Content Design: Should Product Content Be Long or Short?

You’ve been thinking about content design since you first began writing papers. You asked about content design very time you asked “front and back?” or “double spaced?” or “how many words?”

When I was in middle school one teacher stopped giving us word-lengths for our papers. Instead, he would say, we should write a paper so that it felt like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting.

There are so very many problems with that statement.

Don’t Design Content “Like a Skirt”

First, I could write a whole article just about the sexism of that statement. Don’t even get me started on the issues of an authority figure saying it to 12 and 13yr olds. But let’s talk about the content itself.

For one thing, “interesting” depends on the audience. I wish we had been taught to focus on the audience, their goals, and how to write to appeal to them.

For another, the length of the content should vary depending on the context of the information. It’s true when it comes to papers for school, and it’s true for product content.

In these ways, the type of content and the content goals will go on to inform the best way to display the content.

Examples of Long-Form and Short-Form Product Content

Here are a few examples of product content. Each content design has pros and cons.

  • Some applications offer 2-3 sentences at a time. It’s nice to be given the choice to move forward, but it can be frustrating to have to click to continue getting information. The content is actually long-form, it’s just designed to be cut into pieces.
  • Other pages offer swaths of text. If you’re already excited about the topic, this is ideal. Though the design of the content can still leave you with weary eyes.

Consider the Content Design

I recently sat in on a usability test where the participants all complained about not having instructions. My designer asked if I could write more detailed instructions. I pointed out that there were instructions – almost exactly in the words that the audience had requested, at the top of the page.

In this case, the content didn’t need to change. It needed a different design, one that called more attention to it.

There’s no clear answer here. No specific audience wants long-form content. No specific situation calls for short-form content. Content design plays large role in creating engaging content. Good UX requires well written content, and a design that works with the content.

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