Ask Me Anything and Panel Discussions

jcolman
HubSpot Employee
HubSpot Employee

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

It's-a-me!It's-a-me!👋 Hey Community! I’m Jonathon Colman (he/him, @jcolman) and I’m a Senior Design Manager at HubSpot where I lead our global content design discipline. Before joining HubSpot, I led content design teams at Facebook, Intercom, and REI.

 

But hey, waitaminit — what the heck is “content design” anyway?

 

Content designers solve product user experience (UX) problems using language. They write the words you see in product experiences to make sure everything is simple and clear, useful and usable. This includes things like calls to action, navigation, error messages, chat bots, even product names!

 

But content design isn’t just about writing, just like UX design isn’t just about making things look pretty. We often say that UX design is focused on determining how things should work for customers, so content design is focused on determining what things should mean to them. And to figure that out, we have to work deep beneath the surface of products.

 

I’m excited to discuss content design and answer any questions you might have because we’re hiring content designers at HubSpot right now. And since content design is a newer discipline in product teams, many folks don’t understand what content design is or what content designers do. So this is a great opportunity to learn about writing user experiences and bring content design practices to your own product teams.

 

From September 20–24, I’ll answer your questions about designing content for products! Not sure what to ask? Here are a few sample questions to get you started: 

  1. How do you write the user experience?
  2. Is content design the same thing as content marketing or technical writing? How are they different?
  3. How do you measure the quality or success of content in your product?
  4. How do I know if I need a content designer on my team?
  5. Where can I learn more about content design?

 

I'm looking forward to connecting with you!

jcolman
HubSpot Employee
HubSpot Employee

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

Well, that's a wrap folks! Thanks to everyone for all your great questions. I really enjoyed chatting with you about content design and how to write the user experience of products.

 

I want to leave you with a few resources you can turn to if you'd like to learn more about content design and UX writing. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you ever have questions or need more info.

 

Books:

Communities and other resources:

Events:

jcolman
HubSpot Employee
HubSpot Employee

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

@Raheel_Malik Thanks, we're so happy to have you!

 

Yes, in mature and healthy product orgs, content design work originates from product strategy and vision, customer feedback and input, research insights, the competitive landscape, and other sources that are strongly tied to the overall goals of the organization.

 

In orgs like this where content designers are set up for success, they usually initiate the work directly themselves because they're directly embedded with a product manager in a team. Alternatively, the work might be initiated by a design manager/leader who then provides a content designer to take on the work. In either case, the content design work to be done would be based on some tenet of company or product strategy.

 

Unfortunately, because things like company/product strategy are almost always kept under wraps and we only see the finished, launched product, it's hard to provide an example for this. That said, I'd welcome examples from others in the community!

Raheel_Malik
Participant

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

Hi,

Im happy to join such a thriving community of positive contributors. Can you please tell us with an example if content design follows product development projects that are derived from overall goals of the organisation? If so, how does the workflow initiate in this case?

ctwtn
Contributor

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

For companies without an in-house designer, what would you recommend as a first hire?

 

Title, experience, etc.

jcolman
HubSpot Employee
HubSpot Employee

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

Howdy, @ctwtn! I think the first content design hire you'd want to make onto a startup product team should be someone who can grow and scale as your startup grows and scales.

 

So while they'll be focused on product content in their day-to-day work, you should be looking for someone who:

  • Can create principles (see an example) and guidelines (example) for voice, tone, and style for others to follow
  • Has experience building and defining terminology (see a template)
  • Will later move into team leadership

People like this may call themselves content designers, UX writers, or content strategists. I'd look for someone who has previous experience working in product startups and has been embedded with product teams. Ideally, you'd also look for someone who's familiar with product and design concepts and practices even if it's not their main focus.

 

Rachel McConnell is a content leader with BT who's written a whole book on this subject called Why you need a content team and how to build one — check it out!

CSibanda
Contributor

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

Hi Jonathon, im just starting on my content creation Journey, and i want to build a sustainable career out of it by helping many companies, organisations and individuals in Africa (since i am from Botswana) , taking the Hubspot free content marketing course is one way i thought would help me on my journey.
I would like to know how else i could turn my dream into a reality, what other steps could i take and what are some of the key areas i should focus on. What advice could you give to me and lastly what is the future of content marketing /content creation.
jcolman
HubSpot Employee
HubSpot Employee

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

👋 Dumela, @CSibanda! Le kae?

 

I love that you're on this journey into content marketing! And yes, HubSpot Academy's content marketing certification course is a great way to learn the fundamentals.

 

Unfortunately, content marketing isn't my area of focus, so I don't have much insight into its future. But perhaps other members of our community can help out. Join our Content Marketing Study Group to meet other folks , get your questions answered, and share your ideas!

ESantiago7
Member

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

To change current process, we need to work with the team. communicate and follow due dates. 

Planning your content in a process will give you a birds-eye view of what will be the outcome.

 

TBartolet
Participant

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

Hi! Could you show us an excellent example of content design in practice? I love UX and understood that this was a part of it. In thinking about it, I can see where it needs to be its own strand. Eye opening for sure.

jcolman
HubSpot Employee
HubSpot Employee

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

Great question, @TBartolet. One good example is the way that Shopify encode their content design guidelines and practices into their product design system, Polaris. Here's a screen capture that shows how they guide their teams to use content and design to help their customers complete tasks quickly and with more confidence:

An excerpt from Shopify's Polaris design system.An excerpt from Shopify's Polaris design system.

 

There are plenty of other great examples of content in design systems, including Google, Adobe18F, and many more!

 

One of my favorite examples of content design in product comes from Andy Welfle, who's a co-author of the book Writing is Designing: Words and the User Experience. Here we see a push notification from the Lyft app that informs the user that their Lyft driver is either deaf or hard of hearing:

A push notification from LyftA push notification from Lyft

 

This is a great example of content design that's human-centered with inclusivity in mind. As Andy writes, "...the percentage of Lyft drivers with a hearing difference must be pretty low. This is a great example of Lyft practicing inclusion to make the experience for those drivers better. Rather than being flustered about answering a phone call they couldn’t hear, they could pull over, text back, and communicate in a way more comfortable for them."

TBartolet
Participant

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

So helpful - thank you! Love the tone spectrum from Adobe especially.

milcapeguero
Contributeur de premier rang

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

Is content design the same thing as copywriting? Or How are they different?

Milca Peguero

Inbound Marketing Speaker and Consultant | Halfbound Ambassador

Founder | Level Up Academy

milcapeguero.com
Dominican Republic
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MuseDebbie
Contributor | Partner
Contributor | Partner

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

Great question @milcapeguero, copywriting is an aspect of content design. So if content design was a cake🎂 copywriting could be the baking powder or the icing on the cake depending on what kind of content you want to design👩‍🍳 Hope this helps.

milcapeguero
Contributeur de premier rang

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

Amazing, love this explanation. Pretty nice way to use words. @MuseDebbie 

Milca Peguero

Inbound Marketing Speaker and Consultant | Halfbound Ambassador

Founder | Level Up Academy

milcapeguero.com
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jcolman
HubSpot Employee
HubSpot Employee

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

Hey @milcapeguero, thank you so much for asking about this, as it's a common question that people have about content design.

 

First of all, we love and greatly admire good copywriting! It's an essential part of product and partner marketing, documentation, community engagement, growth, communications/PR, and so much more. Strong, persuasive copywriting is important for building brand awareness, communicating value propositions, and retaining customers and users over time.

 

But content design is different than copywriting because it's not just about the words and is practiced much more deeply in product. The most effective content designers are ones who also play a role in product strategy and vision, interaction design, systems thinking, metadata, and other areas of product and design. These content designers may not write anything in products at all—or might even remove words from product experiences!—and make them better and easier to use because of it. If anything, they have far more overlap with product designers than with any sort of copywriters.

 

To paraphrase a quote from Rachel Lovinger, an early content strategy industry leader who's now a group director at Publicis Sapient: Content design is to copywriting as information architecture is to design.

milcapeguero
Contributeur de premier rang

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

Amazing, now I'm clear. Thanks for the answer 🧡

Milca Peguero

Inbound Marketing Speaker and Consultant | Halfbound Ambassador

Founder | Level Up Academy

milcapeguero.com
Dominican Republic
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AlvarRF
Contributor

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

I think that one key question is: How do you measure the quality or success of content in your product?  It is fundamental that any content designer knows how to integrate each piece of content on the buyer's journey process. In that way, they can establish a clear goal for the content that they had been produce and how this can help the client move across each stage. 

jcolman
HubSpot Employee
HubSpot Employee

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

Great question, @AlvarRF! When it comes to success, the core things we always ask ourselves are:

  • Did we solve the problem? and
  • How do we know that we solved it?

I think your question is more focused on the second point, and the answer will always depend on the problem to solve and what sort of content experience we're focused on. That said, generally speaking, Analytics can often tell us a lot about whether or not the content in a given experience was successful. For example: Did conversion go up or down for people who viewed this content? Do new cohorts who experience this content retain longer than old ones who didn't experience it?But there's a key limitation with this sort of data, which is that it can tell us what happened (for example: someone did or didn't convert), but it can't really tell us why.

 

So for that, we often turn to research with users and customers. Talking directly with people about content experiences helps us understand things like:

  • Do they understand the product concepts and terminology? You can figure this out by asking what they think a given word or phrase means and how they might explain it to someone else. This is often especially helpful when you're trying to understand something like whether a product name or navigation label is meaningul to someone.
  • Is their mental model for how the product works the same as ours, or do they understand it differently? You can determine this by asking people to sketch out or explain how they think the product works. This is also a great way to understand how they think about product concepts. The better that content designers understand this, the better the product content will be!
  • What are their expectations for the product, or for what will happen if they take complete a task in it? You can get a sense of this by asking customer to talk out loud about what they think will happen before they click/tap a button or otherwise take action. This helps content designers develop stronger product names, onboarding flows, empty states, and/or other user experiences.
AlvarRF
Contributor

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

This answer is so clarifying and awesome 🧡

DavidDennison
Key Advisor

[Closed] AMA — Content Design: Writing the User Experience

If you had one piece of advice to give that everyone needs to know for content design, what would it be?

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David Dennison

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