Content Strategy in User Experience Design: The Prophets in the Process, by Michael Gowan

22 Jul 2012 8:42 PM | Deleted user


The Fortune TellerDon’t you wish you had a fortune teller on your UX design team? Someone who predicts how your product will grow and thrive, or whether it will wither and die. You can have this – we’re called content strategists.
When I think of user experience design, I traditionally think of interaction design, visual design, usability, and development. It’s time to make room for content strategy within the umbrella of user experience design. And not just because we’re a charming lot on the whole. We bring the gift of the prophecy.

The Long View

A content strategist brings the perspective of the long view to a design project – not just how the product looks, works, and reads at the launch, but how it needs to grow over the years. That’s the prophetic aspect of the role.
I define content strategy as planning for the creation and maintenance of content. Within UX design, this translates to thinking about everything from what kind of templates will be needed to how content on the home page will be populated. You don’t want to design something that’s going to wither on the vine as soon as its launched because nobody thought about how the next headline will get created.
In some organizations, content creators rarely get a seat at the table during the design process. I’ve always advocated for a content presence at all stages of design. We are the ones who will populate and maintain the content within the final product.
We can help translate user and business goals into content requirements, content templates, and maintenance plans that think about the future.
If content strategy isn’t a part of your process, you’re missing vital input about how the content on the site – the stuff that keeps users coming to a site – will work within a design.

A Bridge

Content strategists often serve as a bridge between UX and marketing, too. We need to understand the needs and goals of both groups. While UX is representing user needs, marketing focuses on how to communicate business goals.
A content strategist can help translate how marketing needs get implemented in a user-friendly and sustainable way. This is the difference between a site that is built to integrate marketing campaigns and one that is full of one-off pages that take a lot of time and never get used again. 

Your Take

Content strategy is an evolving field. What’s your take on the role of content strategy in user experience design? Leave a comment to tell me how content strategists work with your team.
Michael GowanMichael Gowan is a content strategist, writer, and editor based in Carrboro, North Carolina. His skills for content prophecy are available for hire. Follow him on Twitter @zebgowan. 

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