Our user-centred philosophy informs all our work, from interaction design to information architecture to content writing. We always encourage our clients to include real users in the process.
Our flexible process delivers client requirements with high quality output, on time and on budget.
Better writing is probably the single most important improvement you can make to your site ... hire good writers... and have all of their content edited by even better editors who are even more knowledgeable about content usability.
Most people skim or scan web pages and read for a purpose. Often they don't read carefully past the first paragraph or two. When people are online, they read to:
- get an idea about the overall purpose of the page
- target specific and relevant information
- find amusing or engaging material.
Writing good web content will help readers achieve their goals – and your goals as well.
The ui3 approach
Professionally edited web page content is one of our key services.
We can help you:
- choose and use an effective voice
- simplify your text, focusing on information meaningful to the audience
- structure the text for scan reading
- maintain consistency throughout
- add keywords (metadata) for meaningful search results.
The ui3 team will deliver professionally edited or written content. We can work with your original source content or research and develop material from scratch.
First, you choose between light, medium and heavy editing, depending on the content available. We can edit a couple of sample pages to illustrate the difference.
We work to a content map and your online style guide. If you don't yet have these, we can help here too.
We keep you informed and confident that it's under control. We use online tools to track progress so you know where the project is up to.
Our people have the skills to handle projects of any size: from large projects requiring a cohesive team of writers and editors down to small projects of a few pages lightly edited.
Our web writing principles
Your readers may have specific expectations, but there are some core principles when writing for the web.
1. Tell the reader what the page is about first up
- Provide a descriptive and concise title and summary at the start.
- Use the 'inverted pyramid' style of writing that starts with the conclusion.
2. Help readers find the information they want quickly
- Highlight key content with meaningful headings and sub-headings.
- Keep sentences short and succinct.
- Use bulleted lists where appropriate.
3. Let your audience decide how much detail they want
- Stick to 600 to 800 words per page where possible.
- Back up summaries with links to help people 'drill down' into the detail.
4. Keep your audience interested
- Write in an active voice.
- Focus on information that means something to your users.
- Avoid jargon, marketing language or the obvious sales pitch.
5. Write for the purpose
- Define the style and tone of the writing to suit the site – a style guide is useful.
- Keep a consistent style and tone throughout the site.
- Embed 'calls to action' in the page to encourage interaction.
We provide support for your authors
Content is always being updated, even after a new website is launched. We can develop and customise tools to help your staff continue to create and edit content using straight forward principles for high quality writing on the web.
Great information architecture is invisible so that content can shine through.
When it works, information architecture gets your website visitors to the content they want without fuss.
With thoughtful design, the 'architecture' of your information is light and almost transparent:
- menu items are clear and descriptive
- content is grouped logically
- popular items are close to the surface.
Good information architecture is prepared by understanding your audiences:
- who they are
- why they're at the website
- what language they use
- how they think about the content.
The ui3 approach
At ui3, we design 'user-centric' information architecture: from the viewpoint of the people who will use it.
Whether they're browsing or searching, we shape content into a structure that makes it easy for your users to find their way to the section, page, paragraph or sentence that they need.
Base the IA on audience needs
To find the perspective of your users, we use:
- your inside knowledge of your main audiences
- customised workshops to profile audience types and their key uses of the site.
We identify the information and interaction that your audience needs through activities such as workshops, interviews and on-the-spot observation.
Group content items in a site taxonomy
A catalogue or 'inventory' of content is the starting point for grouping content items. The basics of the inventory may be provided by the business owner. Alternatively, we can start the inventory and develop it with you, using a template to capture key content descriptors.
We then create a site 'taxonomy' (a map of all the categories and sub-categories in a hierarchy) using information about your content and your audiences. We create category labels and review them as we get your feedback and test the language and logic with real users.
Use metadata for discovery
Metadata is the key to good search results.
Effective keywords, page titles, descriptions and other metadata help search engines, and people, find a page of content. We review metadata requirements, along with any available controlled vocabularies, and make suggestions to help improve the visibility of your pages without time-consuming administration.
Always seek high quality
Awareness of best practice in information architecture and user interaction design is at the core of our approach. We integrate benchmarking with an awareness of current conventions and the results of user interaction research.
We understand and apply Victorian and Australian Government standards in the appropriate context.
We strongly recommend that our clients include user testing of the information architecture and interaction design in their project. The best guide to the potential success of your site is the feedback of your users. The test results and recommendations allow you to refine your site design using knowledge and experience.
"A picture is worth a thousand words. An interface is worth a thousand pictures."
Interaction design aims to produce interfaces that:
- reduce user frustration
- increase productivity and satisfaction.
People using your website expect to know where they are and what they can do next. They want a design that engages them in a conversation and page layouts that clearly show the hierarchy of information.
The owners of a website need a layout that maintains the conversation with their audience and a structure that copes with future growth.
The ui3 approach
At ui3 we apply design processes that centre on user needs, throughout the design cycle.
Right from the start, we focus on the people who visit your website: who they are, what they need and how they behave. We encourage our clients to include active participation of real users and use this to refine their design.
There are usually multiple audiences for a website. To get the full picture, we research the different types of users and their needs and expectations, using activities such as workshops, interviews and on-the-spot observation. We use tools such as user profiles and scenarios to record and report our findings.
Consistency is important across a website. To achieve this, pages are typically displayed using templates.
To develop the structure for the template, we identify the elements that will make up the page and consider their hierarchy and relationship. We then develop 'wireframes' to show how these elements should be grouped, aligned and arranged within zones on the screen.
Visual designers use wireframes when they develop the visual presentation and branding, and developers use them to code the templates. We consult with these groups to make sure that their constraints and requirements are also understood and managed.
The paths taken from page to page within a site or online application form a dialogue or conversation between your user and the owner or author of the website.
We use diagramming techniques to cover all paths. Conventions and standards are applied to make sure that transitions are consistent with user expectations.
We give users a roadmap, so they can answer:
- Where am I now?
- Where have I been?
- Where can I go next?
- How much is left to do?
User testing and design refinement
Testing the interaction design at an early stage pays off. It's easier and cheaper to modify the interaction process at the design stage than it is once the site has been built.
We strongly recommend that our clients include user testing of the interaction with paper prototypes or online 'white sites'. Issues discovered can be quickly addressed and retested. The final design is influenced and refined by the actions and opinions of real users.
"When it comes to experience on the web, there's no better way to create it than to write, and write well."
The online publishing style guide is the roadmap for your content authors. It shows them how to get to their end result – good, readable content – quickly and efficiently.
The ui3 approach
At ui3, we start a content writing project by developing an online publishing style guide. We use this to describe the tone and style of the writing for the site, based on the profile of your audience and the communication goals of the site.
You may already have communication guidelines in some format. These are a useful basis for an online publishing style guide, but they usually don't present tailored information for your web writing project. We use your existing standards as the foundation for developing a reference that specifically addresses the needs of your online content authors, editors and approvers.
Writing for the audience
We start by considering the:
- multiple audiences – they're crucial to the style and tone
- communication objectives – they're crucial for consistency and focus.
Using style, tone and voice
The style, tone and voice of a website represent the personality of the site. We develop this personality to engage your audience and complement the visual branding and interaction style of the site. Guidelines for using style, tone and voice are incorporated into the style guide to keep the personality consistent across pages written by different authors.
Keeping language consistent
We establish a basic set of conventions to help keep the language consistent across the site, no matter how many writers are involved in content creation over the life of the site.
To establish consistency, you need site-wide standards for:
- terminology and acronyms e.g. ‘eBusiness' versus ‘ebusiness' versus ‘e-business'
- spelling and word usage, including specialised or technical vocabulary
- links to content outside the page.
Formatting for online reading
People read differently online. To create readable, scannable web page you need to start with the appropriate structure for online reading. The appearance and structure of headings, lists and paragraphs is crucial.
We define standards for the presentation of content elements such as headings, lists, links and images.
Adding links that work
Links are a powerful way to add more to your content. Our style guide shows writers how to develop meaningful links that help the user make an informed decision before pursuing related information or detail.
Making content accessible
Making content accessible also makes it more usable for all website visitors.
We include guidelines for accessible content, such as the appropriate use of alt tags on images and plain language principles.
Creating metadata for discovery and content management
As well as being readable, content must be discoverable. Metadata can help to make content easier to find both internally on the site and through external search engines. Metadata is also used to help manage content over the lifetime of the site.
Our style guide can include specifics on:
- what type of metadata is needed
- how to write effective metadata
- where it's used.
Delivering in a flexible format
The style guide is a reference that can be maintained online as a wiki application or in a print based format such PDF. Either way it is a 'living' document that will be extended and revised as new rules, conventions and suggestions for publication arise over the life of a site.
We have a set of online services that work together to give your audience a positive online experience when they're on your site. Our services include:
- information architecture (IA) development
- interaction design
- user testing
- writing and editing web page content
- content development
- metadata development.
Information architecture (IA) development
Good information architecture guides your website visitors to the content they want without fuss. We:
- clarify requirements using workshops, interviews and observation
- define site audience groups
- define user intent and goals
- identify topics and content groups
- structure topics and content groups so they make sense to the people using the site.
Good interaction design produces interfaces that reduce user frustration and increase productivity and satisfaction. We:
- identify appropriate interaction models for the site audience
- define screen zones for consistent presentation of content across the site
- design points of interaction
- coordinate pathways to key information on the site.
The users are the best guide to site usability. User testing is invaluable in improving the quality of the user interaction. We:
- develop the user test plan and identify
- questions to be answered by user test
- participant characteristics
- resources required
- develop test scenarios to provide answers to the questions
- conduct user test, ensuring objectivity
- report on user test results, including recommendations for review.
Writing and editing web page content
Writing good web content will help people achieve their goals. We:
- define the style and tone of the site content
- develop an Online Publishing Style Guide
- audit site content
- scope content development requirements to assess editorial effort and resources
- create a content plan and map source content
- plan and schedule content development
- assemble the content development team
- define the content development and approval processes and timeline
- brief writers and editors
- develop page samples
- develop a page template to ensure content is easily migrated.
Sometimes you need to start from scratch. Other times you may have content that needs to be adapted for reading online, or just needs a final polish before being published. We can:
- research source content if needed
- write page content to agreed voice, tone and style
- edit existing content to appropriate online style
- proof-read existing content for consistency.
Metadata helps users find information. It also helps you to manage your electronic content. We:
- prepare standard metadata content for discovery – title, keywords and page description
- improve discoverability by including keywords in initial paragraphs and page descriptions
- assist you in planning your metadata needs, if needed
We understand Australian government standards for metadata (AGLS) and can assist you in using these if they are applicable to your site.
We are happy to say that over 80% of our new work is repeat business from our existing clients, including:
Port of Melbourne Corporation
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
Department of Planning and Community Development
Department of Justice
Department of Environment and Heritage
Catholic Education Office