Designing Content for Product Experiences with Facebook’s Jonathon Colman

From the UIE virtual seminar Designing Content for Product Experiences, Dec 2014, available at

What is a content strategist?

  • “We plan for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.”–Kristina Halvorson
  • “We use words and data to create unambiguous content that supports meaningful, interactive experiences.” –Rachel Lovinger
  • “We don’t need more content. We need content that does more.”–Sara Wachter-Boettcher

A sample message from Facebook’s content team:

  • “You’re in charge. We’re here to help you get the experience you want. Learn about ways to protect your privacy on Facebook.”

Language is an interface, and an infrastructure

Content strategy is not copywriting–that’s only part of it. It’s also not just managing writers. It’s also not just content marketing

Content strategy is an “intertwingling” of:

  • Interaction design
  • User experience
  • Design thinking
  • Systems thinking

Design content as a system, as a product, as an experience–not as a “campaign.” Page views aren’t your goal, your goal is your goal–and it should be an iterative one

Hierarchy of user needs:

  • Purpose > Core Functionality > Accessibility > Usability > Joy

Good content strategy:

  • Starts with “the why,” continues “the how,” then does “the what”–all with core values in mind
  • Works across every plane of user experience
  • Answers questions and connects with users’ emotions

What is minimum viable content?

  • It must have a quality framework (value + craft + ease of use)
  • It recognizes the 5 planes of user experience:
    • Surface – where content is seen and used
    • Skeleton and Structure – where content is modeled and built
    • Scope and Strategy – where content is proposed and planned

FB’s content principles:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Get to the point
  3. Talk like a person

FN content strategy should always:

  • Make things optional and opt-in where possible
  • Show users value upfront
  • Offer users clear choices
  • Make it easy to opt out

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