Best Content Practices for User Experience
We've all been there — ready to flip our entire desk because we can't seem to achieve what should be a simple task on our "least favorite" website. Perhaps we exchanged some choice words with the computer screen. We probably don't want to admit that we absolutely took our rage out on the mouse.
As web editors working on Ohio University websites, we can all agree that we don't want to replicate that experience for our "users" — the numerous and diverse folks who use our websites for a multitude of different reasons.
Introducing User Experience
"User experience" in relation to the web is simply the holistic experience that a person has while using a website. "User experience design" is the process of optimizing websites to create the best possible experience for users. In other words, it is making changes to a website to more closely align the ideal experience with real users' actual experiences.
Changes big and small can have an impact on the overall user experience. We can work together to generate constructive online experiences for our students, alumni, donors, and colleagues. University Communications and Marketing (UCM) will take care of functionality and design, and with your partnership we can optimize content, too.
Seven Factors of User Experience
Seven main factors contribute to a positive experience on any website:
- Usability: Are users able to efficiently and effectively use the site to achieve goals?
- Usefulness: Does the site serve a purpose for users?
- Accessibility: Can all users fully access and understand the site and its contents?
- Desirability: Is the site aesthetically and emotionally pleasing?
- Credibility: Can users trust that the site is accurate, up-to-date, and official?
- Findability: Can users find the site and its contents?
- Value: Does the site provide overall value to users?
Tips for Crafting Content for a Better User Experience
- Use shorter paragraphs than are typical in print
- Use bullet points whenever possible
- Create content with a billboard approach, assuming that users will only see it for a brief moment in passing
- Keep in mind that users are navigating the web quickly and not absorbing content in the comprehensive, linear, sequential order in which you have carefully laid it out
- Make sure users can understand where they are on the site at all times by crafting useful, unique, and topical page titles
- Use clear headings to differentiate between different topics and increase the scannability of pages
- Avoid options and labels that could overlap and cause confusion or choice paralysis
- Reduce word counts by as much as 75 percent of your initial draft
- Relentlessly eliminate fluff content
- Think critically and realistically about users’ needs and goals
- Minimize or collapse content that is distracting to the main goal or only useful to a small subset of users
- Become familiar with the various disabilities that can change how a person interacts with websites
- Ensure that content is available to the widest possible audience by practicing these universal techniques for digital accessibility.
- Utilize the modular elements and color options provided in the editing platform to add visual appeal to important pages
- Use our button and link styles to emphasize available actions and add visual contrast to text-heavy pages
- Apply consistent formatting whenever there is an opportunity to create a familiar pattern
- Use photos to break up content and supplement the understanding of written content
- Choose photos that evoke emotion and convey your intended tone
- Adhere to official university brand standards
- Preview your work before you publish
- Edit and spell check content
- Keep a running list of time sensitive content that needs to be updated regularly
- Make sure content shifts with the semester and/or academic year in a timely manner
- Either remove event content or update event pages to promote the next occurrence as soon as an event has passed
- Ask someone to proof your work on important pages
- Avoid errors big and small
- As you write content, try to use keywords that someone might search the internet for when seeking your page, particularly in high-level headings but also throughout
- Use clear headings to differentiate between different topics
- Appropriately nest heading levels within pages from level two down to level six
- Analyze the general structure of your content to make sure it makes sense
- Ensure that your content is linked from pages where the user is likely to need it or look for it
- Think critically and realistically about your users’ needs and goals
- Even if you can add more content to a page, ask yourself if you should
- Brainstorm ways that you can add unique value to pages that our users can't get anywhere else
A Strong Focus on the Audience is Key
In summary, user experience design requires content contributors to imitate the perspective of the user as much as possible. Shift your mindset toward the target users as you create content, and the results will benefit our audiences.
These final tips can help you reframe your point of view:
- Ask yourself what your users truly want to know, rather than what you would like for them to know
- Think about your content from the perspective of multiple and diverse user identities and demographics in your target audience
- Talk to members of your target audience to gauge their perspectives, without placing too much emphasis on any small sample of opinions
- Learn as much as possible about your target audience's behaviors, needs, and goals
The UCM team is continually researching our various real users and their actual experience with our website in order to measure and improve the user experiences. We welcome and appreciate your partnership in this endeavor!