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The importance of content designers in government

Delegates at ConCon7 with a poster in the background saying "We translate difficult concepts into easy to understand content."

"Content designers translate difficult concepts into easy to understand content."

"We help people get the information they need, in the way they need it."

"Without content designers, government would be impossible for people to understand."

These comments are how content designers participating at #ConCon7, the seventh cross-government content conference, describe their value to government. Their job is to make government services and information simpler, clearer and faster for citizens and businesses.

We made the quotations into a set of posters to inspire colleagues across the content community and wider government.

loft27design tweeted at 12:35 PM · Jun 12, 2018 (tweet content below)
"The 7th cross-government content conference #ConCon7 is on next week."

According to feedback, ConCon7 was the best, most inspirational and widest ranging event yet. We had presentations from 14 organisations across government and 86% of attendees said they saw or heard stories that inspired them. We’ll dive deeper into the feedback further down in the blog.

Sessions covered everything from a content designer’s role on a multidisciplinary team, to how content is evolving with the use of voice search to technical guidance, design patterns and data dashboards.

Participants took part in visual impairment simulations to highlight accessibility requirements and workshops on how to create data-informed content to meet user needs. They also had the opportunity to listen to some prison radio adverts - created by content designers and recorded by prisoners to raise awareness of the new prisoner money service - and discover the impact it’s had.

“I didn't know how many different types of content designers work within government, so it really opened my eyes to what future possibilities for work could be”, one participant said of the event.

Keynote speaker Catherine Miller, Director of Policy at DotEveryone, shared the results of the Digital Attitudes Report and spoke about our role in producing responsible technology.

Those attending on the day enjoyed the range of work on show, with one delegate saying: “It’s given me greater clarity over the breadth of what content professionals do and how big the network and profession is.”

Another added: “I've gained more appreciation for the impact that content design can have on users.”

Participants taking part in visual impairment simulations
Participants took part in visual impairment simulations

A vibrant community of practice

Some 260 people gathered on the day, which was co-created and run by more than 80 people. 80% of attendees said they learned a new skill or technique. This is testament to the power of peer learning in a vibrant cross-government community of practice. Here are some of the other positive comments from the day:

“I got some good ideas on how to approach some problems I have and I am sharing them with my team.”

“Great to see how different people approach their work, with both common and unique challenges.”

dharmz23 tweeted at 1:15 PM · Jun 21, 2018 (tweet content below)
"I say this ad nauseum: Content designers are the most underrated role in service teams. Really enjoyed #concon7 - highlighted the good work content designers are doing across government. May the profession expand across government - we certainly need it!"
Amy_Hupe tweeted at 8:56 PM · Jun 21, 2018 (tweet content below)
"One of my biggest takeaways from today was the experience of trying to complete a questionnaire whilst wearing visual-impairment simulation glasses. Really helped me appreciate why accessible content design matters - and what it means when you get it wrong. #ConCon7"

ConCon7 in numbers

In comparison to ConCon6, the number of organisations that showcased their work increased by 40% - from 10 to 14. This was largely through showcasing work from a pilot peer learning programme that ran earlier this year.

The number of organisations which participants came from also grew 20% from 56 to 65 after we introduced a lottery system for fairer ticket allocation.

The percentage of participants who said they heard something inspiring increased from 74% to 86%. Specific mentions went to the keynote, the real-world impact of good content and the range of content work demonstrated by their cross-government peers.

The number of participants marking the event 7/10 or higher increased from 85% to 90%.

“This is an important, well-run event that helps us all learn and get new skills, and feel part of a community”, one of the content designers said.

Two delegates at ConCon7

Content design as a career path

We are currently reviewing the content design curriculum, to make sure we’re still offering the right learning opportunities to meet the needs of GOV.UK publishers and the cross-government content community.

“I didn't realise how many content designers there were across government, and that there are career options within government,” one attendee said.

We hosted a stand at ConCon7 to ask people what good learning looks like to them, where in the UK could we host learning opportunities, what their main challenges were and what level of peer support they had access to.

People said they wanted their learning experiences to:

  • be closer to where they are based
  • use more digital tools
  • include more time working with peers
  • include opportunities to co-design the curriculum
  • have a good balance of theory and practical
  • include opportunities to discuss real world problems

So we’ll be working to factor that into the design of future learning products and programmes.

Thank you to everyone from the content community who made the day possible.

Read the ConCon7 full feedback report and see the ConCon7 schedule.

You can follow Laura on Twitter.

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