Content Marketing: Designing for Consumer Experience

ux design

ux designWhat an incredible 2 days at the Modev UX Conference. Today, Stephanie Hay presented on content first UX (User Experience) design, but it seems more like we need to change the term to CX or Consumer Experience design.

Even though I had a great time and felt right at home with the other conference-goers, some folks were surprised and asked why a marketing person wanted to attend a UX conference.


Sure, I can’t code or draw as they can, but I KNOW consumers. And, isn’t that what UX is — at its heart. Consumer experience design.

Who needs consumers anyway?

Uh, everyone!

But, not everyone acts like they need consumers — at least when it comes to thinking like a consumer and designing to meet consumer needs.

I remember the early days of web design when websites were still coded by hand — without the benefit of fancy CMS (content management systems) and templates. Web designers seemingly tried to outdo each other by one-upping each other with the newest features and flash waterfalls.

It didn’t really matter if the design did much to help customers successfully navigate the website. Designers just wanted to show how skilled they were in creating complex websites with lots of cool tech. Working with a website development team in the ’90s, I remember arguing that complex features weren’t the way to judge a great website, but whether customers found it intuitive, entertaining, and useful. I was in the minority.

Many years later, companies like Apple showed how important design was in creating a product folks loved and were willing to pay extra for. Their iPod blew other MP3 players out of the water — becoming synonymous with MP3 players — and had customers paying a premium for the pleasure of using a product designed for the consumer experience.

In web design, companies like Amazon showed how conversion rates soared and cash registers rang when they took clicks out of the purchase process with their patented 1-click checkout.

Consumer experience design

So, what is UX, anyway?

According to Smashing Magazine:

User experience (abbreviated as UX) is how a person feels when interfacing with a system. The system could be a website, a web application or desktop software and, in modern contexts, is generally denoted by some form of human-computer interaction (HCI).

UX is critical for customer relationships. Designing what a consumer experience will look like, how the consumer will navigate through the device, and making the customer task easy is only 1 part of the UX design process. Central to UX design is creating customer enchantment, an emotional connection, and telling a good story.

Below, see what UX design looks like, specifically in a lean development environment.

customer experience design
Image courtesy of Annie Studio

Content first customer experience design

UX design

According to Stephanie, content-first consumer design is the lowest risk way to design and reduce costs. Her system starts with what the hero (customer) needs to win (achieve goals).

She used a video game to demonstrate her 2 principles for content-first design

  1. Design for discovery
  2. Make the consumer feel something from your narrative

Instead of crafting a website or game or app and dumping some content into it like water into a vessel, the content-first consumer experience starts by determining what content consumers need. Then think about ways to deliver the content in a way that creates enchantment and delight.

Content defines structure, not the other way around.

Design for discovery

I used this principle a lot when I was still teaching. Students are more engaged and retain information better when they have to discover concepts rather than sitting passively while the professor delivers concepts.

Stephanie talked about an app she worked on. Many downloaded the app, but few used it because they didn’t have an immediate need for it. So, she added a test feature allowing new users to try out the app. This increased customer retention by 33%.

Next, she added a few yes/no questions to discover more about users. She then added a few elements to make it easier and faster for users to use the product when they needed it.

She also implemented a pizza tracker tool within her app — you know the Dominoes Pizza Tracker (I order Dominoes just because I love watching my pizza progress and knowing exactly when it’ll show up at my door). She used this to eliminate confusing text that users didn’t read in the first place.

Observe how users actually use your design and create delight whenever possible.

Consumer narrative

Another element of a content-first consumer experience involves creating an emotional connection through storytelling. Jared Spool gave a good example of this in his presentation. He showed how a team bought a cheap eBay item, crafted a story involving the item (as a family heirloom or involvement in a heroic event) then resold the item and the story on eBay for nearly 1000 times what they originally paid for it. Now, I personally think this is a little dishonest, but it shows the power of a good story.

Outcomes of consumer experience design

Not only are customers enchanted with your product — use it, recommend it to their friends, become evangelists — but companies find internal benefits from a content-first consumer experience build.

  • Everyone participates in the process
  • The process is more collaborative
  • Approval is faster because everyone already got buy-in
  • Launch comes sooner

A role for marketing in consumer experience

I’m not sure why marketing doesn’t have a place in designing for the consumer experience — we talk to consumers, we understand consumer concepts, we learn about what consumers like and hate as these are embedded in other market activities like listening and monitoring.

Maybe it’s because marketers don’t have skills in coding and often the tasks of design and coding go hand-in-hand. Maybe it’s because marketers don’t learn prototyping tools or have the drawing skills to draw out designs.

So, how can marketers gain a seat at the table?

Certainly, it’s not feasible to train marketing students in coding, design, and prototyping tools. Marketing has a pretty intense body of knowledge students need to master as it is. In addition to marketing, students take classes in other business disciplines like finance, accounting, management, and related fields. Dropping the broad training of marketing students in business would be a mistake, as would reducing the liberal arts component of most university programs.

Marketers must consider training beyond their undergraduate degrees and focus on gathering some understanding of skills related to consumer experience design by taking courses at one of the growing number of training schools specializing in technical subjects. Or, marketers could learn these skills by working with colleagues to share skills. There’s no need that marketers gain a depth of knowledge allowing them to code or draw images to be effective as partners on the consumer experience design team.

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