5 Uncomfortable Truths About UX Content

I had a chance recently to meet and chat with folks from the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC), a UK-based organization. As this was an audience I hadn’t previously connected with, I took it as an invitation to assemble some greatest hits, if you will, from all of the various presentations, office hours conversations, and writing I’ve done this year.

They were kind enough to record and share the presentation portion of the event, and I very much enjoyed the thoughtful and robust Q&A that came after. This might be a record-low number of slides from me … 8 total over about 25 minutes!

If you’ve not time to watch, or want a spoiler while you listen, here’s a brief summary of the points:

I. It’s all UX content. – Categorical distinctions between types of content based on the team or workflow that produces them will always be invisible and irrelevant to users.

II. Someone has to do the writing. – And very often that person might not be comfortable thinking of themselves as a writer. I’ve yet to find an organization that feels they have enough writers. Someone has to do it. And they might not all have similar skills with writing. Fighting this is a waste of time, you need to lean into it.

III. You might need a new job title. – Do you want to be right or be effective (and more fairly paid)? Being cranky about how there’s not actually anything new under the UX sun and doggedly clinging to the professional identity you clung to first might not be serving you as well as you think.

IV. Rules don’t make writers. – Style guides are for people who already identify as writers and feel comfortable working the way you expect writers to work. Everyone else is going to need a lot of training and support. You can’t scale content design with rules alone. “A presentation about the style guide is not a training per se. You’ve got to get them writing in the room.”

V. Design solutions create content problems. – Even if a content designer worked on every single feature or update you ever shipped, you’ll still have more content needs on top of that. The more stuff you ship and the faster you ship it the greater your content problems and the greater the need for content strategy, not just content design.

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