Comments on Content-First Design

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  1. Great ideas, Steph. Just wondering, your examples focus on websites, which are obviously content-heavy. How would you approach this idea for a more traditional Web app, especially enterprise apps that are not geared towards public consumption?

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  2. Hey Steph, since you’re taking cues from the game industry for narrative design, it would be worth looking into common tools like Twine, which is a tool that allows you to quickly rough out branching narratives like the one you presented in Word. It builds up the interactive story via a simple graph composed of linked passages which you can then run through.

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  3. @david OMG THIS LOOKS AWESOME. Thanks so much; trying it out now.

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  4. @chris Thanks! Yep, this approach works especially well for designing apps, external and internal alike. We still write first (or separate the content from an existing design) to capture actions, microcopy, and journeys in plain text. Then prototype at a higher fidelity (or iterate on the design), and test it. We then iterate on the content and design together. And we also repeat this approach whenever we discover new paths people need to take or questions they need answered at some point in that experience.

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  5. Another interesting piece on ‘content from design, a third quality article on the same topic I have read in last three weeks. I recall an excellent discussion on the same topic, started by Michael Andrews on G+, a few days back. https://plus.google.com/+MichaelAndrews22/posts/DhqbXD6TpgU Quite a few insightful comments there.

    Scott Pierce has summed up pretty well there.

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  6. Hey Steph!I like your approach of content prototype, because it helps a lot in working on any project. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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  7. Ok, I’m convinced to try this on my next personal project as a start in this direction, thank you Steph! And thanks for the Twine tool, David!

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  8. Thank you Steph for sharing! It excites me to see you articulate the relationship between games and content strategy. It’s something that crosses my mind all the time as a UX designer playing video games. At Barrel, the digital agency where I work, we’ve been experimenting with content-first design, starting projects with Google Docs outlining each page’s content and essentially trying to “wireframe” in text first. Love seeing your take on the content prototype!

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  9. Hi Steph!

    Thanks again for posting this. As others have mentioned above, learning about this narrative writer gave me a ‘ah ha’ moment!  As a product manager who relies heavily on user experience design, its insane not to explore and acknowledge the similarities between game design and application design (now and in the not too distant future). 

    I have a question about this technique:  Should content prototyping be used as a conceptual model similar to user flows (i.e. we are writing the story of what a persona should experience at a high level) or are they meant solely as a means to distinguish what content should appear in the system as a whole (and as one moves from lower to higher fidelity content prototypes, from system to individual pages)?

    Again, thank you! Really great article.

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  10. Nice article Steph. At Citrix I pushed for a content out approach for the responsive redesign of our corporate intranet. It was amazingly helpful. Not the same process as what you’ve described but it was very effective at aligning everyone one the project.

    In fact Karen McGrane and Ethan Marcotte interviewed me about it and just posted the podcast today. http://responsivewebdesign.com/podcast/citrix.html

    We took it back one step before the content work and went through an emotion-driven goal writing exercise first. It was interesting to see how getting clear on the emotional outcome that a page’s content was intending to elicit influenced what was being written, and designed.

    In my upcoming book Responsive Experience Design (RXD) this is chapter 2, getting clear on goals is first. It’s the first in a 4 step method for designing great experiences across contexts.

    I’m looking forward to folding in your suggestions and trying out Twine.

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  11. @dan Great question; it’s more of the latter.

    Since so much of our typical design processes stay high level and conceptual for weeks (months?), we get detailed right away to answer, “What’s the exact conversation we’re having with someone at this particular touch point?” 

    For example, where a user flow or visual storyboard says [user pays bill], we’d write what someone should read—specifically—to “pay bill.” We do this enough times, and the conversation of our system begins to take real shape, from “Sign in with your username and password” [user signs in] through “All set, you’ve just paid $50 to Fairfax County Water Authority” [show confirmation message].

    By taking this approach, we also learn:

    * What [actions] seemed like a good idea at the storyboard level, but when it came to actually having something to say there, turned up empty. So that’s instant iteration or, at the very least, narrowing scope. Either way is a win.
    * As we create/edit/refine this detailed content, we begin seeing where we can consolidate the experience (e.g., two separate actions on the storyboard are actually part of one conversation). So we continue simplifying the prototype to be contextually relevant and naturally conversational.

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  12. Designing for content is something that everyone should be doing. Too many people take a ‘bells-and-whistles’ approach, focusing more on the ‘cool’ elements of the package instead of the content of said package.

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  13. Good Content is always helpful for very Blog site. you have suggest good ideas how to write quality content and you explained very useful tools. thanks for sharing. Please also advise how to get more traffic I have my new blog site, please advise some to get good amount traffic on my site?

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  14. Amazing comparison of video games to make us understand the real scenario of content and designing part and on content prototypes. Your article is really content heavy and thanks for sharing.

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  15. I recently discovered this article and it’s really helped me think through how we approach content for chatbots. I liked it so much, I just included it in a roundup of articles on content strategy for bots on my blog. Thanks Steph!

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  16. Sorry, commenting is closed on this article.