Three user researchers’ introduction to content design

Adam Spencer

Charlotte, John and I (all user researchers by profession) have each completed the Introduction to Content Design FutureLearn course as part of our professional development.

Developed by experts at Government Digital Service, it explores the fundamental work of content designers; while integrating the role of user research, designing for accessibility, working with data and much more in order to create good content for digital services.

The three of us recently came together to reflect on our course experience and what we each thought about it.

As user researchers, we’re already familiar with the role of content design. However, we all agreed that the course is a great onboarding experience for anyone interested.

Charlotte said:

“It was a good introduction to content design, and covered quite a lot considering it was a short course. I thought the sections about accessibility were particularly interesting.”

John also said:

“A well put together introductory course. The videos and quizzes were good at breaking up reading and it was an easy to follow narrative that linked with real life external content.”

I also thought the course had been very carefully crafted to support people’s different learning styles. And as an unashamed fangirl of GDS, the ability to learn directly from them was always very appealing.

We each recalled a key moment that really highlighted the course’s value to us individually.

For Charlotte, it was the Hemingway app task:

You had to edit the content to improve its readability. It really made you think about the importance of using plain English and keeping things simple.”

John noted the timeliness of his course participation while there was an active, relevant project on the go:

“With the Health Careers discovery, it validated the approach used there and underpinned what we were doing with their content model.”

Accessibility was important for all of us, but I was particularly fascinated by how user research around this had defined content choices for the NHS website. If you want to know why they went with pee and poo, not urine, wee or stools – sign-up to the course!

We had very few issues with the course, but we did think about possible improvements.

Charlotte complimented the flexibility on when you could start the course, but this did create some limitations:

“The flexibility of the course was great, but starting late did mean that I missed out on the interaction with other learners. By the time I was coming to the end of the course, people had stopped posting comments. I think I would have got more from the course if I had been able to do it within the original time frame.”

John suggested that there were times when the course didn’t really add much more to what we already know in our work:

“First week seemed pretty basic and some things just reinforced what we do rather than adding anything new. Maybe it needs an intermediate course?”

And I agree. I don’t think we were the initial target audience, so some things were less revolutionary for us compared maybe to those who work outside of service design.

Like John, I’m also keen for any future courses to specialise with more in-depth learning of content design – and hopefully the other specialisms like user research, interaction design and even something like delivery management.

We all enjoyed the course and it certainly reaffirmed confidence in our own methods at Lagom. It’s a fantastic introduction to the world of content design. Give it a go!

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