Content Design System – Do You Need It?

Content Design System

Designers have long recognized the benefits of using a design system in their work, streamlining their processes and saving time by not having to start from scratch every time. However, not everyone is aware that the same concept can be applied to content design, helping content and UX writing teams avoid the tedious task of reinventing the wheel. 

In this article, we’ll explore the concept of a Content Design System (CDS) and help you determine if your project could benefit from one. We’ll also guide you on how to effectively garner stakeholder and team buy-in for such a system. If you’re new to the world of content design, be sure to check out our article “What is Content Design?” for a comprehensive explanation of the concept.

Fewer design tweaks and less back-and-forth communication between content, design, and developer teams? Solve these issues with the right technology. Learn more about it.

Reach a new level of prototyping

Design with interactive components coming from your team’s design system.

4 Questions to Help You Decide If You Need a Content Design System

Do you have limited access to UX writers?

If you do, then you’re not alone. In fact, according to a study by UX Writing Hub, almost 90% of UX writers work in a 1:10 ratio to designers. Some teams have an even higher imbalance, standing at 1:20!

What this means is that – more often than not – product designers have to make content decisions on their own. What’s more, some companies can’t afford a ux writer altogether, and the responsibility of creating microcopy falls on those without the necessary skills or gets delegated to copywriters who are experienced in writing for sales and not UX.

Even if your team has UX writers on board, it can be difficult to maintain consistency and scale without a content design system in place. This can lead to a domino effect. Namely, the writing team may not have the time to create copy early in the design process, which means that designers will not be able to prove their concept due to lack of real-life context. Think prototypes filled with “Lorem Ipsum” or other placeholder text.

A content design system, paired with a prototyping tool like UXPin, can help overcome these challenges. It lets you draw some of the CDS or include content box templates.

Do you want to ensure consistency in your communication with users? 

Inconsistent language or terms can create confusion for the user, leading to frustration and potentially even to abandoning your product altogether. A content design system can help ensure that your team is communicating with users in a clear, consistent manner.

For example, the use of words like “delete,” “discard,” and “remove” can vary in meaning, but they all have similar connotations. If your team is not using these terms consistently, it can result in confusion. The same goes for terms like “export,” “download,” and “share.”

It’s important to be cohesive with the terms you use and document them in your content style guide. Map out all terminology, write down tone guidelines or then audit your product ongoingly to identify any inconsistencies. By making a habit of documenting these decisions, you can bring clarity to your product design and improve communication with your users.

Do you want to ship your designs faster? 

When it comes to designing a product, speed and efficiency are key factors. A CDS can greatly enhance the speed and efficiency of the design process. By having key content decisions built into the design system, teams can avoid wasting time debating or testing certain decisions, such as how to capitalize items in a dropdown or whether to use contractions.

Having a clear set of content guidelines allows teams to move forward with their designs without having to constantly pause and reassess. This means teams will be able to finalize their designs faster, and focus on other areas of the product that require their attention.

Do you want to ensure good usability? 

Having consistent UI patterns helps create an experience that feels intuitive and welcoming to users, leading to better engagement and satisfaction. A CDS that incorporates standards for accessibility, inclusivity, legal clearance, and translation-friendliness can help ensure that the content and user experience are consistent across all aspects of the product ecosystem.

By following these standards, teams can be confident that they are providing a positive experience for all users. This is an essential step in creating digital products that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also stress the importance of functionality and readability. By focusing on good usability, you can build a loyal user base and foster a positive brand image. This, in turn, will set you apart from your competitors.

If you answered YES to all of the above questions, then you clearly need a content design system. Let’s now take a look at how to get started. 

How to Start a Content Design System

Getting started with a CDS can seem daunting, but the key to success is to understand the needs of those who will be using it. For starters, it’s important to consider the size and scope of your company, as well as the products you work on.

If your organization is small and only works on a few products, then a simple and streamlined solution like Bulb’s content design system could be a good source of inspiration.

Keep in mind that building a comprehensive and effective system requires a significant amount of work. It will need to be updated and adapted as your company’s design maturity evolves. Some companies have designated design or content operations teams that are responsible for building and maintaining their CDS.

To create your own system, your UX writers or content strategists should first document your company’s existing best practices and design guidelines, even if they are currently informal. This process will help to formalize these guidelines and make them part of your content design system. 

The content strategy they build from the ground up must document how the brand tone of voice (ToV) is applied to UX writing.

It’s common for the ToV guidelines to be created by brand or marketing teams with a focus on marketing copy, rather than on elements such as button labels or error messages. By considering these important factors, you’ll be well on your way to creating a CDS that meets the needs of your team and supports your overall design goals.

If you’re wondering where you can keep your content design system, then there are two ways you can go about it. For instance, you can make it available publicly, i.e., make it ‘live’ beyond your product design toolset. A good example is how Google structured its Material Design library, which can be accessed online through the browser. 


How to Get Internal Buy-in for Content Design System

Here are four ways to help build support for your CDS:

Provide a clear value proposition

When proposing a CDS, it is important to clearly communicate the benefits it will bring to the organization. To do this, take a product management approach and define a clear value proposition that outlines the problems you are trying to solve, and the solutions provided by the CDS.

You can present this information in a simple three-column table to make it easy to understand. Jot down some of the problems your team is facing in one column, ways that a CDS could potentially solve them in another, and, finally, the value generated by the solution in the third one.

Seek allies

Identifying allies who have similar goals and outcomes within the organization can be a valuable way to build support for your CDS. Look for individuals who can become champions of the system, and engage with team members from multiple disciplines as well as users in the decision-making process. This means reaching out to designers, developers, writers, and product team members who will use the system in the discussions. By working together, you can ensure that everyone is invested in the success of the CDS.

Set clear expectations and avoid overpromising

It is important to be realistic about what a CDS can and cannot achieve. Set clear expectations about its limitations and capabilities and be transparent about the assumptions and calculation methods behind your ROI estimations. 

Avoid overpromising and ensure that you have the capacity to deliver what you promise. If a content design system truly is a good fit for your team, conservative estimates should still get them excited if you present them correctly. Then, when the system is in place, the team might be pleasantly surprised by how well it performs.

Demonstrate how a CDS can streamline the product development process

In order to further convey the importance of a CDS, it can be helpful to prepare a short presentation that compares the results of projects carried out with and without a CDS in place. You can show how a CDS can streamline the product development process and help save time for your content and design teams. Or how a CDS with content patterns can quickly provide relevant copy as opposed to a screen full of “Lorem Ipsum.”

For example, say you’re designing a landing page and need to fill out the headings and call-to-action box. Instead of filling them all with “Lorem Ipsum”, you could easily dive into your CDS and use existing templates, like “Sign up for free” for your CTA button. 

You can run a presentation and display how a design could look like if it were filled with “Lorem Ipsum” from top to bottom, and then, on the next slide, show the same layout with relevant copy.

This type of demonstration will contrast both versions, prove the importance of context in the design process, and help get buy-in for your CDS.

Create a Content Design System

Having a content design system is essential for ensuring the overall success of a digital product as it significantly improves its usability. The content in an app or website is context-specific, which calls for a good content strategy that has to be supported by a content design system for effective execution. Remember that visual style guide, component library, and UI writing must be approached holistically. 

Investing time and effort into creating a comprehensive content design system will pay off in the long run with a more intuitive, accessible, and user-friendly product. If you’re searching for a tool that will help you build prototypes with your design library components, then check out UXPin Merge

Use a single source of truth for design and development. Discover Merge

by UXPin on 14th March, 2023

UXPin is a web-based design collaboration tool. We’re pleased to share our knowledge here.

Still hungry for the design?

UXPin is a product design platform used by the best designers on the planet. Let your team easily design, collaborate, and present from low-fidelity wireframes to fully-interactive prototypes.

Start your free trial

These e-Books might interest you