Hello and welcome to the Government Digital Service Podcast. My name is Laura Stevens and I'm a Creative Content Producer here at GDS. And for this month's episode, we're talking about Content Design. We're going to find out what it is, how it helps government and where you can learn more. And to tell me the answer to these questions are Amanda Diamond and Ben Hazell. So welcome both to the GDS Podcast. Please could you introduce yourselves and your job roles here at GDS. Amanda first.
Yeah, hi, Laura. I'm Amanda Diamond and I'm Head of GDS Content Design and Head of the Cross-government Content Community. I joined GDS in 2016, so August 2016, in fact. So it is 4 years exactly that I've been at GDS. Last year I went on loan to Acas as their Head of Content to help with their digital transformation. And prior to that I have worked in journalism. So I started out as a journalist. Prior to GDS, I worked at Which?, the consumer association, as their Deputy Editor for Which? magazine, Deputy Editor for their travel magazin, and I helped launch and run their consumer rights website as their Consumer Rights Editor.
Hello, I'm Ben Hazell. I'm a Content Product Lead here at GDS on the GOV.UK programme. I currently work on a team dealing with Coronavirus Public Information Campaign. In the recent past, 5 months ago, I was working on the EU Exit Public Information Campaign. And prior to that, I've been working on the means of publishing and production for content on GOV.UK, looking at workflows and providing the tools and data that help people manage the content on GOV.UK. Prior to that, like Amanda, I was actually in journalism. I worked on a big newspaper website for about 9 years.
So thank you both for introducing yourselves. And I want to start with the first of my questions which is, what is content design?
I don't mind starting, and that is a great question, Laura, and one that I love to answer. So basically and I'll tell you for why, people often confuse content design with different things, mainly comms. They also think that content design is just about the words. And of course, words are really important and content design is you know concerned with words. But it's not the only thing when you're talking about content design.
So content design could be a map, it could be text on a button or a sign. It also includes things like charts or graphs. Content design is about packaging up the right information in a way that makes it easy for people to understand at the point that they most need it.
So for me, I often tell people that content design is at its core: problem solving. And what do I mean about that? Well, I mean that it's about asking the right questions to get to the best solution for your audience. So the best solution for your users. So asking questions like, well, what do our users need to know? What do they need to do? And what evidence? - it's all about the evidence - what evidence do we have to support what we think our users need to know or need to do? Because there’s a big difference between what we think our users need, and what they actually need. And that can often confuse things. And we also ask things like, how can we make the overall experience better for our users? So before Content Designers even put like a single word to a page, what they need to do is like dedicate a lot of time, a lot of effort to understanding the problem in the first place so that we can give people what they need.
Yeah, and I definitely, I agree with all of that. There's no doubt that there's a fair chunk of writing in what we do. But it's also about use of evidence, about research and about iteration, about constant improvement. And I think a lot of it comes back to being humble about understanding that it