Content is the nexus of all digital experience
Content is the nexus of all digital experience. This is the ‘truth’ I aim to advocate in this article :)
So often we perceive content to be words - the copy, the long form writing, the journalistic article, the technical writing, the marketing copy, the advertising copy. And of course this stuff is 100 percent content. Really important content.
But content is so much more than just blocks of words on a page. It is also photos, video, illustrations, infographics, the labels, instructions and help within products - often called microcopy, user generated content, chat bot logic and voice assistant language. Even metadata is a form of content, and so is the connective tissues in content models and information architecture that suggest and anticipate optimal pathways through content.
And perhaps more controversially I would suggest that some of the graphical elements of design can also be considered content. The colour of a button, the sequence of a task, the hierarchy of a page. When you think that an illustration or infographic is content then this become more plausible.
The word content has another meaning - like the contents of a book it means what is contained within. Perhaps that is why we also limit our definition of content in a digital context to words.
Paradoxically it is the growth of technology that has led to the explosion of different forms of richer content. As tools become more sophisticated, more user driven, more customised, more personal and more accessible to more people, our ability to create richer more sophisticated content sets also grows. As digital communicators, words are no longer our only tools - and I would argue they haven’t been for quite some time now.
This means as content professionals we have even more fantastic opportunities to collaborate and share with our experience design colleagues. To teach and to learn. Because of course words and other content elements come together to form the core of most design decisions and hence experiences.
When you think about social media this becomes especially evident. We all come to social media for the content. Content we have contributed or content we are consuming. You could argue that on a higher level we come for the connection, the human interaction, - and I would support you in that argument, but I would also say that the mechanism through which we achieve those goals is content.
This is going to become more and more apparent as we move into the world of voice. In this context words are the literal building blocks of experience. And in a way this frontier is going to be a great boon for more traditional content creators. Because voice content design shows in stark relief how fundamentally critical content is in any experience.
This was the crux of a presentation I gave recently at the Sydney IXDA meetup where I asked the audience to prove me wrong and to give me an example of a contentless or even content anaemic experience. No one could think of one on the night, but I am still on the hunt for an example. Mostly because I think all strong theories have exceptions, but also because if we do find a digital experience where content is not at the heart it's probably an opportunity :)
What do you reckon?