The content design discipline has taken off in the last few years. More companies realize the value of having a content designer (or a team of content designers) as part of their product and design org. There are now popular content design conferences — like Button and Confab, for example — that attract speakers and attendees from several different technology companies all over the world. Content designers are part of a growing field of UX professionals building great product experiences, defining how billions of people experience and use the products we use every day.
Being a relatively new discipline, co-workers, especially non-product and design folks, often have difficulty grasping just what a content designer does or how they can collaborate with one. It's still early days; the ambiguity will gradually ebb out with time and education. For most product folks, however, the role of a content designer is quite apparent. But there are still some ways to go about collaborating well with one.
Content designers are part of a growing field of UX professionals building great product experiences, defining how billions of people experience and use the products we use every day.
So, say you've just hired your first content designer, or you're part of a product team that now has a dedicated content designer. Suppose you're already used to having someone in marketing who writes UX copy or have always had someone on your team who is either a product designer or engineer who also does copy. In that case, the transition may be pretty tricky, especially if no one (from a leadership perspective) has defined how content design plugs into the product and design org structure. I'm going to attempt to explain steps you could take to get the best out of your content designer(s).
Define and share the vision and value of content design internally
Team leads should do this at a high level to help unveil the vision and potential value of content design in relation to the success of the product team and the overarching company goal. This helps keep everyone aligned on who does what and how to interact with the team. It won't necessarily provide 100% clarity, but it'll go a long way toward getting the synergy between content designers and other teammates going.
Bring content designers on at the beginning of a project
Unless there is sufficient clarity on the depth of a content designer's usefulness, the working relationship often devolves into a system that reduces them to do UI copy only. Content designers aren't on the team to only write copy. Sure, they manipulate words and language, but first, they're product experience professionals. Content designers conduct user research, analyze data, and actively formulate strategies, all of which are reflected in the final output, be it copy, process design, navigation style, etc. A content designer isn't the person you go to after the designs are done to add the words, they're an asset that you can lean on to create a winning strategy for the product before any designs are drawn. Content designers tend to collaborate more with product designers. There are occasions when content leads the design, where the content influences how the UI looks. A good system is such that regardless of which bit leads or lags in real-time, the content and design folks are always in sync contextually.
Share feedback repeatedly
It is good practice to have a culture where team members can share their work and receive accurate, timely, thoughtful, and actionable feedback. This is how to ensure every stakeholder in the product development cycle has clarity and context. You're not obligated to accept work from content designers without questions. Always ask for some context where and when none is shared. A feedback culture helps everyone simplify their thinking and ensures that only the best ideas get implemented.
Add content designers to the testing process
Content designers can add value beyond the ideation, design, and development phases of a product development process. When a project gets shipped to production or when the QA team takes over the reins, it is good practice to have content designers be involved in that process, too. Especially, if they worked on the project from the beginning, they should have access to dedicated testing or staging accounts and be carried along with the testing plans for the product. They, understandably, will not have much autonomy at the testing phase, but they can provide input that helps the team ship a better product in the end.
Content designers do so much more than writing and editing. They are product and design professionals who navigate product work with the language that helps users understand and adopt the products we build. Their primary output is often shown in words, but they have a skillset arsenal that extends far beyond words to help them build great product experiences.