5 tips for successful UX content collaboration

Collaborating on product microcopy takes macro effort: Let’s explore some high level strategies for getting started.

Alana Fialkoff
May 11 · 6 min read
Three people sit in front of a laptop and point at different areas of the screen, a physical representation of what online collaboration might look like in person.
Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash
PatternFly’s branded divider, our logo centered between two lighter lines.

Often, when it comes to jumpstarting a new UX writing effort, the hardest part is getting started.

Entering a new product sphere parallels walking into a foreign land with unfamiliar customs, behaviors, and speech. At first, wrapping your head around product terminology can be daunting. Understanding how and why a product functions the way it does can stand in the way of writing its users’ story. Odds are, unless you’ve been embedded on a certain product for a while, you’re in for quite the learning curve.

And that’s perfectly alright. Expertise doesn’t grow overnight.

Because while you’re learning to write on a new subject in a new environment, other members of your product team are learning how to work with you. Everyone moves into their own version of the unknown.

So charge in together: Be brave. Curious. Humble. Write what you know; ask about what you don’t. Tap into the entire team’s range of expertise, and they’ll tap into yours. Everyone stands to learn from welcoming UX content contributors on board.

It all boils down to how you get started. Whether you’re welcoming a UX content specialist to your product or you’re joining a new product yourself, here are five tips to help you lay a strong foundation for powerful UX collaboration.

PatternFly’s branded divider, our logo centered between two lighter lines.
PatternFly’s branded divider, our logo centered between two lighter lines.

5 tips for successful UX content collaboration

From user personas and goals to product pain points and deliverables, paint a picture of where your product started, where you are now, and where you’d like to go. Share these insights through materials like slide decks, onboarding documents, or good old conversation. The more you know, the more you’ll grow: And your proposed design decisions will be less likely to swim against the tides of your product’s core values, objectives, and users.

New UX content specialists or content designers won’t be fully versed in product functionality from the start. Writers in tech thrive learning on the fly, especially when you earmark time and space for that process. But facilitating that learning process takes legwork. To encourage and enable strong product awareness, consider:

  • Giving UX content contributors access to mockups, demos, and live product environments.
  • Connecting UX content contributors to contacts that can assist with technical questions as they arise. Think documentation experts, engineers, and developers.
  • Building slide decks or mocks that walk through current user workflows. In my experience as a writer, I think in stories. If stakeholders, designers, engineers, and other collaborators tell me their product and users’ story, I’m more likely to grasp how I can leverage words to streamline those experiences.

So far, the product teams I’ve joined benefit from using several communicative avenues, each tailored for a specific type of question, conversation, or task. Different forms of written communication allow us to stay nimble, and document each stage of our UX content journey.

Starting conversations over written channels also allows me (and my teammates) to gather our thoughts before we reconvene over a call. With this communication plan, we spend less time hesitating on camera and more time sinking our teeth into the actual tasks on hand.

How you divvy up your communication will depend on a wide array of factors including time zones, availability, and personal preference.

To start, you might categorize your communication into four main types:

  • Instant messaging applications (such as Slack): Firing off quick questions and updates.
  • Issue and project tracking platforms (such as Jira): Documenting action items, progress, and phases within each microcopy story.
  • Email: Sharing long form stakeholder updates or questions that involve further background documentation and context.
  • Meetings: Hosting live discussions, defining upcoming goals, exploring workshops, and brainstorming possible solutions for tricky strings.

From there, you’ll have a more easily trackable and documentable collaborative experience. Dipping into instant messages or emails for pre-meeting refreshers can become a regular routine. Following your project’s progress on an issue tracking platform helps your team define key goals, monitor your progress, and reflect on that progress throughout your time collaborating together. And documenting your process becomes an intuitive extension of your written communication along the way. (Thank you, copy and paste.)

When the time comes to put together a UX writing or UX design case study, you’ll be able to pull from clearly written and defined steps throughout your product’s microcopy journey. Instead of waffling over what to include and how to phrase it, you can lift quotes and insights directly from your working documents.

Create microcopy resources to elevate how you write for your product’s UI. Investing time in UX content documentation may help onboard more content contributors in the future, as well as give product contributors one place to go for established microcopy conventions and best practices they can fold into their own work going forward.

Depending on your team’s needs, these resources might include:

  • A microcopy database that stores reusable strings based on specific user workflows, design patterns, or use cases.
  • A microcopy style guide that details key advice designers and developers should keep in mind as they build new product screens and features.
  • A terminology bank to document and define key verbs, nouns, feature names, and other words that surface regularly throughout your UI.
  • A before-and-after document that showcases improvements made to design patterns and workflows.
  • A process document that details when designers, developers, and other stakeholders should loop content specialists in for collaboration and review.

Building out blank versions of these documents at the start and add to them as your team progresses. Feel free to copy and paste updates, strings, and other elements into them and fine tune as you go. Down the line, documents like these will make creating UX case studies or presentations a breeze. Plus, your robust documentation system just might leave you with a scalable process you can implement across other projects.

No UX content collaboration is exactly the same. As UX content designers, UX writers, and other content specialists join a new product, they jump head first into an existing team culture. While one product team might emphasize the importance of weekly sprint meetings, another might only leverage calls when they need to problem solve together. Some teams might prefer to host their design mocks and feedback on a design platform like Marvel; others might prefer content contributors create separate feedback documents.

Whether you’re the UX content specialist joining a team or a member of a team welcoming one, your ideal workflow won’t emerge immediately. Take an evolving approach to your working user experience: Test new methods. Check in often. Iterate on your findings. Over time, you’ll discover which patterns work for you.

Oh, the places you’ll go: Center your work patterns on their users (yourself and your team) and, over time, you’ll fine tune an intuitive and impactful workflow.

PatternFly’s branded divider, our logo centered between two lighter lines.
PatternFly’s branded divider, our logo centered between two lighter lines.

Channel these onboarding tips to kickstart content collaboration on any UX team. Weave content, design, and development together to build stronger experiences, one letter, component, and code string at a time.

PatternFly’s branded divider, our logo centered between two lighter lines.
PatternFly’s branded divider, our logo centered between two lighter lines.

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