While browsing the Internet, an intriguing headline catches my attention. I click on the link, hoping to view some quality content pertaining to that topic of my interest. Then, a pop-up appears, asking me to whitelist the site and disable my ad-block. It’s a slight inconvenience, but I think to myself “whatever”. I refresh the page, only to then be bombarded with a variety of annoying ads: distracting banners covering the white spaces, a sticky video, and even a pop-up that brings me to the advertiser’s site when I attempt to close it.
At this point, I don’t even care about the content anymore because I have become so frustrated with my “experience” with the website.
What do I mean by “experience” in this situation? Broadly, user experience is defined as the overall feelings and responses of someone as a result of using or interacting with a product, service, or just about anything. With this definition, someone undergoes user experience numerous times daily.
To me, user experience is everything—especially in the age of the Internet and smartphone technology. A website may produce decent—or even exceptional—content. But if someone has a poor user experience with the site, then the effectiveness of that content is critically reduced. Therefore, when trying to produce reputable content, it is crucial for anyone to consider the context with which the content will be interacted.
Gary Vaynerchuk, in his blog post, discusses context as a significant enhancement to content using the catchphrase “context is king, but context is god”. He elaborates by explaining that just because a user is interacting with a product or a product receives an impression, doesn’t mean they are reacting positively to it. If we consider the context through which the content is being perceived (take my anecdote for example), then the user may have had a negative reaction to it.
This concept of user experience also holds true in nonfiction writing outside of digital marketing. Mary Gormandy White outlines context in writing perfectly, dividing it into four types: cultural, historical, physical, and rhetorical. Here are some examples:
- A true story about coming of age would greatly vary depending on culture, such as one that values individual autonomy versus one that values tradition and following the footsteps of the previous generation.
- When writing about the potential impacts of a pandemic, the information gathered during or after the COVID-19 pandemic would very likely differ from if the piece was written before it.
- When writing about how to survive on your own as a newly independent young person, the information presented would greatly vary depending on whether one is trying to survive in a busy city or in a remote, rural town.
In all of these cases, context plays an essential role in how the reader will feel about and interact with the writings.
I, for one, certainly want to be mindful of my audience and provide as much context as possible when delivering any form of content. I think that this ties with the argument I made a week ago about writing for yourself versus writing for your audience: express yourself through your writing, but be conscientious of how you write depending on the audience and how you want the audience to react. In other words, content in writing is essential for self-expression, but if you are looking for specific perceptions from your readers, then context matters even more.