Designing with words — What is Content Design?

ux design

Content design? Sometimes no words are needed at all because some things can be explained simply with a picture. But the vast majority is not.

If there’s one thing I really like to do, it’s writing. Whether it’s my newsletter, toots, my UX blog or for my side project beAnywhere. Nothing beats a truly standout piece of writing.

For years I wrote corporate texts as Head of Communications, for website and blogs, social media and annual reports.

Words are also one of my top priorities when it comes to user experience. Besides storytelling to get users excited about something, the most important aspect of words is definitely to explain the thing itself and make it easier to handle.

So how does this work with UX writing?

🤔 What is content design?

Content design is about using words to make a product as simply understandable, accessible, and usable as possible for users. Of course, this goes far beyond labeling CTAs and writing error messages.

Is there a difference between content design and UX writing?

I would say no. In the end, they are two different terms for the same profession and it’s all about the best wording in the context of design.

📝 How to do content design?

Content design is closely related to many other tasks that arise around product and UX design. Usually, content design refers to the results of user research and it is about designing texts and words of any kind in a way that is helpful for the user.

Content designers should be part of the product design team, as their work has a huge impact on the user experience. A functional, accessible design is one thing, but without the perfect words, most users will still miss the best usability.

Daily work as a Content Designer

  • Establishing a content style guide to create consistent tone and voice of a brand. This is often done in collaboration with the product and/or marketing team.
  • Working closely with product team and developers to properly understand the product and be involved in ongoing implementations.
  • Microcopy writing. This involves wording for buttons, error messages and push notifications.
  • Writing texts for landing and product pages, emails and, depending on the area of responsibility, documentation.

Distinction to copy writing

The task of a copy writer is to market a product, among other things with storytelling.

As a UX writer or content designer, you don’t write blog posts or other marketing material. Your focus is not solely on the business side, but on the users. Therefore, your primary goal should be to design a product for the users and not to sell it.

🚀 Get better at Content Design

If you’re interested in UX writing, there are several ways to approach it. Here are my best tips:

  • Read a lot (in general) and take care of words you’re reading in apps. Always ask yourself if this button text or that error message points it out well or if you could do it better. Rephrase and learn.
  • Write as much as you can. Not just for your interface designs. A writing routine will help you to find words more easily – in any context. Start sharing on Twitter, write blog posts or just for yourself. But get the words out of your head.
  • Ask for feedback. Maybe that’s the hardest part. Writing for yourself is easy. But sharing it with others and asking for feedback does take some courage. Especially if you don’t have too much writing experience. Still – any feedback will help you become a better content designer. Ask for it!
  • Get professional input. There are now several courses that specialize in content design. A first step towards UX writing would be the free UX Writing course from UX Writing Hub.

🏁 Conclusion

Content design and UX writing can be used interchangeably in most cases, unlike copywriting. There, it’s really about content creation and not about user experience in terms of text and words. If you want to become a better UX writer, you should read a lot and also write a lot yourself. Plus, feedback and professional input can help you improve your skills quickly.

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