Copywriting and content design

Sarah Richards

Content Design London

This post is by Sarah Richards, the founder of Content Design London.

You may have heard the term ‘content design’ bandied about in the content world.

As the person that coined the term, I thought I should own up and explain a bit.

The main difference between content design and copywriting

I used to be a copywriter. I used to take a brief that told me what format the communication was meant to be in (e.g. tube ad), when it would run in the year and include the main points the organisation wanted to get across (including brand etc).

Then I would use my skill to draw the audience in and, mostly, sell them something.

Content designers don’t do that.

Copywriting is pushing information out to draw people in. Content design is the opposite: before we create anything, we find out what our audience wants and needs from us to see  *how* to pull them in.

This means we:

  • work with user researchers to find evidence and data to decide what an audience wants from an organisation,
  • map out the whole user journey to work out at what point the audience will be receptive to the message,
  • work out what format those messages will take (tool, calculator, calendar, offline comms),
  • create messages based on the language used by the audience (from research or using SEO – search engine optimisation – tools),
  • put the information on the channel the audience is on,
  • test it, track it, change it, improve it.

A definition of content design

The definition I used in my book Content Design is:

“Content design is a way of thinking. It’s about using data and evidence to give the audience what they need, at the time they need it and in a way they expect.”

Content designers are not limited to words. The point of content design is to create a good experience for people when they interact with your product. I could also say that content design makes content part of the user experience.

Then instead of saying ‘How shall I write this?’, content designers say, ‘What content will best meet this need?’

If you’re interested in using  journey mapping or SEO tools to find audience vocabulary, or if you are interested in accessibility when it comes to content, we run courses that cover all of this and more.

To find out more, take a look at:

2-day content design courses:

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