As UX professionals, we’re all familiar with the need to test user experience designs. Testing content, however, might be a different story. Most companies haven’t given testing content the attention it deserves—partly because it’s challenging. One challenge is that time and budget usually do not allow us to test every single piece of content. Another challenge is that gathering too much unfocused feedback can freeze our projects in analysis paralysis. To meet these challenges, try testing your content concepts—and start testing them early in your projects.
I have found surprisingly little advice about testing content that is integral to rather than supportive of the user experience. Also scarce is advice about testing content for more than usability. A good starting point for understanding the need to test content is a blog post by Ginny Redish, “Usability Testing: Be Sure to Test Content as Well as Navigation.” According to Redish:
“Too many usability tests focus only on finding information—not on how the information itself works for people.”—Ginny Redish
This column explains the value of testing content with real people and offers tips on evaluating content concepts. Read More
How do we know whether content is any good? This simple question does not have a simple answer. Yet, I think having a good answer would help us show our employers and clients why their content needs to improve and how their content compares to the competition’s. As a start toward an answer to this question, I offer a set of content quality checklists for seven different lenses through which we can view content. I see these checklists as the groundwork for content heuristics, which would enable us to do heuristic evaluations and competitive analyses efficiently. With good content heuristics, we could make a case for better content without painstakingly doing an analysis of all of the content up front. Imagine, making a case for better content quality in a few hours instead of a few weeks.
Many interactive projects address content quality only through a style guide. A style guide is helpful, but it isn’t enough. One problem is that a style guide often emerges at the end of an interactive project, capturing how a team handled certain content issues and how they intend to handle them moving forward. That doesn’t help much during the project. Another problem that often occurs is a company neglects maintenance of the style guide going forward. (For information about living style guides, read Letting Go of the Words by Ginny Redish. ) Finally, many Web style guides I’ve encountered address word choice, brand voice—and that’s about it. The scope of content quality is much broader. Read More
To know your content is to love it. Content analysis is an essential part of many UX design projects that involve existing content. Examples of such projects include migrating a Web site to a new platform or design, merging multiple Web sites into one, or assessing Web content for reuse in a new channel. Just as you cannot nurture a garden without regularly inspecting its plants and flowers, you cannot take proper care of your content without looking at it closely. You must become familiar with your content to judge whether it’s effective, understand how it relates to other content, make decisions about how to use or format it, identify opportunities for improving it, and more. Content analysis, though time consuming, is fruitful, because your efforts provide the following benefits:
Content analysis results in a clear, tangible description of your content—which clients and stakeholders can perceive as nebulous—whether expressed in text or visually.
Content analysis provides the foundation for comparing existing content with either user needs or competitor content, letting you identify potential gaps and opportunities. 
Content analysis offers insights that help you make decisions about your content more easily—for example, what to prioritize.
Content analysis can reveal themes, relationships, and more.
In this column, I’ll walk you through a content analysis—and offer tips and tricks along the way that will help make your next content analysis more effective. Read More