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Learning and sharing at ConCon4

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Content Designer

Hi, I’m Poppy. I joined the Digital Engagement team as a content designer in June 2016.

Poppy Holdsworth, DWP content designer
Poppy Holdsworth, DWP content designer

Since I joined the team, I’ve worked with many experienced content designers.

They’ve given me some brilliant advice along the way, and in turn I’ve been able to share a few tips.

But, as with most things, there’s always more to learn (and share!).

One of the highlights of 2016 for me was attending the fourth GDS Content Design Conference (#ConCon4) in London back in September.

The conference brought together content designers from across government, working both on GOV.UK content and services, to talk about content design.

‘We’re stronger when we share’

The day began with a keynote speech on leadership by Kit Collingwood, Head of Product Delivery on Universal Credit. Kit’s message was simple – a revolution is underway. This revolution has seen the internet become the core way that government interacts with citizens. As content designers, we’re the key link between the two, and we’re the leaders at the heart of this revolution.

Kit went on to discuss three  traits shown by good leaders - empathy, vulnerability and curiosity. She added that reaching out brings these qualities together. In other words, we’re stronger when we share.

I kept this thought at the forefront of my mind throughout the day.

Focusing on accessibility

Kit’s keynote was followed by workshops on a variety of topics. These ranged from how to write great titles and summaries to how the mind processes and makes sense of content. I wish there’d been time for me to attend all the workshops. Having to choose between them was a challenge!

One of the workshops I attended explained why we should care about accessibility.

Poppy's lanyardWe learnt that around 11 million people in the UK have a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability – a far greater figure than I expected. To gain an understanding of the challenges that people with disabilities experience when trying to access content and services, we watched user research videos and tried on glasses which replicated the effects of common conditions such as glaucoma. This brought home exactly why accessibility is such an important aspect of content design.

The workshop went on to set out how we can make sure that content is accessible, not only to make life a little easier for people with disabilities, but simply because accessible content is good content. It highlighted the benefits of front loading sentences and plain English. It also explained the benefits of letting users control content, for example by providing more than one way to interact with elements and creating alternative formats.

Getting a broader insight – and sharing learning

'Lightning talks' took place between the workshops. These allowed content designers from across government to quickly share their successes and what they’re working on. It was great to get a broader insight of what’s going on across government and put faces to names.

Now the event’s over, I keep thinking back to Kit’s keynote speech and the notion that we’re stronger when we share. That’s why I’ve been sharing what I learnt at ConCon4 with my team, and ensuring that all the content we create is as accessible as possible. After all, as I learnt on the day, accessible content is good content.

I hope that this blog helps to share what I learnt even further.

Roll on ConCon5!

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