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UX & UI Design is a Hollow Shell Without Content

By Snap Agency June 2, 2015

If you’re not imagining how the marketing messages you’re conveying with your design are hitting the prime demographic’s eyes you’re wasting your client’s money. Design mockups with ‘headline here,’ or ‘insert content here’ type messages express a misunderstanding of the way I believe design is meant to solve problems. Each headline is an opportunity to strike an instinctive chord with the people that would benefit for the product or service and this should be a collaborative experience with copywriters, the stakeholders in the business, and the design team during the design process

Every product description, the company story, and images are elements of content that should be focused on during the design process and treated as the stars of the site. Every one loves a good ‘hero’ image – or the front billboard, but we can get distracted by these flashy elements to the detriment of the rest of the site. The arrangement of elements, instead of the core message… the story.

Why is UI/UX Design a hollow shell without content?

I do a lot of user testing moderation, and I get to see first hand what the people in the test focus on. Why they would or would not work with a company, what graphical elements appeal to people and what they see as reasons to trust a company. And guess what they hone in on? That’s right. The messages, textual or imagery. Text that the company has entrusted whoever to jot down in their spare time, or jumbled together from a 2 month staff process where everyone got to throw their ideas into the ring.

As much as I would like them to focus on the stuff that I can quickly change, like the colors of a button or the size of some text, they inevitably don’t focus on this alone. I can re-arrange and emphasize different aspects that will help them trust the company and decrease the friction of them moving towards the contact page, or whatever the primary action we want people to take on the site is, but the copy inevitably has to come up. Time to get the copywriter.

What are the goals here? What does this company do better than competitors?

So let’s say the goal is to get people to the contact page. Let’s say personal service is the primary differentiator between this company and joe schmoe company down the road with a similar service. Time to ask some serious questions…

  • What is the key differentiator between you and your competitors? Why is the difference between you and the competitors’ really special?
  • How can we express that in a short amount of copy and with attention grabbing (read: not stock photos) imagery.  Use real photos that express the story of a positive interaction a customer could have with you, and original illustrations that relate to your brand closely (read: not clip art or it’s modern equivalent.)
  • What organizations are you a part of, case studies, or numbers can be drawn out in a visual way to give social proof to the quality of your product or service?

And this should all be clear very quickly on the website. With a marketing minded copywriter on the task, and a design team that makes marketing and conversion centric design a priority these 3 questions should drive the design to be better. When these things aren’t clear and upfront, visitors to the site get confused.

Yes, we want the shell to be beautiful.

Have you ever had a conversation with a beautiful person that you were deeply attracted to on a physical level, but the conversation ended up boring the tears out of you? People who land on your site might have an initial attraction to your design’s aesthetic; it is another trust factor after all. It says that you’re a professional company who has the resources and know-how to allocate to create a nice looking site on the web. But without the follow-through with cohesive messaging your website will quickly bore your visitors and end up feeling like a date with an attractive bore.

Perhaps you’re the type of person who’s deeply interested in things, or is genuinely interested in people. Deeper interest requires deeper research. You research hobbies you are excited about getting into. You spend time learning about psychology and philosophy or whatever excites you because you want to, not because you’re trying to be interesting or sexy to the people you want to attract. But it ends up being attractive to people. Because it‘s magnetic to be interested in the world around you and be interested in people. When it comes to topics related to your business, it’s hard to fake this. But this deeper interest, and expressing this passion and story of your business and why it matters to people, is crucial to represent on your site in an immediate way. Tell the site visitors the story about why your business does what it does as it directly relates to the people you serve. By being interested in people, you become interesting to them.


Surprise and delight by spending time on content

Perhaps you also know that feeling of thinking someone will be shallow or ‘just a pretty face’ and that a conversation with them is actually stimulating and interesting, and compelling. That is the sweet spot of where your content needs to be. If you’ve determined the answers to the questions above than you’re well on your way to getting your website to that place. Spend some time with a marketing professional and be clear about your goals and those 3 key answers. Spend some time with a copywriter and a designer discussing those 3 keys and the end product will be better.

Content is not some secondary piece that should be thrown in at the last moment. Thus your ‘Insert content here,’ design templates are missing the point entirely and could easily be replaced by an commodity oriented web design company. You might as well take a template, completely unmodified and use that. It’s important to start keying in on the primary messages and as the key ‘call-to-action’ buttons, the navigation, and the ‘user interface’ starts to take shape it should take shape around these primary messages you want to convey. Bake content into the design process.

Opt for a design agency, or web team that treats your marketing goals as a priority. And push to make sure content and messaging are considered in high priority as your UX & UI design process enfolds.