April 25, 2023
We all know content is vital, but how often do we actually measure it? Erica Jorgensen gave us a ton of great ideas and tools for exactly that during our April CSS meetup. Read on for a recap!
Content research is a way to test content and terminology to ensure that user needs are met and content aligns with the organization's brand strategy, key performance indicators (KPIs), and overall goals. There are qualitative and quantitative ways to research content, and within those two categories, there are various types of testing that can be done to gather data.
Get Your House in Order
Before you embark on research activities though, Erica suggests getting your content house in order. Get a good sense of what content you are working with. Review for plain language use and check for bias.
As Erica said, “Plain language is communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it” (more info about plain language linked at the end of this post). Biases like confirmation bias, stakeholder bias, and recency bias can affect our writing. Check out the great conversation about these types of bias we had with David Dylan Thomas, author of Design for Cognitive Bias: Using Mental Shortcuts for Good Instead of Evil, back in January.
The Scrappy Way
User research can be done using tools and organized efforts, but if you don’t have the resources for formal user testing, Erica suggested several ways to take the “scrappy” approach. One key source is to talk to your customer experience team. The information they can provide could include customer service calls, chatbot analysis, customer surveys and interviews, and industry reports. Understanding what customers are missing is a sure way to make direct improvements to your product.
Finding the cost of how much it costs for one customer service call can be a good way to quantify for your supervisors how you are actually fixing the customer experience. Erica spoke about an example from her book where her co-worker found that customers were confused about their monthly bill breakdown. The way to fix this was to add in more details which did create a longer area of content, but this content was key for customers who were confused about why their bill was that price.
Using an Online Platform
The second way to start with content research is to use an online platform such as UserZoom or UserTesting. With these tools, you can use online platforms to interview current customers or potential customers. Be sure to ask a quantitative question and then follow up with a qualitative question.
Use the feedback to see what aligns with your company brand guidelines. This type of analysis, where you ask people what type of content they prefer, is called a preference test. You can also do a naming test to see which names are preferred. Some research questions are audience-specific. Other research questions you could be asking are for clarity/comprehension, actionability, completeness/gap analysis, hedonic/emotional response, and competitive analysis.
When thinking about DEI and analyzing your users, be sure to know the regions your tests are reaching. For example, UserTesting does not support certain countries. This is a limitation in your research you will need to identify at the beginning of research so that the information is taken knowing this limitation.
If you’re going to do content research, you’re going to need to be ready to make changes. Sometimes there are big changes, but it can make the company better. Presenting this information to a CEO or stakeholder team can seem daunting, but remind yourself–and them–that this is a thoughtful and methodical way to evaluate content. When presenting this to stakeholders, be sure to include company key performance indicators (KPIs) and loop in other UX, marketing, PR, and social media teams. Using the RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) framework is a great way to keep the right folks looped in.
Finding time and keeping sane
Finding time to conduct this research might seem hard, but a suggestion Erica had was to divide and conquer with the team you have. Another way is creating a backlog of test ideas so that you always have something to be researching. If you have office hours, consider reallocating that time to content research and see if that helps you solve some of these content problems.
Perhaps one of our favorite takeaways from this talk is a piece of counsel Erica offered: Always be kind. Understand that when you are looking at content, someone else worked hard on that content and showing respect for that will smooth your way.
About Erica Jorgensen
Erica Jorgensen is a staff content designer at Chewy.com and the author of Strategic Content Design: Tools and Research Techniques for Better UX, published in April 2023 by Rosenfeld Media.