Treat content as a hypothesis

I’m currently reading through Design Systems by Alla Kholmatova. I would highly recommend the book to any designer or front-end developer who is depended on for delivering design at scale.

One part that really stuck out to me is when she talks about treating content as a hypothesis. We’ve all heard the chicken and egg discussions about what comes first: design or content?

Both sides make compelling cases and it’s easy to think that it is a black and white situation. However, like most things in life, it’s hardly black and white. It’s both.

You can’t expect someone to have all the content 100% complete before seeing what it looks like in a template and you also can’t expect a designer to create a template without any idea of what content is going in it. Both disciplines need to work together.

That is why this idea of “content as a hypothesis” is so powerful. Design/front-end can talk to content producers and get an idea of what kinds of content will be created, then use that information to create a direction about what kinds of templates and components are needed. As long as the content producers know that you’re working from a hypothesis about what their finished content will be, it leaves it open to some iteration once the final content is delivered.

When the actual content is finished, you can now test your hypothesis. Maybe your “call-to-action” component expected only 20 words but the final content delivered is 2 paragraphs. Now a conversation can happen between the teams where it can be decided if the content needs to be chopped (which some content teams might love the opportunity to do) or maybe the content is extremely important and there’s no budging, in which case that component might need to be reworked to take into account the actual content.

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