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Content Production & User Experience 

Top Tips

Welcome to our latest special feature, this time looking at all aspects of content production and the user experience (UX). All of the insights and opinions come from leading suppliers to the publishing sector and from senior executives at UK publishing companies.

By James Evelegh

Top Tips

This special feature on content production and user experience has five sections:



User Experience (UX)

Top Tips

Suppliers Spotlight

In this section:

Top tips for improving production processes

Top tips for improving UX

Top tips for improving production processes

1. Simplify & streamline

This starts with conducting a workflow audit to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies, says Kevin Shelcott, senior operations leader and production director, EKCS: “This is the first step in improving production processes and can be done by conducting an analysis of the production process and looking for areas where delays or errors occur.”

Specifically, adds Cesare Navarotto, chief product officer, Atex, this will involve looking for “bottlenecks, redundant steps or manual tasks that can be automated or eliminated.”

Koli Pickersgill, production director, Immediate Media

The aim, says Benn Linfield, head of design and production, Which?, is to “simplify – cut out the noise” and, adds Koli Pickersgill, production director, Immediate Media, to “streamline processes to avoid duplication of effort”.

Whilst it’s important, acknowledges Richard Hamshere, group production director, Mark Allen Group, to “be aware of the latest trends, keeping it simple is often the best approach.”

The result should be, says Mike Hoy, managing director, Papermule, “standardised processes and clearly defined roles, responsibilities and hand over points.”

2. Automate repetitive tasks

Andy Brown, CEO, Canvasflow, says publishers should embrace automation: “identify tasks that are repetitive and time-consuming, and invest in automation tools or scripts that can perform these tasks more efficiently.”

This process will, says Atex’s Cesare Navarotto, increasingly take advantage of AI powered tools.

Papermule’s Mike Hoy adds: “Keeping pace with technological advances is a never-ending road. Choosing what and when to try or change is challenging. Do you lead or follow? Consider piloting technology, automation or process change in parallel. Despite the intensity for a few staff, your ideas can be tried and evaluated without large scale change. If the pilot stacks up, introduce it properly.”

3. Create efficient workflows

“Look for a strong workflow system,” says EKCS’s Kevin Shelcott: “A cloud-based workflow management solution enables publishers to order, track, proof, approve, and effectively manage their projects and creative assets while saving costs.”

Cesare Navarotto agrees: “Adopt cutting edge publishing solutions which can help you along the entire editorial workflow.”

These workflows need to be multi-channel, says Dani Leyhue, product manager, WoodWing: “Multi-channel content production is a rising trend in publishing. The fact that content can be created once and published everywhere it needs to go is efficient, easy, and accessible for content creators.”

Gareth Roberts, managing director, Bishops Printers

Sometimes, it’s alterations made at the end of the workflow that cause unforeseen problems further down the line.

“If your print partner has to make adjustments during the printing process to achieve the desired result,” says Gareth Roberts, managing director, Bishops Printers, “make sure the master files are updated accordingly and you know what has been done. If you subsequently move to another provider or use the files for a different application, you’ll avoid costly and stressful surprises.”

4. Document processes

It’s important, says David Coveney, director, interconnect, to “ensure effective knowledge transfer. As staff join or leave the team, ensure that knowledge and processes are well-documented and easily accessible. Create and maintain a centralised knowledge base or repository to facilitate smooth onboarding and prevent loss of valuable information.”

5. Create the right workplace culture

“It’s a team effort,” says Mark Allen Group’s Richard Hamshere: “Everyone has distinct roles and the best results come when each contribution is listened to and taken seriously.”

interconnect’s David Coveney, encourages publishers to “actively research and observe your team as they perform their tasks. Understand the challenges they face and identify areas for improvement. Encourage open communication and feedback to foster a collaborative environment.”

Mike Hoy adds: “Promote an open culture that embraces progress, development and change. It’s often people that stifle change. Whether that’s job protection, a reluctance to learn new things, adapt or even overwhelming project scale, you need to move forward.”

6. Aim for continuous improvement

Canvasflow’s Andy Brown says publishers should look to continuously improve by “constantly reviewing and improving your digital production processes”. This, he continues, “is crucial for long-term success.”

This might involve setting “key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the efficiency, quality, and productivity of your production processes and soliciting feedback from stakeholders. Their insights can help you identify pain points and areas that require attention.”

Richard Hamshere sums up his approach in three words: “Listen and learn!”

Mike Hoy says regular reviews are vital: “Remember, we don’t notice the kids growing because we see them daily! It’s the same for processes – things creep in unnoticed!”

A key component, says Which?’s Benn Linfield, “is employing skilled and experienced staff to drive the workflow and empowering production staff to make change.”

7. Use templates

WoodWing’s Dani Leyhue says: “Having solid templates will make content creation more seamless. Standardising how paragraph and character styles are set up and labelled saves time. Agreeing on what CSS styles are available and approved will save you from debating which font to use on the web or mobile app. Templates are a cornerstone of the production process.”

8. Better collaboration with external partners

David Coveney advises publishers to, “collaborate with external partners. Invite partners or industry experts to observe and evaluate your production processes. Their fresh perspective and expertise can help identify areas for improvement that may have been overlooked.”

9. Clear communications

It’s important, especially with “hybrid working”, says Immediate Media’s Koli Pickersgill, to “keep clear lines of communication.”

And… adds Bishops Printers’ Gareth Roberts, “choose a print partner that answers the phone”.

Top tips for improving UX

1. Be user-centric

The objective is, says Cesare Navarotto, to “provide engaging and relevant content that meets the needs and interests of your readers.”

To do this, says Matt Poole, chief product officer, Immediate Media, you need to “listen and have continual dialogue with the user.”

“Regularly conduct user research and encourage user feedback / enhancement requests,” says Adam Snook, technical consultant, OpenAthens.

David Coveney suggests observing “users interacting with your products in a ‘user lab’ or use online tracking tools to monitor usage patterns. Collect valuable insights to understand user needs and preferences, which will inform your design decisions.”

Ben Youatt, head of podcasts, Immediate Media, adds: “think about how your content is creating engagement with your users as a group, and try to create inroads so you can galvanise that community and strengthen their sense of commitment to your show and your brand.”

OpenAthens’ Adam Snook encourages publishers to “raise awareness of the importance of UX across your organisation, so that everyone understands the basics and how to provide feedback.”

2. Good design

Gareth Roberts encourages print publishers not to “neglect the design. Keep up with trends and audiences by refreshing your look every 18 months to two years, for monthly publications.”

For websites, Cesare Navarotto urges publishers to “maintain a consistent design throughout your website (colour schemes, typography, and layout), responsive and optimised for various devices and screen sizes.”

Dani Leyhue adds: “In digital and web, having a font with a full suite of glyphs is more important than a speciality font. For example, if you write or produce recipes, you probably need to add a lot of fractions to your content. A font like Zapfino probably does not have fractions available. How will you write and handle fractions if the Unicode symbol is not defined?”

3. Respect unique characteristics of each channel

Immediate Media’s Matt Poole says publishers should “respect and play to the strength of each channel / device.”

Richard Hamshere agrees: “If your brand is multi-platform – for example print, digital and event – think about the UX advantages of each medium rather than simply trying to replicate the same thing everywhere.”

4. Simplify the experience

Andy Brown says: “Simplify the interface by minimising clutter, unnecessary elements, and distractions. Use whitespace effectively to create breathing space and prioritise essential information.”

Publishers should, says Matt Poole, “focus on consistency and simplicity for the user.”

David Coveney agrees: “users generally prefer efficient, straightforward experiences over flashy or complex interfaces. Focus on designing user-friendly, intuitive, and fast-loading platforms that make it easy for users to accomplish their goals.”

5. Be good at what you do!

“Quality is key! Make sure you are best in class at all aspects of your show, not just audio recording, but also artwork, text, social clips, video,” says Immediate Media’s Ben Youatt: “It all has to be assessed and graded as part of the wider mission; podcasts are not just an audio medium anymore.”

For websites, says Cesare Navarotto, speed is of the essence: “optimise your website for Core Web Vitals; excellent performance is essential to delivering a great user experience on the web.”

To deliver on UX, says Richard Hamshere, you need to “employ dedicated UX people who understand the challenges / opportunities.”

Consistency is key, says Gareth Roberts – “from the quality of the journalism to the quality of the paper, and the reliability of delivery to your audience.”

6. Test & monitor

“Regularly test your designs with real users to evaluate their experience,” says Andy Brown: “Gather feedback on usability, navigation, and overall satisfaction. Iterate based on the insights gained to continuously improve the UX.”

When testing, adds Richard Hamshere, “walk through every journey yourself, ask your users – ask friends and family – if your advocates can’t navigate your brand then no-one can.”

“When you are creating templates,” says Dani Leyhue, “look at them in a variety of formats. If you are working on print templates, look at them on screen and print them to scale. If you are working on web or digital formats, look at the content on a computer, tablet, and mobile phone. If your templates are well structured for a variety of resolutions, chances are your content will be more readable for your viewers.”

7. Better messaging

Andy Brown says, “users should receive clear and immediate feedback when they perform actions. Publishers should use visual cues such as animations, progress indicators, and hover effects to indicate system responses.”

Error handling is another area publishers should focus on: “design error messages that are informative, user-friendly, and guide users towards resolving issues.”

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list to receive the magazine, please register here.