kristen halvorson of brain traffic

Just finished reading a tremendous article by the always brilliant Kristina Halvorson for Interactions magazine titled Intentional Communication: Expanding our Definition of User Experience Design and felt compelled to share. Just like the profession of design has expanded to become a multi-disciplinary practice post-internet, so too is the practice of UX beginning to undergo a similar transformation, particularly when it comes to content. Content, according to Kristina, is too often overlooked as the strategic endeavor it truly is — and I could not agree more. I have no shortage of war stories where design was solid but content an afterthought. The result? A site or system or app that looks pretty but provides no value to those who use or visit.

While UX and Design folks certainly play a role in shaping the business and social environments we work in, those environments play an even greater role in shaping us – and if we want to continue playing a critical role in delivering valuable user experience and strong visual communication, we need to recognize and adapt to this external influence. Without content, valuable UX simply is not possible. Take it away, Kristina:

“Design and content. Content and design. It’s impossible (and stupid) to argue over which one is more important than the other – which should come first, which is more difficult or “strategic.” They need each other to provide context, meaning, information, and instruction in any user experience (UX).

Despite this screamingly obvious interdependence in any online user experience, the two sit at opposite ends of the proverbial totem pole. Up top: design. This is “where the magic happens.” It’s a mysterious process, one in which art and science come together to create intuitive interfaces, compelling visuals, and flow. Superior design skills are perceived as rare and precious. Design is hard.

Content? Anyone can do content. You there. Typing. Do some content. See? Down to the bottom of the pole you go.

Design is perceived as a strategic undertaking, while content is the stuff we churn out ad nauseam, hopefully engaging at least a few of our users along the way. For this and myriad other reasons, design and content aren’t usually considered simultaneously in our project processes. Design first. Content whenever we can get to it. (As Peter Merholz once facetiously said, “Content is just an undifferentiated substance for me to pour into my design.”)

Whether you’re a practitioner or a project stakeholder, you may have noticed that this disconnect between design strategy and content creation can cause a few problems. See: 99 percent of online content.”

Read the full article here: