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In a 1996 essay about the future of the Internet, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates coined the legendary phrase: “Content is king.” More than 20 years later, his thoughts on the influential nature of interactive content continue to influence and guide digital design.

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Bill Gates was ahead of the curve, not that that’s surprising.

For some time now, those in the marketing industry have embraced his adage to be true. However, as the focus on user experience continues to grow in importance and popularity, it has become more apparent that, in many aspects of marketing, design, usability, e-commerce, and more, content plays a significant role in determining consumer interest, customer retention, and conversion rates.

Content-First, Content-Always

The “content-first” approach to design has been popular for a while; simply put, this approach entails crafting content prior to designing the rest of the user experience. However, some designers have taken this practice even further in adopting a “content-always” method of design. With this approach, designers consider the content before, during, and after undertaking a project. Content becomes not just a starting point but a pivotal element of the design as a whole. Establishing and abiding by a long-term, targeted content strategy will not only provide engaging content for users but will also inform design research moving forward.

Attraction & Retention

On its own, good design is often enough to attract users. Cohesive design elements, appealing aesthetic qualities, and user-informed pathways all contribute to designs that can appeal to users and compel them to linger on the site or app longer. However, good design on its own is insufficient. A beautiful design without high-quality content will inevitably result in a greater bounce rate and lower conversion rates. In other words, content can be the factor that influences whether users continue browsing your site or abandon it completely.

Some sites, like Reddit, have demonstrated the power of good content over good design; despite its simplistic, somewhat bland appearance, the site hosted more than 300 million users as of 2018 and continues to remain popular. In essence, good design is useful in attracting users, but in order to make them stay and convince them to engage with what the site has to offer, content is key.

Clarity & Readability

Considering content in UX design not only boosts the performance of the site, it also helps to inform and improve the content itself. When approaching content with a UX design mindset, it becomes more important and feasible to revise the content to be easily digested, straight-forward, engaging, and organized. Focusing on appealing keywords, generating content around those terms, and structuring the content in a way that prioritizes the user experience in terms of readability and clarity are a few ways that UX design helps produce quality content.

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Creating a seamless blend of content and design can create a productive, appealing interface that attracts and retains users for longer periods of time. As content strategy and UX design intersect, it is essential to understand how both tactics influence each other in the pursuit of effective design.

Originally published on Medium.