is the way we revolutionize learning and performance.

Better design starts with better content

People are at the heart and center of good product design. Our top mission as product designers is to ensure that people find our products delightful and easy to use. Clear words are foundational in that effort.

From simple tasks like setting up a user profile. Or complex ones like assigning learning modules to employees in an organization. I can’t overstate the importance of a seamless, intuitive flow coupled with clear content. Our products must ensure that people can get useful guidance at every step of their journey.

We’ve done the hard work to make things simple. Our designs aim to improve the admin and end-user experiences by focusing on getting the content right. To that end, we’re refining our calls to action for clarity and directness:

Building a human-centered design team takes words

Words and language show users where they are, tell them what they're doing, and how to complete their tasks. That’s why at Cornerstone, we’ve added a UX (User Experience) Content Writer (that’s me!) and a Head of Accessibility to our product design team.

Our product design principles show that content design touches many customer-facing areas. The UX writer works closely with accessibility, UX designers, and researchers. They work to understand what people need and make complex ideas clear and conversational. User research interviews and analytics unearth pain points and product workarounds. These insights help us understand how people talk about our products and make them work for their organizations. All this helps the UX writer recommend informative, engaging and meaningful copy.

Accessible content is useful for a wide range of people with varying abilities. UX content design inherently connects to accessibility:

  • Creating text that is plain and easy to understand
  • Providing alternative text for images
  • Ensuring a logical flow of information
  • Considering screen reader compatibility and keyboard navigation

Why every organization can benefit from content design

The benefits of strong content design at your organization can’t be understated. With a good content designer, you can ensure your organization is reaching as many people as possible because content designers actively consider factors like readability, clarity and inclusive language.

With a focus on accessibility, you can foster an inclusive digital experience across your products and services. Over time, the best practices you and your content designer(s) establish can expand your accessible offerings by baking them right into your design system. With these best practices, you can keep our speed to market (or even speed it up) and underscore your commitment to your customers through more straightforward and inclusive design.

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