Rustbelt Refresh Recap (Part 7) – Stephanie Hay


Stephanie Hay – Content-First Design

Before Stephanie dug deep into the specifics of content-first design, she introduced her discussion with a mention for her love for video games; from brilliant story telling, to highly interactive elements to when you get to create a character in the game. While going along with this introduction, she showed a snippet of the video game Animal Crossing, where the game begins by makes assumptions about you so they can collect your characters information through a conversation.

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Screenshot from the video game “Animal Crossing”, which Stephanie spoke about to emphasize content-first design.

When their assumptions are right, it becomes data stored for your character; when their assumptions are wrong, they respond in a humorous and lighthearted way and then disregard that information. So how did the video game industry master this art of interactive storytelling and responsive hands-on design so brilliantly and fluidly? As stated by Stephanie Hay, it all begins with creating the content first and making your design around the created content.

To accomplish this type of process properly, Stephanie introduced us to “content prototypes”, which can be a Word or Google Doc that allows the designer write the conversation they want to have with someone, then design an experience that best brings that conversation to life, no matter the technology used. To start it, based on her blog post on A List Apart:

  • Start writing what kind of conversation you’d have in real life if you didn’t have an interface yet.
  • Start writing.
  • Write.
  • And don’t edit. (That’s the hardest part.)
  • Keep writing. How the conversation should go will become clearer the more you write. (And the more you test with other people.)

By following the process of content-first design, the project can face several benefits to make the whole assignment easier to handle for both developers and the client, including:

  • a lowest risk, lowest cost project (writing)
  • more collaborative design process
  • senior-level people can be part of the initial phases
  • faster approvals and launches
  • higher engagement (you’ve nailed the story first)

Content-first design works because content defines structure, not the other way around. When you have the content laid out in front of you and understand how the client and user will interact with the site despite not having a design accompanied with it, designing the project becomes much easier to layout.

If you wish to find out more, check out Stephanie on Twitter (@steph_hay), visit her website, or take a look at her blog post on A List Apart, as previously mentioned above, to learn more about content-first design!

Check back real soon for the 8th and final part of the Rustbelt Refresh Recap!

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