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PHOTO: Sebastian Mantel

For years now, content strategists have pleaded with the design community to put content first. And as a whole, the design community is positive, recognizing that content strategy is imperative to an excellent product.

However, when it comes to revising or critiquing content, we’ve fallen short of the design community. 

Design is seen as a solution — an answer to a business problem. But content isn’t given the same regard or respect. Why is that?

Content Is Forever Changing

For most clients, design is something they’re given at the end of a process that includes colors, logos and even perhaps, a content strategy regarding templates and messaging. 

But the content itself needs to continue evolving if clients want customers to return. Fresh content is also imperative to ranking high on search engine results. While design seems like something you hand over once several rounds of revisions are complete, there’s never an end to content.

I know design is also being tweaked constantly, particularly on e-commerce sites like Amazon. But for most web products, design doesn’t change too much. When it does, it feels like that change flows from a testing environment that proves the design needs tweaking. 

Does content ever get that same laser-like focus?

Content Is Intimate

Content, or copy in this case, is something that happens inside the creator before it sees the light of day. It’s a creative process born out of a writer’s mind working out a problem and putting pen to paper. It’s a communication between the brand and the audience and so it gets a certain type of scrutiny that design doesn’t receive. 

Words on a page evoke an emotional reaction from clients — most people don’t see themselves as designers, but everyone can be a writer. 

So there’s a disconnect between treating content like an actual designed product that needs to be critiqued from one or two lenses, rather than having 30 different points of view come at it.

Content Has Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

I once interviewed a stakeholder for a discovery report about the editorial process at her organization. She said, and I quote, “I have to get Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to approve things before I can get them published.”

Last time I checked, those two characters don’t really exist (please comment if you’ve seen them lately). 

And this is the frustration that feels inherent to most content creators: Too many people get a say in whether or not the content “reads appropriately.” Why do so many people have a say when the writer was entrusted to write the copy in the first place? 

In our editorial process, we limit the number of reviews so that we don’t run into this problem. But once in a while, an extra round sneaks through because people aren’t confident enough to bypass Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

If we want content seen as a business solution to a problem, we need to change expectations around what it is and what it is supposed to do. As a community, content strategists need to assert themselves and remind the organization that they are there to protect the brand and advocate for the customer. 

That sounds like what designers do when they’re designing, doesn’t it?