Phew! It's been a busy few weeks. I recently had the privilege of presenting a session (Content-Driven UX) at DrupalCon: New Orleans 2016 with my teammate, Bjorn Thompson. The room was packed with colleagues and professionals eager to learn about this emerging paradigm. You can find out about the best content sessions from DrupalCon this year (including ours).

Content-driven UX is constantly on my mind. My entire career is focused on practicing and evangelizing this framework. With DrupalCon winding down, I thought I would touch on the subject a bit more in this blog, and provide some additional strategies for creating and delivering powerful, user-friendly content.

1.  A Content-Driven User Experience (UX) 

Content is at the center of everything

What if I told you that by the time you read this, there will be over 1,012,089,457 billion websites on the web? Now, imagine how much content and data is generated every year. In the world of web, the one bona fide thing people consume is content. Some criteria that are at the heart of content-driven experiences are:

  • Message Quality:  Does the content’s “personality” match the target user? Yep content should have personality. One way it comes out is through copy, by voice, tone and style.
  • Front-Loading:  Is the most important content served upfront? The most important content is the conclusion. Your users want that first, not last.
  • Chunking:  Do headings, lists, UI patterns etc effectively organize content it digestible sizes? Users skim and scan digital content.
  • Pathways:  Does the content provide users access to complete goals and tasks? Make sure those goals continually align with the business goals too.
  • Access:  Is the content easily available across multiple devices? Content is meant to be consumed. Tip: find out where target users are and share relevant content there.

Content and design make a strategic whole. This digital superpower forces (or entices us) to address the entire digital ecosystem - from experience to performance. It also help us to ensure two important perspectives are up-front and center: target users and the business itself. What else can it do? A lot.  For one, as practitioners, it allows us to take a deeper look at how content should be written, visualized and delivered in order to drive content consumption or, end user experience. It also empowers digital strategists like myself to ensure on-page content is architected in way that will support the entire ecosystem. There’s a lot of content-driven resources out on the webs -  it’s worth doing some research and including the wisdom into your framework. 

design should support UX content Engagement

I’m frequently asked about the intricacies of visual design and it’s influence on content. It’s a subject I care deeply care about and find myself eager to discuss. Visual design is important. It should support stronger content-consumption (a.k.a. performance) experiences. 

Consider colors, typefaces, logos, emblems, and writing style as the skin that wraps around content. Visual design drives the desire to want to consume content.  Take a moment and think about your home. Imagine several rooms with furniture, electronics, colors, textures, patterns etc. Each room serves a specific purpose - just like web pages within a site. The furniture in each room also serves a specific purpose - beds are made for bedrooms - not kitchens. We spend a lot of time sourcing the right colors and material for our furniture, even digging into the tech specs for the TV we’re upgrading. In the world of web, the furniture, electronics, dishes, clothes - everything in your home - is similar to digital content. 

Design wraps around content. Good design helps draw in users to complete goals or take an action. Choosing the right interfaces and interactions are equally as important. My start in the digital world came from studying (and practicing) Visual Interaction Design (IxD). IxD is a UX design framework that focuses on UI interactions, user journey interactions and pathways. It’s great marriage of science, logic and creativity.

2.  Deploy a Multi-Device Friendly UI

People searching for local businesses will be doing so using various devices. Mobile Internet usage has already overtaken desktop usage, especially when it comes to local searches. After all, if someone is looking for a shop or restaurant in a certain area, they'll probably be away from home already, hence the likelihood they'll be using a smartphone or tablet. 

Fortunately, making your website mobile-friendly is easier than ever before, particularly if you're using a content management system (CMS) such as Drupal or WordPress.

The easiest way to build a mobile-friendly interface is simply to use a responsive design theme that automatically scales to the size of the screen it is being displayed on. As a local business, you should prioritize mobile users and thoroughly test your website across a wide range of mobile devices. Always make sure your content is easily readable and navigable on the small screen.

3.  Invest in Localized SEO 

Local business websites should absolutely focus (and invest) in localized search engine optimization (SEO). First, be sure to create a domain name that reflects your industry and, if possible, the geographical area it serves. If your business serves multiple locations, it is wise to have multiple domain names, since you'll be able to optimize each website for individual locations. The content of your website should also be relevant to a local audience and, while paying attention to locally relevant keywords and place names is advisable, you must make sure to prioritize user experience by offering value-adding content that your target audience will find genuinely useful. Localized SEO can drive serious qualified traffic.

If you're interested in more tips on localized SEO, check out SearchEngineLand's article.

4.  Use Persuasive Trust Signals 

Trust signals are particularly important for e-commerce websites, and they're also valuable for any business websites. Many of your potential customers will be looking for reviews elsewhere, so there's no harm in quoting some positive feedback on your own website, provided you ask for permission from the author beforehand. For example, if you run a guesthouse that has an excellent rating on Airbnb or TripAdvisor, be sure to mention this on your website with a link to the original source to prove its authenticity. 

If your small business also maintains an e-commerce store, consider deploying your own user-review system. This helps to show your target audience that their opinions matter. Trust seals, which are awarded to some businesses and their websites can also help to increase your conversion rate.

5.  Share a Relatable Company & Team Story 

Every business website, no matter what size, should have an 'About Us' page. This mission-critical page is the perfect stage for sharing your story and building a sense of trust with your target audience. Writing a compelling About Us page isn’t always easy, since it's important to capture your reader's attention with an engaging story that they can relate to. People love stories, and this page is your opportunity to tell the story of your business. Use an honest and friendly tone that captures the essence of your brand, rather than trying to be promotional. Your business might have had the humblest of beginnings, but this is something that you can and should proudly proclaim on your About Us page. You can further amplify your story by adding a high-quality image or two. 

Example About Us Page from Moz.com. The content is their team story and they've added some great interactions to really help bring that story to life. 

6.  Social Media Integration

Any successful business should already have an active social media presence in the form of a Facebook page and Twitter account at the very least. However, integrating social media on your business website is also important, since it helps to promote sharing and feedback and reach out to a wider audience.

One of the simplest ways to integrate social media is to have social sharing buttons for the major social networks on all of the main content pages of your website. These buttons allow your visitors to share pages they like on their own social networking profiles with the click of a button. It is also a good idea to promote your own social media profiles on your website and vice versa. As social media marketing continues to grow, it becomes increasingly important to integrate it with your overall digital marketing strategy.

7.  Keep Your Content Delivery Fresh & Relevant

Static websites tend struggle with achieving higher search engine results (SERPs) in the longer term. People want current information when searching the Web, so it is essential that all of the content on your website is kept up-to-date and relevant at all times. Things like outdated contact information, directions and price information will serve only to distract and annoy your readers. Although blogging and other forms of dynamic delivery content might not be particularly effective for a lot of small businesses, any business website can make good use out of a news and events page. Use this page to post information about things like new products, sales and any other current affairs related to your business and its target audience. 

Remember, a great business website is one that not only attracts new visitors, but holds onto existing ones as well.

8.  Display Contact Information Up-Front

One of the most common reasons for consumers to turn to the Internet before visiting a local business is to find contact information. Rifling through the phone book or phoning an expensive directory enquiry number is a thing of the past for the vast majority of people. Your contact information should be clearly visible throughout your website, preferably permanently located at the bottom of every page. However, it pays to have a dedicated contacts page as well that also provides directions to your venue. 

Another important factor to consider when adding your contact information is to keep it consistent with any other listings you have online, since this is crucial for the sake of exposure in local search results. In other words, your business name, address and phone number must be written down exactly as it appears on your Google Local listing (which you should also have).

Image Courtesy: MySiteAuditor.com "A Blueprint of The Perfect Contact Form #Infographic"

9.  Integrated Google or Bing Maps 

In addition to contact information, people also expect to find directions to your venue. Even if you haven't made a point of putting your business on Google Maps or Bing Maps already, it might still be there anyway, in which case you will have to claim and verify your listing to prove that you are the owner of the business. This step is one of the most important for increasing your standing in the search engines, and it also allows potential customers to locate your business without even having to visit your website. Google and Bing both allow you to integrate maps into your website simply by copying and pasting a few lines of code. 

You'll also be able to customize the appearance of your maps without having to get involved in any complicated coding. If you're using a CMS like Drupal or WordPress you can simply copy the code into a text/HTML widget.

10.  Use a Newsletter Subscription Form 

In spite of many people claiming that email is losing its popularity, it continues to be the favorite way for consumers and businesses to keep in touch with one another. In fact, email is actually growing, thanks in part to the increasing ubiquity of mobile Internet and the fact that most people are now more likely to check their emails while on the move. 

Given the importance of email, every small business should maintain an opt-in email marketing strategy, and your website conveniently serves as the number-one platform for collecting subscribers. Always make it quick and easy for your visitors to sign up to your newsletter by adding a subscription box in the sidebar of your website. You can draw more attention to it through the occasional call to action, but make sure not to ask for any more information than necessary.

It's a Wrap!

An excellent business website can't be designed in a day, but it's not as difficult as you might think to get started. Thanks to the rise of user-friendly content management systems, you can get a website up and running in a matter of minutes. Nonetheless, it will take time and creativity as well as a thorough understanding of common design practices and SEO for your website to become truly effective.

Do you have content or a site that seems to have stagnated? Have you revived or increased user engagement with your content? Share your content-first experiences in the comments below or get in touch and ask your questions!