Building a Better World with Content Design
Content designers must be curious about users they serve. Learn how to approach UX with an eye toward diversity, equity, and inclusion at Button Conference.
Content designers are, by definition, deeply invested in user-centered—some might say human-centered—content.
At its best, content has the heroic ability to draw people in, let them know they’re in the right place, and give them the answers they’re looking for. But when content isn’t created with users in mind, it ends up doing more harm than good. It stands in the way of clarity, usability, and accessibility. It can, essentially, block progress towards the very outcomes we design for.
As content designers, we are responsible for creating digital products everyone can use. This means we are in a unique position to empower people to do more—or inadvertently hold them back. There’s really no middle ground.
It’s a lot of responsibility. But it’s also precisely where things get interesting.
Why content design is a gateway to diversity and accessibility
Content designers must be deeply curious about and concerned with the people they serve. It stands to reason: If we’re devoted to user-friendly content, then we must also be devoted to users in all their glorious, messy humanity.
Of course, understanding our users means stepping outside of ourselves. In fact, if we don’t approach our craft by going beyond our personal experiences, we fail. Instead, we need to shine an unflinching spotlight on our own biases and seek insights into experiences that don’t mirror our own.
Who are these people we serve? And how can we serve them in a way that honors their diverse experiences and identities? To answer these mission-critical questions, we need to be willing to explore sensitive topics—topics like systemic racism, disability, and neurodiversity—that aren’t necessarily part of content design’s “core curriculum.”
Our field’s future depends on our willingness to do this important, often uncomfortable work. Brain Traffic’s commitment to this principle is why our Button conference lineup always includes topics that may, at first glance, seem to have nothing to do with just plain ol’ content design.
What we talk about at Button (and why)
Brain Traffic’s Button conference is all about content design. Voice and tone, component definition, content and design systems: we’ve got them covered. But you’ll also see talks and panels that broaden our understanding of what it means to know, welcome, and connect with each other and the folks we serve.
Here’s what’s on tap for our October 20–22 virtual event:
We asked the inimitable Candi Williams to curate a panel, and this all-star lineup of Black women in content and tech was her response. Together, they’ll discuss the exhaustion and disappointment many BIPOC women experience as they encounter organizations that are all content and no walk when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). They’ll point us thoughtfully toward a brighter future of DEI, one in which actions speak louder than words.
What do death, dying, and bereavement have to do with content design? According to Helen Lawson of the UK’s Co-op Funeralcare, the answer is “a lot.” Helen spends all day thinking about how funeral care organizations can speak intentionally, sensitively, and courageously to people navigating life’s most difficult transitions. And the lessons she’s learned have surprising applications for the entire field of content design. It’s easy to assume that the people using our products are in a perpetually “neutral-to-happy” mental state. But as Helen’s work shows, that’s not always the case. In order to connect appropriately with our customers, we must take this sometimes-painful reality into consideration.
“We need to create some content about racial justice.” Sound familiar? If so, Sharon Bautista’s keynote address is for you. She’ll acknowledge the role white supremacy often plays in our efforts to standardize language. In that context, she will consider the pros and cons of developing a content strategy for internal-facing DEI efforts—and point to how that framework might extend to external-facing activities, as well.
In this talk, Hannah McKenzie will broaden our understanding of accessibility by uncovering the effects of epilepsy, vertigo, and cancer-related cognitive impairment. While these conditions aren’t usually top of mind, they have much to teach us about how to make digital products more welcoming and accessible for everyone.
Content design doesn’t just improve the UX of digital products . . . it makes the world a better place. Ready to learn more? Join us in just a few days for the world’s best content design conference! You bring the popcorn, and we’ll bring the nerdy, career-honing, mind-expanding fun.
Kristina Halvorson is widely recognized as one of the most important voices in content strategy and UX. She is the owner of Brain Traffic, a content strategy consultancy; the author of Content Strategy for the Web; the host of The Content Strategy Podcast; and the founder of the popular Confab and Button conferences. Kristina speaks worldwide about the importance of content strategy, educating and inspiring audiences across every industry. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with her two fantastic teens.