A week in the life of a content designer

We have work to do. Most organisations don’t have a clear understanding of content design and the value it brings. That’s why I wanted to document what a week in the life of a content designer looks like for me.

A few weeks ago I went along to the Content Design London meetup. Sarah Richards, founder of the content design discipline, talked about how content people are always telling her they feel their skills are undervalued.

The topic moved on to looking at what organisations actually see content design as. Looking at job descriptions, it’s pretty clear hiring managers can see this as being anything from a role that follows the content design discipline, to content marketers, copywriters and even graphic designers.

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By sharing my week, I want to start a conversation with other content designers, organisations that work with content designers, and people hiring content designers. I hope this can help to show our value, and would love other content designers to join in.

Monday: prototyping day 1

Today I’ve got the whole day blocked out to prototype a user journey for Yacht Havens Group. I’m working with Etch’s visual design lead Tim and developer Steve on a new website for the group, and we’re really keen to take a conversational design approach.

Over the past month or so we’ve been undertaking research for the project. We’d started off with some desk research: Tim taking a deep look at personalisation and conversational design, me identifying the digital language of people who frequently visit marinas — and making mental models of how people speak.

After that, we got to the really fun bit: talking to people. A screener survey went out and gave us some meaty quantitative data, and a set of interviews helped us get a better idea of what makes people nervous or excited about visiting a new marina by boat.

We took this research back to the client and together we drew up a selection of user journeys, dot-voted on one to prototype first, and now here we are.

The goal of our journey is to help sailors book a berth for their boat for a trip in the future, and be able to easily find their berth when they’re approaching the marina at the end of the journey.

If you’re not an avid sailor, this basically means they want to park their boat at a marina for a few nights. And when they’re on their way into the marina, they want to know where their parking space is. Simple.

Tim, Steve and I spent the first part of today working through the journey conversationally, drawing on comments we’d heard in the user interviews. If we were the sailor, what would we ask at this point? And how can the client give them this information in the easiest way? We wrote out loads of these question-and-answer scenarios, then looked closer at the most pertinent to include in our journey.

In the afternoon, we moved from post-its to Figma. We started getting the first ideas for screens in, mapping out everything from landing pages to enquiry forms, from confirmations to maps.

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Etch and Yacht Havens work on the new site. Yes, those are profiteroles. My clients are the best.

Tuesday: prototyping day 2

Today I’m carrying on the prototyping with Tim and Steve. It’s a heads-down, no distractions kind of day, where I’m getting copy straight into the journey in Figma. The guys make it look visually awesome throughout the day, and it feels like we’re really getting somewhere.

We want to test this journey with users pretty quickly so we can keep things moving at a good pace. I have some people booked in for remote testing on Thursday, so today I get back in touch with them to remind them of their times and drop through Zoom links for their calls.

Wednesday: comms strategy and IA

Wednesday is slowly becoming my day to work remotely at home. I love the Etch studio and the people in it, but it’s helpful to have a day a week in quiet to get my head down on some work on my own. I say on my own, but that actually includes my two cats who like to join me on video calls.

Today I’m picking up with a client I haven’t worked with for a while: the mental health charity Mind. I’m working on Mind alongside the guys at Etch’s sister agency Big Radical and while I can’t say much about the project, it’s something I’m super proud to be involved with.

I’m working on messaging for a communications strategy today. The bulk of the messaging and strategy was developed earlier in the year, but as we get closer to launching in beta some of the messages need revisiting and tightening up with details.

The rest of the day is spent on a different client, working on the IA for an organisation with a ton of content covering a ton of subjects. It’s been a challenge to get the taxonomy right for this one, but it feels like we’re getting closer.

User testing the IA as it currently is has given us a lot of insight about what does and doesn’t make sense, so we just need to keep streamlining until we get there.

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Content strategy workflow planning

Thursday and Friday: user testing

The end of the week goes by in a blur of user tests for Yacht Havens. The journey we’ve been building earlier in the week tests really well, with some clear areas of improvement — but lots of positives to take away. We’re presenting the findings back to the client on Monday, so I start analysing the results and putting a deck together to talk through the feedback and next steps.

On Friday afternoons, product designer Nathan runs a design retrospective for everyone to reflect on the week, and share what we’ve been working on. I’m biased as the only words person, but I think it works really well having a content presence in the design retros.

We’re really lucky at Etch to have 3pm finishes on a Friday (founders Tom and Shelly are all about that work/life balance) — but today I’m hanging around at the studio after finishing for the day. Our new design intern (and hand-lettering extraordinaire) Marte is running a brush-lettering workshop for anyone who comes along. My co-ordination skills aren’t amazing (thanks, dyspraxia), but it’s great to have a go at learning a new skill.

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My newfound brush-lettering skills. Please don’t check my spelling of aluminium.

Content designers: get involved

It’s clear that content design has a massive, fundamental role to play in creating successful products and sites. Being able to get involved from the initial research stage, right through to prototyping and testing (and onwards) means we can start using real content — even if it’s not perfect — and start measuring how well we’re hitting user needs.

Content design has a huge value in any organisation with a design team, so it’s important we’re speaking up and making ourselves heard.

Reflecting on my week like this made me feel proud to work at an organisation that’s valuing content design more and more, with teams who are willing to make changes to processes.

If you’d like to show a week in your life as a content designer, feel free to share it with #contentdesignweek

#10MoreBlogPosts

I’ve written this post as part of the #10MoreBlogPosts initiative, started by Amy Hupe. If you want to write more posts about your work or anything you’re interested in — or if you’d like to coach someone else with their writing — I definitely recommend getting involved.

I’ve teamed up with the awesome Lauren Currie. Through the chats we’ve had so far, I’m already starting to shift my thoughts from not feeling confident enough to share my own posts to realising that even if one person takes something away from it, then it’s been worth it.

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