Content design: applying heuristics

Content design is an iterative process. In other words, we improve the words, images, data, and other content step-by-step. As a result, we expect more people will accomplish what they need to in the products we design.

In this post, I’m going to show how we applied heuristics to a critical experience in Microsoft Viva Topics.

5 heuristics to improve content design

In her book Strategic Writing for UX, Torrey Podmajersky challenges content teams to “drive engagement, conversion, and retention with every word.” We applied some basic principles, or heuristics, from her book to identify opportunities to improve.

Usability heuristics are guidelines we use in content design before we ship a new or updated experience. Similarly, visual and interaction designers often use this type of tool. In both cases, we evaluate our designs against standard guidelines. When successful, the evaluations help predict the quality and success of the experience.

The same term means the same concept, every time it’s used“Suggested topic” is repeated on this page with two different uses.
What the person should do to meet their goals is clearThe subheadings for each section don’t include value statements
Actions have unambiguous resultsThe secondary action after the buttons wasn’t clear
The words, phrases, and ideas are familiar to the people using itThe meaning of “Suggested topic” isn’t explained
Information presented is relevant at this moment in the experience.“Describe your connection” isn’t relevant here. The link doesn’t go there directly.

Before review

To start, the following illustration shows the parts of the screen where each of the improvements were identified. For example, the “Suggested topic connections” header in the screen below is the first opportunity for improvement.

Screenshot of the suggested topic connections UI and the confirmed topic connections UI. This view is before changes. The 5 evaluations described earlier are highlighted.
Before: 5 issues identified

After heuristic evaluation with improvements made

Finally, the updated screen is shown below with a list of the changes we made.

Screenshot of the same UI after improvements. The 5 changes are highlighted.
After: 5 changes applied