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Meet the content design team

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If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a ‘content designer’ and an ‘editor’, here Holly Challenger and Beck Thompson reveal all.

In the latest of our occasional films highlighting the work of the teams at GDS, we spent some time with the GOV.UK content design team, finding out how they work.

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Meet the content design team - video transcript

GOV.UK content design team “crit” meeting

Crit group:

Oh, yeah, yeah… But yeah, “only available” doesn’t sound quite right. Yeah. Skip the word “from”. Or “you can only get employment history…”

Beck Thompson (Product Content Lead, Government Digital Service):

Content design is kind of a new phrase, I guess, because we used to call ourselves editors before, you know, and I must admit that when they first started talking about content designers I was like, “What’s that? We’re editors.” But actually it’s more than just writing and editing, it’s, you overlap quite a lot, especially if you work on a service, you overlap quite a lot with designers, and you need to understand the work that they do, and they need to understand what you do, so it’s quite a broad discipline, I think.

What sort of person do you need to be?

Holly Challenger (Content Designer, Government Digital Service):

I think you have to be a very empathetic person. You have to be able to put yourself in the position of the user. So you really have to be able to get to grips with different content topics very, very quickly.

Crit group:

Industrial disablement. That’s not medical negligence, that’s like health and safety negligence. Apparently you do have to have a signature somewhere if you’re making a compensation claim for some things like this.

Holly Challenger:

We work in a really collaborative way. We regularly have what we call “crits”.

Crit group:

While we’re on nit-picking comments… (laughter) Feel free!

Holly Challenger:

We ask the team to gather round a screen and make suggestions for improvements, to raise questions, and it’s an incredibly helpful way just to get other people’s ideas. The aim of GOV.UK is to meet the needs of users and not the needs of government. So we start with what individuals want to do and what they need to know from government in order to get on with their lives, using user research and data from analytics. We receive comments from members of the public. We’ll often look at those comments to look at what problems are people having with this, what are they not understanding.

Beck Thompson:

You start with the user need and that will tell you what you need to do, what you need to produce in order to fulfil that user need.

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  1. Comment by Dave Weston posted on

    This video helps clarify what a Content Designer does, although I'm still not sure the actual job title fits. It's the 'design' element that implies a visual, artsitic element but the fact it's origin was as an editor that finally makes sense. I'm just confused why the title doesn't retain some link to its literary function but instead co-opts a title from the creative field, you might as well say content 'engineer' or content 'magician'.

    Bottom line, when looking for jobs as a designer and coming across 'content designer' roles it can be very confusing as I'm pretty sure I'm not skilled to do that role, perhaps I'm a 'graphics editor' or a 'graphic journalist'.

  2. Comment by Bill posted on