What does a content designer do?

User-centred content transforms the way people get things done with government. When they can find what they need online, they’re less likely to have to wait in line over the phone or at a shopfront.

A content designer works on a diagram showing how users will interact with digital content.
Caption: Content designers understand how users interact with content and make sure it meets user needs.

Content designers are hard-wired to meet user needs. Here are a few reasons why our work is different to that of other content specialists.

Content designers are part of the core delivery team

It’s the content in a digital service that users come for. That’s why content designers are core to multidisciplinary teams.

We stay with digital services at all stages of the service design and delivery process. We’re part of the delivery team responsible for designing services that work for all users.

A few ways we contribute to service design and delivery are by:

  • working on prototypes with real content instead of placeholder text or ‘lorem ipsum’
  • helping to develop information architecture
  • testing content for readability, comprehension and findability
  • reducing the amount of content
  • ensuring content is accessible and inclusive

We design with data

We look at user research, analytics and statistics to learn how people use services. And we test our content so we can learn how to improve it.

While all members of the delivery team should take part in user research, we get involved so we can:

  • find out how users engage with our service and improve its usability
  • learn the language people use to talk about and search for our service

We understand how users interact with content

Users don’t read every word online. They prefer to scan, focusing on keywords and subheadings. Long, detailed copy — no matter how well crafted — usually doesn’t work for digital services.

Content designers put the Content Guide into action. We also make sure our approaches align with the Content Strategy guidance. We write and structure content in a way that makes sense when users scan. And we specialise in translating complex ideas into plain language.

We also understand that words aren’t always the best form of content. A calculator, calendar or video might be the best way to meet a user need.

Potential content designers might be already on your team

Content designers come from many career pathways. We typically have experience in:

  • journalism
  • communications
  • technical writing
  • copywriting
  • web editing
  • website design

Content design training and opportunities

Many people in government with content skills are now moving into content design. With the right support to transition into new roles, their work can be central to digital services.

The Digital Transformation Agency and the Australian Public Service Commission have created a learning standard in content design.

The learning standard outlines the skills, knowledge and attributes content designers need. We developed it to help agencies build the content capabilities needed to support the Digital Service Standard.

Government teams can also use the Digital Marketplace to find training that meets the content design learning standard. Find out how it works by booking a demo or reading the support guide.

Content writers and editors wanting to explore new ways of working can also connect to our content in government community of practice. Email content@dta.gov.au to join. co-Lab meet-ups and training events are also valuable for content designers.

Meaghan Newson is the Product Manager for Style Manual