October 12, 2016
There are a number of different terms used to describe the industry we work in and the roles we all fulfil as writers for the web. We can be called copywriters, editors, freelancers or simple content writers amongst many other labels. ‘Content designer’ is a relatively new one being bandied about of late; with .gov.uk being big advocates of content design.
They all mean the same thing though, right? Wrong! Despite all of these phrases being used to describe the work we do, they all carry very different meanings and connotations. For starters, we will never refer to ourselves as copywriters here at Content Juice. Why? Well to answer that, let’s highlight the differences between the three most used terms: copywriting, content writing and content design.
We do not call ourselves copywriters as the term copywriting is now somewhat of a filthy word. This is a dated term associated heavily with search engine optimisation and one that we avoid like the plague. The word copywriting is used to label a profession but also often belittle an important job role.
Sure, when black & white hats were still a thing, content was not so important to a digital marketing campaign. Yes content was needed, but the creation of such was very much in the background of a digital operation. Other things claimed priority, such as directory listings (remember them!?) and mass link building campaigns. For these reasons, the practice of copywriting did exactly what it says on the tin – copy other pieces of writing.
Through fear of offending people we must state that we have absolutely nothing against those who call themselves copywriters. We’re not saying for one second that they aren’t talented writers. What we are saying is that the term itself now carries so much baggage from previous marketing methods in years gone by, it has become an almost derogatory term.
How many of us have heard a client say, “Oh you’re just a copywriter.” We have! But we are more than just this. We do not copy what is out there and make it fit for purpose. We do not write copy. We write content. We are content writers.
Content writing is the production of unique and insightful content from your own perspective and not from someone else’s. This is not about copying something already out there and putting your own spin on it. This is more about creating content off your own back, from scratch, with your own ideas and take on a particular subject.
Yes, you take influence from other sources and take information from existing references; but you do not base your whole article on the work of someone else or from a source of information elsewhere. Proper content writing expands upon existing arguments, creates fresh opinions and allows your own thoughts and feelings towards a particular subject to flourish. You neither agree nor disagree with someone else, you provide your own opinion for others to decide upon.
So offer good, honest, unique and sharable content that provides an insight unavailable elsewhere. If it’s already been said, why say it again? Regurgitating the same old hogwash will simply not suffice in today’s market – you need to provide proper content writing and not just copywriting. See the difference?
Content design is another thing altogether. This practice takes into account more than just the lexis you choose and the insight you provide. Content design places importance on how the words actually look on screen and how your readers will interact with your piece of content. This is about designing content, not just creating copy.
User journey focused content is the key here, taken into consideration UX and UI optimisation. It’s all about how easy it is for your readers to follow and interact with the page and how pleasurable the whole reading experience is. Important elements of content design can include:
This is particularly important when it comes to web content and items like online forms and data captures. If a user finds it too difficult, laborious or uninteresting when attempting to read/use your content they will simply leave.
The government website, with their government design standards, is a huge advocate of content design. You can see their take on the skill here. They argue that content design relies heavily on user needs and is based on source material from policy colleagues, feedback from stakeholders and analytics from both site and search engines.
We argue that the internet is becoming faster and faster, causing people’s use of it to speed up too. We used to say you have 10 seconds to capture someone’s imagination and reaction online – this is now considerably less. We now have a matter of seconds to intrigue someone, capture their imagination and convince them to read on or react.
So now you know the difference between copywriting, content writing and content design. Here we like to refer to ourselves as content designers or content writers, squeezing every last little bit of juice we can out of your project every single time. Sorry copywriters, to us you will always be dirty people! No offence.