As someone who has worked in content production and management, I can tell you it can feel like the backbone of everything, that everything lives and dies with your content production, the quality of the content, and how well you govern and manage it all. Maybe that feels like a bias statement to you, especially if you believe design trumps all. But I can tell you I have seen terrible product (website) designs succeed because high quality content carries it. And I know Bill Gates in 1996 would agree with me. Of course, a lot has changed in 20 years. Still, content is king when it comes to digital publishing.
In terms of UX design, where the focus is on serving the user with his or her needs, content is still king. However, content needs to be married to the design process. I do not believe it can be an afterthought. UX designers (UX design teams) need to have a strong understanding of the product’s (website’s) content because often it is the meat of the site. Content may not be the process and goal of a task-based website, but it helps users understand the process and directs them to the right points. Content often is the doorway into a website, too. It’s how you “get found.” It’s the first impression. It’s the brand.
Sometimes content is the product itself (such as a news website or blog). But more than ever these days, content is meant to deliver a message on behalf of someone else or a company. A UX designer (UX design team) needs to be immersed in this content, whatever it may be. The team needs to know everything about it — how it’s created, where its found, how its collected, how it is being managed and governed, how compatible it is with each platform on which it will be made available. Understanding content is understanding people. So it takes empathy and it takes research to truly understand the message one is working to deliver. That’s content, and that’s UX design.
Understanding the scope of content strategy will make all of us better UX designers, and better people in general. A lot of big companies understand this and place a large emphasis on not only the content they serve to their customers but also the in-house content which is given to employees. I believe this is what a lot of UX designers will be running into more often. It’s our job to understand people, their content and how to relay the message, then tie it all together with a strong design.