I joined the Web Services team in 2022 as a Web Content Designer. My background was in marketing, so I have been managing websites and writing content throughout my career. In previous roles, content creation was just one of my responsibilities, shared among others in the marketing mix. I liked the change to focus on the more specialized skill of content design.
Stepping into the role has allowed me to draw on my communications experience and helped me channel it towards creating effective content that meets the needs of our users. Since joining the team, I have attended the ContentEd conference in Edinburgh and joined a few communities related to content design and user experience (UX). One thing I find interesting is the number of professionals who transition from marketing and communications backgrounds to content design, just like me. In 2022 LinkedIn ranked the content designer at number 9 in their UK’s hottest jobs: LinkedIn jobs on the rise list.
The content design profession has its roots in technical writing and communication design, and has evolved with the rise of digital media and online communication. In the early days of the Internet, web designers often created content as an afterthought, focusing primarily on the visual design and functionality of websites. However, as the importance of user-centered design and content strategy has become more recognized, the role of the content designer has emerged as a distinct and crucial part of the digital design process. In 2010, Sarah Winter created and led the GOV.UK content design team for government digital service. The team was tasked with transforming over four hundred different and complicated government websites into one site focused on user needs. Sarah and her team’s work on GOV.UK is often regarded as an important example of content design.
Over the past five years, Web Services undertook the monumental task of migrating more than 40,000 pages from our former Terminalfour (T4) content management system (CMS) to our new Drupal platform. It was a good opportunity to analyze the content that existed on the old website and identify any improvements that could be made. Previously, content was often published in silos. This has often led to duplication, inaccuracy and style inconsistencies. One of the goals of the new website was to de-silo content, give it structure, and use the power of search and taxonomies to maximize its visibility. As GOV.UK, we have tried to create a site based on user needs; this has been reflected in our approach to user testing and techniques such as design sprints.
A typical migration begins with a check of existing content and a preliminary meeting with the customer. I work closely with University staff to understand their business needs and how these need to inform their web content.
After content verification is complete, I create a content migration plan that outlines the steps required to migrate each piece of content. The plan includes information on how to organize and structure content in the new CMS, how to format it in line with accessibility standards, and how to optimize it for search.
Collaboration with stakeholders and subject matter experts is critical throughout the process, from defining content requirements, to drafting, reviewing and approving.
After publishing, we often make additional changes to the content or design to optimize performance. We use Siteimprove to regularly scan our website for issues affecting content quality, accessibility and search engine optimization. This means that if a particular piece of content isn’t working as it should, we’re able to step in and make improvements right away. Our support team does an outstanding job of keeping up with broken links and out-of-date content to ensure users are only accessing relevant and useful resources.
Now that the content migration project has been completed, it opens up new opportunities for the site and what we do next in Web Services. Working against the clock to migrate content before the T4 contact deadline came with constraints. We are now in the position where the content is all secure on Drupal and the shackles have been lifted, so to speak. This gives us space to reflect on the work done so far, while being aware that there is always improvement to be made.
The bigger picture
When I spoke at the external relations conference in November 2022, I touched on the things we as a team would most like to do when the migration is over. We mentioned that spending more time on “bigger picture” projects was a definite goal for us. Hopefully, these are projects that tie into the larger strategic goals of the University and support its strategy.
Collaboration was another area highlighted. We want to continue to improve the way we work together as a Web Services team and with our external relations colleagues. Collaboration doesn’t just happen, though, it needs focus and purpose – and it better be fun!
The personalization of the contents is one more opportunity. Tailoring content to make it more relevant to you can be an effective way to improve user engagement. By using data-driven insights like Siteimprove to understand our users’ behavior and preferences, we can then tailor the content to meet those needs.
Make time for research
We also want to find the time to do more research and analysis to better deliver content that meets the needs of our users. I’ve talked a lot about putting the user first and prioritizing their needs, but day-to-day activities can often get in the way. We know our users well, but we can never rest on our laurels and rely on guesswork.
Photo by Aman Upadhyay su Unsplash