UX is more of a philosophy on how to treat people than a specific design deliverable. It’s about deciding that you’re going to put in the effort to make your website as easy and intuitive as possible for your users. And, if you can, surprise and delight your readers with fun interactions along the way.
To that end, there are lots of things to consider. The one that a lot of people fail to consider — especially when redesigning a website — is content.
The Difference Between UX and UI
There’s a simple truth about web design that I first heard Ginny Redish articulate. She’s the author of Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content That Works, and she makes a critical distinction about UX:
UX doesn’t equal UI. UX equals UI plus content.
UI refers the user interface. In the case of a website, it’s the page that users see when they visit your site. But a user’s experience isn’t determined by the page alone. It’s also determined by the words on the page.
So the design of your site, regardless of how beautiful it is, means nothing if your content doesn’t resonate with your readers — for example, because it’s poorly written, has outdated infographics or videos, or drives users toward outdated business goals. You can design a site that is easy to navigate, but if the content on the site doesn’t draw your readers in, they’ll quickly leave (i.e., have a bad experience).
A good user interface design isn’t enough to get your users to think, say or do what you want. Your content has to be good as well.
Which leads us to the two most common oversights of website redesigns:
1. Thinking that you’ll “just port it over.”
It’s easy to assume that what’s on the old site will work on the new site. “We’ve already got all this content. Can’t we just port it over?” Maybe. But not if user needs have changed since that old content was created. Or if your business goals have shifted. Or if the marketplace has evolved, and your brand needs a different voice or persona to stay current.
It’s just all too possible that your old content is outdated. I’ve seen pages encouraging users to sign up for programs that ended years ago, because no one bothered to take down those pages when the program ended.
So it’s never a good idea to “port over” content without testing it for relevance first.
2. Thinking a content audit can wait till you’re done with other stuff.
A website redesign gives you so much to think about — the new look and feel of the site, updated features and more — that you’ll want to put off doing a full content audit until later. Don’t fall into this trap. Generally speaking, if an existing site is being redesigned, it’s been around for a few years. Over that time, it’s very likely that a lot has been added to it. Websites often have several hundred pages on them. If you don’t start a well-organized content audit early in the process, you’ll run out of time at the end. Then you’ll have no choice but to re-launch with old content. Your moment to shine with a brand new site is ruined because outdated content is weighing down an otherwise beautiful design.
I hope you see now that good UX and content strategy go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. Assess your site content early in the process, and think carefully about who your potential audience is. Do user research and create user personas so you know whom you’re trying to reach. Put together a content strategy that’s tailored for that audience. Talk to internal stakeholders to address areas that may be lacking on your existing site. And finally, be sure to assign content owners on your team early in the process so they know they are responsible for updating the site content. If you plan ahead, your well-written content, combined with a beautiful user interface, will add up to a fantastic user experience.