Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
The question I actually get asked the most is: “Are you ready to order or do you need another minute?” (I need another minute.) But in the context of my professional life as a designer and digital strategist, these are the questions I get most often.
How do I get started in content strategy?
Get a job that’s as close to the content as you can get (e.g. designer, marketer, technical writer, customer support) and care about the words and the content more than anyone else on the team.
Keep caring about it and let people know that you care about it and ask lots of questions about it and send lots of memos about it. Keep track of things about the content other people are not keeping track of, like when and why it got published in the first place. Now you’re doing content strategy. Good job.
Do that for a while then ask for more money and a new title, or else package it up into your portfolio and apply for a formal content strategy job somewhere.
Make sure you understand the difference between content strategy and content marketing, and make sure the people you’re interviewing with understand the difference, or you’re both going to have a bad time.
If you have a local content strategy meetup group, go to that. If you don’t have one, consider starting one. I did that and it helped me make a lot of connections that led to my job at Brain Traffic.
How did you get started in content strategy?
The most important thing I did was starting and running a local music blog. I collaborated with other writers and designers and photographers and videographers and it taught me a lot of things about guiding an editorial vision and managing content. I ran some other projects around that time, too, like helping to start a shared workspace for artists. Running my own projects meant that I had to write things about those projects, and when the projects were interesting people noticed the things wrote, and some of them thought, “I like how this guy writes and explains things, I wonder if he would help me explain my things to people.” Then they asked me if I would do that for money, and I did, and then I kept doing it for more people for more money and now here we are.
How do I get started in UX?
UX is a big umbrella term that has eaten many other disciplines. You have to figure out which parts of it are interesting to you and fit your skillset in order to know how to proceed.
If you’re able, one of the most effective ways to get started is to attend a regional, multi-disciplinary conference like MinneWebCon, MidwestUX, or the University of Illinois Web Conference. That will give you a chance to learn about many different aspects of UX and web design in just a day or two. It’s also a chance to talk to lots of different people in different roles from different types of organizations. You then ask all of those people for their advice on how to get started in UX, and pick whichever of the dozens of answers makes the most sense to you.
Startup weekends and charity weekend website builds and similar events that take all comers are a good way to get hands-on practice and pieces for your portfolio. They can also teach you about collaborating with megalomaniacs and other startup dingalings, which is a skill you will unfortunately need as a UX designer.
If events are not feasible for you, use the library. There are dozens of books on UX that I haven’t even read. Read them all and be smarter than me. Sites like Lynda.com have good tutorials for getting a handle on design software you might need to use in your work. I barely know how to use any of that stuff, just enough to get my ideas across and that’s what matters.
I know some folks that have had success with boot camp programs. They are costly. I would encourage a friend to find a half-day or full-day workshop to attend first before making an investment on that scale. You can talk about workshops you’ve attended in your cover letters or list them in your resume, too.
What UX/content blogs should I follow?
No idea. My strategy is to follow interesting people on Twitter and read the stuff they share. If you want a jumpstart, find a conference that looks interesting to you and follow all of the speakers.
What UX/content books should I read?
Whichever ones you want. Eventually you’ll learn that you should really read all of them, but you can’t, and that will make you sad, but that’s life.
I’ve collected books I’ve read and like and that directly or obliquely relate to design in some way on my bookshelf page. Should you read them? I mean sure, I’d love to talk to you about them. But really, just read whichever books you think are interesting. The major design publishers are all run by smart people with actual design experience who pick great authors.
What should I put in my UX/content portfolio?
Narrative. Tell stories about what the problem was, how you explored the problem, and how you solved (or failed to solve) the problem. Children’s books are great portfolio templates. Not too many words, a clear story with lots of consistency and repetition, big text you can read from across the room, and a nice pretty picture on each page.
Talk about process, not just outcomes. There will always be someone that can make prettier wireframes than you, and there will always be someone that can write better than you, and they might very well be applying for the job you want. So instead show people how you think and approach problems, because that will always be unique to you and your experience.
Get in the habit of taking pictures of your work (like post-its on the wall or participants in a workshop) and saving your sketches and early drafts. Those are the kinds of visuals you’ll need in order to tell a process story.
How is your last name pronounced?
Thank you for asking. Kubie rhymes with Scooby, as in Doo. There is no 'Q' sound. (If you've ever gotten it wrong, I either didn't notice or immediately forgot. It's not a big thing for me.)
What app did you use to do that?
What happened to the beard?!
A wizard stole it to use in his potions.