Written by Yonda Glidalevitz

Let’s face it: you have heard the phrase “Content is King.” Bill Gates coined the phrase in 1996, when he predicted the role that content would play on the web. The popular adage has since grown to become a mantra of sorts for many SEO strategizers and Content Marketers — and with good reason.

UX Designers, listen up: Gates’ widely accepted philosophy holds that content is at the heart of User Experience — even more so than the interface design of an application or website. Indeed, even Google’s so­called “quality update” reflects this.

Let’s face the facts.

Most content writers are not UX Designers. Yet, much of the content that finds its way onto the Internet is published exactly as it is received by the webmaster or directly by the content writer.

If you and your team are playing by the rules — SEO, Design, etc., and you are still failing to see results, it could be the absence of usability in your content. UX Designers ought to involve themselves in the content production process in order to help facilitate content usability.

What Makes Content Usable?

Content usability refers to the relative ease with which users are able to engage with the content on a website or application. In order for content to be considered wholly usable, users ought to be able to immerse themselves in all facets of the content, without the prospect of distraction or boredom.

There are a number of ways to ensure that the content your team puts out is usable. Consider the effects that the following aspects can have on a user’s perception of usability:

  1. Form
  2. Quality
  3. Shareability
  4. Style

1. Consider Form As Well As Function

Content exists in many forms — text, images, audio, and video are all forms of content. Enrich your site or app with multiple forms of content in order to make it easier for your users to engage in the subject matter.

Any UX Designer worth their mettle ought to know that an effective User Experience is fundamentally rooted in its capacity to reduce the threshold for user engagement. In other words, allowing the user to sit back and soak in the content without moving their eyeballs very much is good UX.

Don’t forget: in the context of usability, form ought never be placed above function. Even the most media-rich blogs will struggle to keep users if the medium of interaction serves as little more than a mask for the lack of original or engaging material.

2. Quality Means Usability

This almost goes without saying. Almost.

Qualitative writing is so important. Usable content ought to be pleasant to read. There are no two ways about this. Low quality content is worthless from a usability standpoint. Users don’t have the time, nor the willpower, to read low quality posts.

Qualitative content is not limited to text, either. Venturing to minimize the threshold for user engagement through multiple forms of media will most likely not be an effective tactic if the medium for engagement is presented suboptimally.

Images ought to optimized for mobile, and presented at the highest resolution allowable by the device viewport, insofar as they do not become a detriment to page load speed. Similarly, low resolution videos, or ones which take an inordinate amount of time to load are a detriment to content usability.

3. Ensure Maximum Shareability

Best practices often come from “trending practices.” The rise to prominence of social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus has made content shareability an inescapable facet of content usability.

Content which is easily shareable not only encourages user engagement, but simplifies it by giving users the opportunity to engage in the content as a community.

There are a number of ways to foster shareability in content.

  1. Start with a catchy yet descriptive title.
  2. Use social metadata tags to control how content is displayed across social media.
  3. Integrate social media buttons to make it easier for users to share the content.
  4. If you are posting infographics on your site, offer users a chance to embed them on their own site.
  5. Consider using a comment hosting service, such as Disqus and Livefyre — they drive cross­community engagement.

4. Publish Content in Style

Styling content for maximum usability is essential, and perhaps the easiest place to start. There are a number of elements which can be optimized in order to ensure that the style of the content is conducive to user engagement.

When working with text­based content, ensuring usable typography is an excellent place to start. Usable typography refers to an effective combination of font choice, font weight, kerning, line height, and proper use of bold and italic type.

Content ought to be positioned on the page in a manner which is conducive to readability. That is, paragraphs ought to be kept to a maximum of three to five lines, and content ought to be broken up in such a way that paragraph length limitations won’t abstract the meaning.

Fostering Usable Content Ought to be a One­Two Punch

UX Designers, know this: you are responsible for keeping the content on your company’s blog in line with content usability best practices. This can be in the form of an ongoing, inclusionary process, or in the form of a template that you create for your content writers and webmasters.

Don’t forget that the content writers and webmasters on your team are not UX Designers. Divorcing yourself from the content production process will likely result in content that is not usable, and therefore not converting users.

If you are a content writer reading this, and you do not have an in-house UX Designer, consider hiring one to create a content production strategy for your team. If not, you ought to start learning the fundamentals touched upon in this article.

Don’t forget this simple formula: Usable Content = Content Writing + UX Design.