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Five tips to effectively pair content and design

Five tips to effectively pair content and design

4 minute read

Five tips to effectively pair content and design

4 minute read

Five tips to effectively pair content and design

Rachel Blakely-Gray

Content Writer, Patriot Software LLC

Table of contents

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When it comes to developing content strategies, many businesses prioritise two things: creating more engaging content (73%) and designing visual content (51%) . Without design, your content can look boring. Plus, 55% more people retain information when it’s paired with an image.

And without content, your design may not be actionable. It may even be empty. For example, if you want leads to convert to loyal customers, you need effective calls to action.

Your content strategy should consider content and design together. To make that happen, your content strategists, designers, and marketers need to work collaboratively with designers around a shared goal for the project and content.

What is content design?

Content design is a way of thinking about how to design content in a way that best serves the end-user. It focuses on usability and accessibility while considering the user journey.

According to Content Design London's Sarah Richards who coined the term "content design," the process considers 7 key elements:

  • Research: The content designer does their work based on expert, usability, and user research that provides data and evidence to support what the user needs.
  • User needs: Consider what the user wants from the piece of content to solve a problem and then identify how you can help them with that task.
  • Channel and journey mapping: This involves identifying all of the online and offline steps a user takes to complete a task and each content marketing channel they use along that journey.
  • Language and emotion: Use the language that users would use to connect and gain trust. Use emotion to inform the tone and connect with users across the customer journey.
  • Creation: Content design goes beyond just writing. Content designers work with research, UX writing, product owners, and design teams to find the best solution.
  • Sharing: Getting feedback through user research, peer review, and stakeholder interviews is an important part of the testing process.
  • Iteration: It's time to iterate! This is when you put all the work into action to create digital content that may change over time.

​What does a content designer do?

A content designer is in charge of communicating information in the most effective way possible. Content designers research the audience for the content and use the insights they gather from that research to design content based on effective design principles.

Content designers work with other teams like UX writers or copywriters, web design team, user experience designers, and marketers to ensure that the content is effective from every angle. They are in charge of ensuring that content is easy for the audience to find, navigate and consume. They may also manage the content over time to ensure that it's up-to-date, useful, and accurate.

Five tips to effectively pair content and design

When content and design are connected, the outcome for the audience is a better user experience (UX). Done wrong, you’re left with content that isn’t effective, neither meeting a business goal or a user need.

If you’re ready to maximise your content creation and marketing strategies, check out the tips below to get your content team and designers on the same page.

1. Understand the purpose of both content and design

You may have an idea of what you want your content team and designers to achieve, but do they? What do you want your content and design to accomplish separately and together?

An overall goal for your content may be to generate leads, retain customers, and increase small business revenue through useful and enticing information. But, you and your team need to further define your goals. So, what are the individual purposes of content and design?

Examples of your content's purpose(s) include:

  • Engaging your audience.
  • Educating your audience.
  • Convincing your audience to take some sort of action.

Some examples of the purpose of design include:

  • Highlighting key text points.
  • Grabbing readers’ attention.

Content and design need to be considered together in relation to all channels and formats you will be publishing to.

Here's an example of good content design in the form of an infographic:

This infographic shows how good content design takes into consideration both the content goal and the design goal.
Source


This content design is effective because it takes into consideration and accomplishes both the content goal and the design goal. The content goal here is to inform the audience while the design goal is to highlight key statistics while providing a visual guide.

💡 Tip: Content educates readers while design helps them retain the information.

2. Solidify a starting point

Now to address the ongoing debate: Should you start with content, design, or both?

The content should come first. So, why is starting with content better for user experience? Here are a few reasons why:

  • Beginning with content validates UX designs.
  • Using content helps us recognise design constraints.
  • Starting with content eliminates the need for unrelated filler text (i.e., “Lorem Ipsum”).
  • Solidifying content streamlines the design process.

Content can act as a guideline for design. Otherwise, your designers may not know what direction to take a project in. Plus, solidifying content first can streamline collaboration.

Design typically captures the most important parts of the content. And it’s often easier to summarise something than expand on it. Your content writers should avoid editing the copy while the designer is working. Small edits are OK, but a major change to the copy can slow down the project and ruin the flow of the design.

Avoid working on content and design simultaneously. Your teams may create completely different concepts. They may need to go through round after round of edits to get on the same page.

💡 Tip: Start with content to streamline design, recognise constraints, and eliminate filler text.

3. Stay on top of deadlines through better workflow management

Do impending deadlines plague your team? Each party must be aware of roughly how long it takes the other to work through a project. They should understand one another’s workload and how the process works to avoid missing deadlines. You should also ask employees to speak up if their workload is too intense. Encourage your employees to create a content calendar so they can plan projects early.

Better managing the content workflow is key to staying on top of fast-approaching deadlines. Use a project management or tracking system to streamline communication. GatherContent allows you to build content workflows that provide a repeatable system for content creation.

In your GatherContent dashboard you can see the status of all your projects at every stage of the workflow.


One way that GatherContent makes it easy to communicate is through content status. Rather than sending a piece of content back and forth, you can change the status in the platform, and it will alert the next person in the process to begin.

💡 Tip: Produce a content brief that lays out what’s needed, by whom, and when it’s needed by.

4. Broaden narrow mindsets

It’s easy for content creators and designers to have narrow and focused goals. After all, they’re experts in their respective fields for a reason. But for more effective content and design, both parties need to better understand the other’s discipline.

Encourage your team to look beyond their copy and designs. They should study the other’s work to appreciate things like workload and ability. They may also have distinct opinions about how they want a collaboration to look. And, they might argue about whether content or design is more important. In the end, everyone needs to put egos aside and compromise to create the best content.

💡 Tip: Get content and design on the same page by educating themselves on the other’s discipline.

5. Maintain a consistent brand

The content your writers and designers create should tell a story. Make sure they’re telling the same one.

There’s a lot of back and forth involved when content teams and designers work together. The absence of interdepartmental communication and a standard style guide could lead to brand inconsistency.

Create a set of standards—such as colours, icons, writing style, and fonts—for brand consistency. Make sure your content team and designers understand and utilise your business’s style guide. That way, they can hold one another accountable.

💡 Tip: Use a style guide to make sure the brand is the central focus of both content and design.

Putting it all together

It’s no secret that good content and design make for a better user experience. But when you have different departments collaborating, there might be a disconnect between content and design.

To recap, here are a few things to keep in mind to effectively pair content and design (and give website visitors the user experience they deserve):

  • Understand the purpose of content and design.
  • Start with content before creating the design.
  • Manage workflow to stay on top of deadlines.
  • Get content teams and designers to understand one another.
  • Make sure your brand is consistent in both text and visuals.
Looking for a tool that allows everyone on your content team to collaborate seamlessly? GatherContent offers content project management tools that help ensure anyone writing or designing content on your team is on the same page. Start your free trial today.

When it comes to developing content strategies, many businesses prioritise two things: creating more engaging content (73%) and designing visual content (51%) . Without design, your content can look boring. Plus, 55% more people retain information when it’s paired with an image.

And without content, your design may not be actionable. It may even be empty. For example, if you want leads to convert to loyal customers, you need effective calls to action.

Your content strategy should consider content and design together. To make that happen, your content strategists, designers, and marketers need to work collaboratively with designers around a shared goal for the project and content.

What is content design?

Content design is a way of thinking about how to design content in a way that best serves the end-user. It focuses on usability and accessibility while considering the user journey.

According to Content Design London's Sarah Richards who coined the term "content design," the process considers 7 key elements:

  • Research: The content designer does their work based on expert, usability, and user research that provides data and evidence to support what the user needs.
  • User needs: Consider what the user wants from the piece of content to solve a problem and then identify how you can help them with that task.
  • Channel and journey mapping: This involves identifying all of the online and offline steps a user takes to complete a task and each content marketing channel they use along that journey.
  • Language and emotion: Use the language that users would use to connect and gain trust. Use emotion to inform the tone and connect with users across the customer journey.
  • Creation: Content design goes beyond just writing. Content designers work with research, UX writing, product owners, and design teams to find the best solution.
  • Sharing: Getting feedback through user research, peer review, and stakeholder interviews is an important part of the testing process.
  • Iteration: It's time to iterate! This is when you put all the work into action to create digital content that may change over time.

​What does a content designer do?

A content designer is in charge of communicating information in the most effective way possible. Content designers research the audience for the content and use the insights they gather from that research to design content based on effective design principles.

Content designers work with other teams like UX writers or copywriters, web design team, user experience designers, and marketers to ensure that the content is effective from every angle. They are in charge of ensuring that content is easy for the audience to find, navigate and consume. They may also manage the content over time to ensure that it's up-to-date, useful, and accurate.

Five tips to effectively pair content and design

When content and design are connected, the outcome for the audience is a better user experience (UX). Done wrong, you’re left with content that isn’t effective, neither meeting a business goal or a user need.

If you’re ready to maximise your content creation and marketing strategies, check out the tips below to get your content team and designers on the same page.

1. Understand the purpose of both content and design

You may have an idea of what you want your content team and designers to achieve, but do they? What do you want your content and design to accomplish separately and together?

An overall goal for your content may be to generate leads, retain customers, and increase small business revenue through useful and enticing information. But, you and your team need to further define your goals. So, what are the individual purposes of content and design?

Examples of your content's purpose(s) include:

  • Engaging your audience.
  • Educating your audience.
  • Convincing your audience to take some sort of action.

Some examples of the purpose of design include:

  • Highlighting key text points.
  • Grabbing readers’ attention.

Content and design need to be considered together in relation to all channels and formats you will be publishing to.

Here's an example of good content design in the form of an infographic:

This infographic shows how good content design takes into consideration both the content goal and the design goal.
Source


This content design is effective because it takes into consideration and accomplishes both the content goal and the design goal. The content goal here is to inform the audience while the design goal is to highlight key statistics while providing a visual guide.

💡 Tip: Content educates readers while design helps them retain the information.

2. Solidify a starting point

Now to address the ongoing debate: Should you start with content, design, or both?

The content should come first. So, why is starting with content better for user experience? Here are a few reasons why:

  • Beginning with content validates UX designs.
  • Using content helps us recognise design constraints.
  • Starting with content eliminates the need for unrelated filler text (i.e., “Lorem Ipsum”).
  • Solidifying content streamlines the design process.

Content can act as a guideline for design. Otherwise, your designers may not know what direction to take a project in. Plus, solidifying content first can streamline collaboration.

Design typically captures the most important parts of the content. And it’s often easier to summarise something than expand on it. Your content writers should avoid editing the copy while the designer is working. Small edits are OK, but a major change to the copy can slow down the project and ruin the flow of the design.

Avoid working on content and design simultaneously. Your teams may create completely different concepts. They may need to go through round after round of edits to get on the same page.

💡 Tip: Start with content to streamline design, recognise constraints, and eliminate filler text.

3. Stay on top of deadlines through better workflow management

Do impending deadlines plague your team? Each party must be aware of roughly how long it takes the other to work through a project. They should understand one another’s workload and how the process works to avoid missing deadlines. You should also ask employees to speak up if their workload is too intense. Encourage your employees to create a content calendar so they can plan projects early.

Better managing the content workflow is key to staying on top of fast-approaching deadlines. Use a project management or tracking system to streamline communication. GatherContent allows you to build content workflows that provide a repeatable system for content creation.

In your GatherContent dashboard you can see the status of all your projects at every stage of the workflow.


One way that GatherContent makes it easy to communicate is through content status. Rather than sending a piece of content back and forth, you can change the status in the platform, and it will alert the next person in the process to begin.

💡 Tip: Produce a content brief that lays out what’s needed, by whom, and when it’s needed by.

4. Broaden narrow mindsets

It’s easy for content creators and designers to have narrow and focused goals. After all, they’re experts in their respective fields for a reason. But for more effective content and design, both parties need to better understand the other’s discipline.

Encourage your team to look beyond their copy and designs. They should study the other’s work to appreciate things like workload and ability. They may also have distinct opinions about how they want a collaboration to look. And, they might argue about whether content or design is more important. In the end, everyone needs to put egos aside and compromise to create the best content.

💡 Tip: Get content and design on the same page by educating themselves on the other’s discipline.

5. Maintain a consistent brand

The content your writers and designers create should tell a story. Make sure they’re telling the same one.

There’s a lot of back and forth involved when content teams and designers work together. The absence of interdepartmental communication and a standard style guide could lead to brand inconsistency.

Create a set of standards—such as colours, icons, writing style, and fonts—for brand consistency. Make sure your content team and designers understand and utilise your business’s style guide. That way, they can hold one another accountable.

💡 Tip: Use a style guide to make sure the brand is the central focus of both content and design.

Putting it all together

It’s no secret that good content and design make for a better user experience. But when you have different departments collaborating, there might be a disconnect between content and design.

To recap, here are a few things to keep in mind to effectively pair content and design (and give website visitors the user experience they deserve):

  • Understand the purpose of content and design.
  • Start with content before creating the design.
  • Manage workflow to stay on top of deadlines.
  • Get content teams and designers to understand one another.
  • Make sure your brand is consistent in both text and visuals.
Looking for a tool that allows everyone on your content team to collaborate seamlessly? GatherContent offers content project management tools that help ensure anyone writing or designing content on your team is on the same page. Start your free trial today.

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About the author

Rachel Blakely-Gray

Rachel Blakely-Gray is a content writer at Patriot Software, LLC. Patriot Software offers online accounting and payroll software for small business owners. You can find Rachel and the Patriot Software team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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