The mini guide to content design to make your contents visually effective

27 April 2021Reading time: 4 min.

Content design doesn’t mean just drafting a concept. Rather, it’s about finding the best expression to respond to a need. That’s why content marketing strategy needs this step, which goes beyond copywriting.

“Content design isn’t just a technique, it’s a way of thinking. The content designer is expected to question everything, collect data, and make decisions accordingly.” 

We’re borrowing this definition of content design from Sarah Richards, who, with her award-winning team of content strategists, is the initiator of this approach. Let’s start from her definition to understand this approach and see how it works in practice. 

This post will try to shed some light on its effectiveness, operation, and difference from copywriting. 

Content design: what it is and why it differs from copywriting

First, content design identifies the user’s need to provide the best possible solution by creating a textual and visual set. 

Unlike copywriting, content design goes beyond the question: “How can I express this concept?” It rather asks: “What content can satisfy the user’s search and need?” 

In other words, content design thinks bigger. It doesn’t stop at writing useful and functional content, but finds the best way to present it in order to meet the user’s expectations and needs, whether through an infographic, a video, a chart, a brochure, or an article. 

content design

Source: Semrush

The content designer must grasp the mechanisms behind users’ search and information absorption and thus create content that meets the expectations of the target audience. In fact, it’s the user who has to find the content we create and not vice versa. Indeed, the principle of content design is creating the right content to meet a need, moving from a content-push to a content-pull logic. 

The importance of content design

In a digital world where everyone wants to stand out and elbow to emerge, content design is a key tool. The success of a blog or web page isn’t a matter of the content’s quantity but of quality and intelligence. People won’t find your site due to the originality of your design, but because your content belongs to their vocabulary and their cognitive schemes. That’s why content design means analyzing the way users think and intercepting their needs. Collecting these data, interpreting them, and building content that meets the audience’s needs is exactly what lies at the basis of content design and, in general, of an effective content marketing strategy. 

How content design works: 5 best practices for creating effective content

1. Studying the user’s cognitive mechanisms

Carry out some preliminary activities before creating the actual content. First, exactly as in Email Marketing, analyze the needs and behaviors of the target audience in order to structure an effective strategy. 

As the focus is on content, also study and learn the cognitive mechanisms the users utilize while searching for information on a web page. Therefore, it’s vital to consider a series of preliminary aspects before choosing the type of content: 

  • how does a user read web content?
  • how does he or she approach content?
  • what’s his or her attention span?
  • what are the potential barriers to getting the information?
  • how does memory work? 

A study by Nielsen (“How little do users read?”), points out that users read only 20–28% of a page and that the cognitive effort required to assimilate information increases by 11% for every 100 words added

Being aware of how users’ learning and attention work is key for designing content—no matter if this is about a webpage, an article, an infographic, etc. Looking for the most effective term or the most captivating sentence is a waste of time if the user won’t get to read them. 

2. Analyzing the target 

Decide your audience and analyze their behaviors, preferences, and needs to create effective content. Before writing any word of content, you should establish:

  • your target;
  • what the target looks for and what it wants from you, i.e. the need you can respond to; and
  • how to communicate with the target so that it can effectively receive your information.

Don’t forget that your content is meant to reach an audience of real people, not to rank well in search results. As we’ve explained in this post , even Google’s updates reward quality. Keep the focus on your audience and monitor the evolution of their habits and needs—the positive ranking will follow. 

3. Defining an effective format

Your previous analyses have allowed you to establish a target, the how and what of its searches, its content access mechanisms, and its expectation from your company. 

With all this information in hand, you can begin to understand which content formats suit most of your audience’s needs. In fact, it’s possible to present information on a web page in different ways and with different elements, such as just text and infographics. The characteristics of each of them fit specific purposes and targets. 

4. Determining the amount of information and style to use

Besides choosing the right format for your audience, you also need to understand,

  • how much and what information should fit into your content Avoid an excess of details that distract the user from key information. Carry out this selection by following the inverted pyramid technique: 
Cuadro de texto 2
Cuadro de texto 2
Cuadro de texto 2
  • the type of vocabulary to use Indeed, consider the best practice of opting for common words that most users can understand when writing content. An easy vocabulary allows for faster page reading and facilitates the assimilation of information.
  • keep a consistent style This reflects the identity of your brand and the type of services/products you offer. 

5. Organize information into an effective structure

As a content designer, your mission is to always keep the user focused on the page and facilitate the assimilation of key concepts

After choosing the style and format, you need to organize the content into an effective structure:

  • choose clear and relevant titles The title is the first thing the user sees, so it must contain the key concept in a few simple words. 
  • use subtitles and bulleted lists These elements break up the text, make it easier to read, and highlight key information. 
  • rely on the communicative power of images Graphic elements (whether they are images, symbols, or icons) help to lighten and make reading less tiring and more immediate. 

The content designer’s checklist

Now that you’ve created your content, you only have to review it: does it meet the user’s needs? Is it clear and effective? Does it adhere to content design’s best practices? Here’s an example of self-assessing questions: 

  • Is the content in my target’s vocabulary?
  • Is it in the most effective format for my type of audience?
  • What do users expect and seek from my brand?
  • Do my content design choices reflect collected data? 

If you answered yes to all of the questions, then you can press the longed for “Publish” button! 

If not, you need to review some concepts and review your creation process. 

This article was written by

Paola Bergamini

Paola Bergamini

I was born in 1993 in Como and I escaped from this little town to study in Milan, where I graduated in 2017 in philosophy. I've always been interested in marketing and communication and I love writing and reading. As Content Editor at MailUp, I try to keep up to date with Email and Digital Marketing news, in order to share trends, theories and tools about this constantly evolving sector.

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