Two people with a laptop
Two people with a laptop
Career discussions don’t have to be fruitless (Images by Elina on Blush)

Whether you identify as a content designer, strategist or UX writer, it’s likely you’ve thought about where you go from here.

You can think about career progression in many ways, but how you progress within your current role, and where do you want to go next, are often the key considerations. Sure, some people have a fully fleshed-out 5-year plan, but many of us struggle to think past the next few months to a year (sometimes it’s even hard to think beyond the next meeting to be honest).

Digital design roles weren’t on the career option list when I was at school. And even now, over twenty years later while they exist, career paths within tech aren’t that well defined. I’m breaking this post into two parts — how you can grow within content design, and where you might to go next. …


Process flow
Process flow

I’m often asked how and when content designers should be involved in the product design process and my answer is always the same — at every stage. Without context and discovery work, content can’t be created effectively, and without measurement and testing, we can’t know if we’ve achieved success.

I also often asked what the content design process looks like. In all honesty it’s not much different from the design process, we just might focus more on the content than the visuals. But the two have to work hand in hand, and that’s why co-design is so important.

In visualising the process, it also helps to see how content strategy, content design and UX writing may become muddled. They all overlap, and have dependencies. Strategy happens upfront in the define and ideation stages, yet depends on effective research. Design happens in the ideation and design stages, yet depends on strategic direction. And writing happens in ideation, design, and implementation, yet depends on having effective content foundations in place. Content management, if we want to throw that one in too, happens in design, implementation and test and learn.


Phoebe knows

I’ve been meaning to get around to this post for a long time but cookie pop-ups kept getting in my way. They get in the way of everything, those pesky little blighters.

When the EU changed its GDPR rules back in 2016, I was working in a content team who had to scramble to come up with simple and non-intrusive ways to make sure customers knew they could be tracked through the site as soon as they arrived. They could either accept by continuing onto the site, or read more detail about how their information might be used. It was a challenge, firstly because no one wants to interrupt the user’s journey and create friction, but secondly because our legal team wanted very specific wording which left limited scope to simplify. Lots of brands did come up with elegant solutions, from ‘toasters’ that disappeared on scroll, to making their cookie wording actually fun to read. …


UX designers in front of a wireframe
UX designers in front of a wireframe
UX designers bring so many skills together (image by Pablo Stanley on Blush)

I recently remembered an article in which I’d been asked what skills I thought good UX practitioners need to have. Off the top of my head I came up with 3 Cs. But in hindsight I’d say there are 4 of them:

  • Curiosity
  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Collaboration

We’re often told these skills are the ‘soft’ side of design. I disagree. Tools, methods and techniques can be learnt. It’s much harder to learn the Cs. Here’s why I think they’re important, and my tips for sharpening them up.

Curiosity

To solve a problem is to understand the problem. I’d say 90% of solving it is in the understanding. …


Neon light travelling up concrete steps
Neon light travelling up concrete steps
Neon steps (image credit: Steve Thompson on Flickr)

Content strategy, as I’ve written before, isn’t a magical document you can hand over to a team and expect results. Strategy is a combination of things which together will help you achieve an outcome. When it comes to content strategy, these things could include (but may not be limited to):

  • Process
  • Tools and systems
  • Resource and skills
  • Measurement
  • Content foundations (such as guidelines and voice and tone)
  • The drivers (business goals and user goals)

It’s a combination of the ‘what’, and the ‘how’ that makes a strategy successful. But how do we work out the ingredients that will go into our recipe? …


I interviewed author of Strategic Writing for UX (and UX writer at Google), about her career so far, and who’s inspired her in the design world.

Image for post
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Can you briefly explain how your career led you to your current role at Google?

I was talked into my first UX writing role at Xbox in 2010, when “UX writer” hadn’t appeared as a title, yet. The writing manager explained that my background as a high-school science teacher was ideal: I already had experience helping teenagers understand abstract concepts in concrete ways, with simple language. He promised that he had a good team, and that I could learn what I needed to know while I was there. …


White books in a tidy pile
White books in a tidy pile
Tidy content by Beatriz Pérez Moya on Unsplash

While spring is traditionally time for a clear-out, we often shy away from the boring ‘tidy up’ tasks. In the current climate when we might have some down-time as projects get paused, it seems like a good opportunity to pick up some of those jobs we’ve been putting off.

Cleaning up your content essentially means starting with a content audit to establish what you have and what kind of state it’s in. …


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I asked Content by Design speaker Elaine Short who inspires her, and what she thinks we should be talking about right now.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for content designers/UX writers right now?

Definition. As a field, we have the opportunity to define what we are. Thanks to folks who started documenting their craft six or seven years ago on Medium, and folks now writing and publishing texts specific to UX writing, we’re starting to form shared vocabulary, standard practices, templated exercises, and systems to maintain, share, and educate about UX writing. Don’t even get me started on tools! …


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I spoke to Content by Design speaker Candi about her path into content, and how she fights imposter syndrome.

Can you tell us a bit about your path to becoming a content strategy and design manager?

I graduated with a degree in English language and linguistics and studied modules in psycholinguistics (psychology of language), child language acquisition, bilingualism, language meaning and semantics, critical discourse analysis and phonetics.

Then I did what all great linguists do and went and worked in HR and recruitment. Long before content design existed, I kind of thought that’s what everyone does after uni: goes and gets an office job. Anyway, I was in my temp HR job filing one day after 5 hours of Excel and I just thought ‘I can’t do this anymore’. I missed language, creativity, writing, researching and stretching that half of my brain. …


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I asked Lauren Pope, one of our great workshop facilitators at Content by Design, what she felt the content community should be facing up to right now.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing those in content disciplines right now?

Communication and collaboration. It’s less of a ‘right now’, and more of an always though! Content is very interdisciplinary: to do our job right we need to work with UX, design, marketing, SEO, product etc. Finding the right way to communicate and collaborate is vital, but these ‘soft skills’ are anything but easy.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for content designers/UX writers right now?

In a similar vein, I think there’s a huge opportunity for content people to be the ones to make good collaboration happen and show their colleagues and clients all the benefits that come from a less siloed way of working. …

About

Rachel McConnell

Content Ops at BT. Previously Clearleft and Deliveroo. Author of Why you need a content team http://amzn.eu/d/2j4OrHx

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