Content Strategy in UX: What Does a Content Strategist Do?
Find out the meaning and importance of content strategy in UX design. Learn about the role of content strategists in successful product and service designs.
When you hear the words user experience design, the picture in your mind is filled mostly with attractive and simple designs. You may think of websites and mobile applications providing a seamless experience — or even those that are not so useful. There is one element that’ll be missing from this picture, in most cases, and that is content. Though colors, visuals, and patterns are almost always associated with UX design, content is something that does not get much attention. UX designers have a lot to do with content and the success or failure of any product or service relies greatly on the quality of the content it is accompanied with.
In all UX design projects, particularly those in the digital environment, content plays a vital role. Whether it is a textual and visual element on websites, social media posts, error messages, or the overall organization of the information, content strategy and design go hand in hand. To improve the quality of this content, designers need a strategic process. This is where content strategy comes into play. Leading businesses of the world are shifting their focus on the quality of content. They would often hire a freelance designer or a content strategy agency to evaluate their existing content and improve their overall digital presence.
In this article, we introduce the concept of content strategy in UX. We explore how and why content is an essential part of any UX strategy. If you want to pursue your career as a content strategist, you will also learn what to expect in the field.
Defining content strategy in UX design
Content strategy, as the name indicates, is a method or technique to present information in an effective way. The word “strategy” hints at a structured approach, ensuring that the designers interacting with online or offline content have some standard practices and principles to organize content.
What is a content strategy in UX design?
Content strategy in UX design is aimed at delivering the right content to the right audience at the right time and in the right manner. This means that the content itself and the way it is presented are critical to a good content strategy.
Several researchers have attempted to define content strategy and there are a number of quality definitions out there. However, one of the most comprehensive definitions comes from Meghan Casey’s book “The Content Strategy Toolkit”. According to this definition, content strategy is a process that “helps organizations provide the right content, to the right people, at the right times, for the right reasons.”
It is important to dissect this definition and understand the concept in a better way. One of the things to note here is that content strategy is a method or process that is helpful for organizations. This means that all modern organizations need some version of content strategy to improve their business. The other critical terms here refer to the generation and presentation of quality to the target audience. Right or quality content is one that meets the needs of the audience at the right time. In other words, the goal of a good content strategy is to provide information that aids the users in completing their tasks, irrespective of the ways in which they interact with it. This is exactly what UX design aims to achieve, i.e. to make the lives of the end-users easier.
Importance of UX content strategy
Content strategy has immense importance in the UX design process. It is important to have an effective strategy that can create useful, helpful, and usable content for the target users. In the absence of such a strategy, there will be certain inconsistencies in the content presented to the users, leading to a bad overall experience. When working on the user experience of any product or service, it is critical to keep the content strategy goals in mind as well as aligned with the overall business objectives.
What is the importance of UX content strategy?
UX professionals need quality content to make their designs useful, usable, and accessible. A good content strategy ensures that the needs of the audience, as well as the business goals, are taken into account when designing any product or service.
An effective content strategy covers the user touch points through the entire content lifecycle. Good content starts working right from the moment the users hear about a product or service and its effects stay a long time after the interaction is complete. From the perspective of businesses, a good UX content strategy is helpful in myriad ways. Some important ones are as follows.
UX content strategy plays a vital role in understanding the needs and expectations of the target audience. One of the most important questions addressed by content strategists concerns user needs. It is, therefore, a significant part of the UX research process. When devising a good content strategy, designers take into account the entire user journey, ensuring that all the interactions with the content are carefully designed. UX designers take great care when presenting the content to ensure that the users interact with the right content through the right channel.
In today’s fast-paced digital market, it is imperative for organizations to progress at a rapid pace. This is, arguably, one of the best strategies to gain and maintain a competitive advantage and to keep the audience engaged. As products and services develop, the content often gets overlooked. This is where UX content strategy ensures that the information on physical and digital platforms is constantly updated. Along with this, UX content writers and strategists analyze and improve the content for correctness and credibility.
A design project is not just about aesthetically pleasing buttons and smooth transitions between screens. A lot depends on the content that accompanies these design elements. A well-designed button can be rendered useless if the content written on it is misleading, incorrect, or unclear. UX content strategy ensures that the design of products and services delivers the right message, thus adding great value to their perception and performance. Additionally, a good content strategy removes ambiguities and delivers clear messages by employing plain language. An effective content strategy, therefore, incorporates the principles of good design, clear and concise writing, and an aesthetic presentation of information.
Consistency in design is an essential principle of user experience. One way to ensure consistency in designs is to establish a strong presence on all platforms, whether in the physical or digital worlds. This means that even though you’re creating a physical product, you will need to maintain an online presence, consistent with the brand image. UX content strategy ensures that social media content, website design, instructional documents, and mobile applications deliver the exact same message, creating a unified experience.
Usefulness and effectiveness
An effective content strategy always adheres to the principles of usefulness, usability, accessibility, and effectiveness. The overall goal is to create user-centered content that can improve the overall user experience. When users interact with any product or service, more often than not they require some help from content, whether in the form of helpful documentation or visual cues. This is where a good UX content strategy can add immense value to their experience, helping them accomplish their goals by spending little time and effort.
Elements of UX content strategy
Developing content strategies for quality user experience can appear to be a daunting task, primarily because of its immense importance in the design of successful products and services. Therefore, it is important to break the content strategy into different components that can not only create better understanding but also help the UX team in building the core content strategy. According to Brain Traffic, the content strategy consists of four major elements, covering the varying aspects of user experience.
What are the major elements of UX content strategy?
There are four major elements of any content strategy.
- Editorial strategy
- Experience design
- Structure engineering
- Process design
The first two elements, editorial strategy, and experience design deal with the design and presentation of the content itself. The last two elements, structure engineering, and process design refer to the ways in which content is created and how the entire workflow is developed. These four elements, however, can seem confusing. Let’s dissect and take a deeper look at what these elements mean.
The editorial strategy focuses primarily on the way textual and visual content is created. This is where content strategists ask important questions about the business goals, branding, and the voice and tone of any content being generated. It is important to note that editorial involves close collaboration with content creators in any organization. One way to make this strategy effective is to create a style guide, that content creators and editors can follow to ensure effectiveness and consistency in all the content.
Experience design is another essential element of UX content strategy. This is where the focus shifts to users and user journey maps. The user experiences of different audience groups are thoroughly analyzed and their needs are understood in a comprehensive manner. For developing a comprehensive content strategy, user experience cannot be ignored, as this creates a firm structure for the content to be found, distributed, and perceived. Content strategists ensure that the entire experience of the target audience is given due attention and no touchpoint is overlooked.
When it comes to the design of the content system, the organization of information is critical to its success. Structure engineering helps in giving the content an understandable structure, one that the users can easily interact with as it meets their needs and expectations. It is also important to ask the question of the reusability of the content here which can then ensure quick and easy updates.
Process design deals with the workflow of content creation and distribution in an organization. This can be understood as a hierarchy in the governance of content. For example, who creates the content, who edits it, and who approves the final version. All these questions help in creating a structured approach to content management which can then streamline the whole process. A well-defined process also ensures delegation of responsibilities and clears the ambiguities when it comes to the question of accountability.
UX content strategist's main activities
In modern organizations, a content strategist is an essential part of the UX team. The role is highly important, particularly for bigger organizations with a wide customer base and an extensive UX design team. The responsibilities of a UX content strategist range from conducting research and analysis to project management and organization of information. Looking at a typical UX content strategist job description indicates that the position demands a variety of skills, along with the usual design expertise.
What is UX content creation?
UX content creation involves a number of different techniques, including user research, market analysis, and content audit. The overall goal is to not only analyze the existing content but create a plan for effective and useful content creation.
UX content strategists have to be highly organized and adaptive at the same time. In a given project, they have to wear multiple hats. If, on the one hand, they are expected to study and analyze the market trends, then, on the other, they also have to keep a close eye on the organization’s goals and the activities of the product development team. In other words, content strategists work as a link between the real world and the development world inside the organization. The major tasks of a UX content strategist are listed below.
All UX design activities begin — and end — with the target audience. Just like any UX design process or technique, user research is extremely important for building a content strategy. UX content strategists perform extensive research to understand the needs of the target users. This is achieved in multiple ways, such as by conducting user surveys and creating user personas. The UX content strategists have to interact with the real users, gather their feedback, and understand their expectations. This can then be translated into the design of products and services.
Another important area of research is the study and analysis of the market. UX content strategists step into the real market to understand the trends. This not only helps in creating targeted content for the audience but also ensures that the product is positioned in the right market and for the right users. A significant aspect of market research is that the UI/UX designers and strategists have to consider the business objectives at all times. This means that the organization’s goals and vision go hand in hand with the study of the market. These two cannot be separated from each other.
In today’s market, there is a lot of competition — and it is only going to increase in the days to come. For a single type of service, there are a number of alternatives. Therefore, the content strategy of a product needs to be devised in a way that ensures a competitive edge. This is where the strategists have to conduct a UX competitive analysis. The idea here is to analyze the products and services offered by the competitors and to identify gaps in the market. The findings of such an analysis can help in creating an effective content strategy that can directly address the immediate needs of the target audience.
Although research is a significant part of a UX content strategist’s job, it is just one element. Content strategists also have to thoroughly audit and review the existing information. Conducting a UX audit ensures that the information presented to the users is useful, helpful, accessible, and updated. The primary goal of this activity is to save the target users from any frustrations as they interact with a product or service and to help them find the information they are looking for. A content audit is a recurring activity that needs to be performed every few months, to ensure that the quality of content is always up to the mark.
Content creation and analysis
The major responsibilities of UX content strategists focus on bringing a structure to the content creation process. However, content strategists are also expected to do some UX writing where they create new content and also analyze the existing information. This practice is more common in smaller organizations where the roles are more fluid and the UX design teams are not too big. Nevertheless, being a UX content strategist means that you will have to do some content creation, whether visual or textual. Having some understanding of these activities is also important in adding more value to your projects by collaborating with content creators.
The organization of information is a critical part of a UX content strategist’s job. This is where the design of information architecture (IA) comes into play. The experience of users with any product or service, whether in the digital or the physical world, heavily relies on the quality of IA. A good IA helps the users navigate a website, mobile application, or user manual with ease, making their lives easier. Content strategists are responsible for creating a better IA to ensure that the content presented to the users serves its purpose without overwhelming or confusing them.
An often overlooked responsibility of content strategists is related to project management. In any UX project, content strategists devise the entire narrative of the product or service being developed. This is one of the most fundamental tasks that gives a product its true voice. UX content strategists have to carefully devise ways to manage the narrative and to ensure that the digital and physical versions of the information are in sync with each other as well as with the goals of the organization. This is where project management skills come in handy.
Content strategy is a critical part of all UX projects. Whether you are working on individual freelance projects or in a big team of UX designers, the importance of content creation, analysis, and management can never be overstated. The quality of content created and presented for a product helps in carving its space in the highly competitive market. Quality content that addressed the needs of the target audience improves the overall brand image and enhances the usability of any product or service.
If you’re a UX designer or a student of design, it is becoming more and more important for you to understand the core concepts of content strategy. Learning the basics and best practices will also help you promote your personal brand by adding more skills to your UX design portfolio, that too in an effective way.