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    Techniques for UX writers to lead the design process

    Techniques for UX Writers to Lead the Design Process

    Patrick StaffordThis post was written for the Writer blog by Patrick Stafford. Patrick is the CMO and co-founder of the UX Writers Collective, which offers an online, self-paced course in UX writing fundamentals.


     

    The complex process of design isn’t always straightforward or easy, and writers often feel the brunt of that pain.

    While UX writers and content strategists struggle with creating the best words for interaction design, being included within the design process is often the bigger challenge.

    The recent Writer State of Content Strategy report supports this conclusion: “66% of respondents feel content strategists are involved too late in the process; UX content managers (UX writers) were most likely to agree.”

    Writers shouldn’t just be included in the design process. They should take it on themselves to lead research and design efforts. This won’t always be easy, especially as internal roadblocks can stop writers from participating.

    But where writers can participate and lead the design process, they should. Here are some techniques for doing just that:

    Writers shouldn’t just be included in the design process. They should take it on themselves to lead research and design efforts. Click To Tweet

    1. Oversee stakeholder workshops and research

    Before the writing begins, UX writers and content strategists should be involved in as many workshops and gatherings as possible. These could include:

    • One-on-one interviews

    • Journey mapping workshops

    • Discussions with sales representatives

    • Interviews with executives

    • Developer meetings

    • Analytics representatives

    The more writers are involved in these discussions with as many groups as possible, the more informed the writing will be. More specifically, writers should feel comfortable in bringing representatives from different areas of the business together in one room to gain as much information as possible at one time.

    Writers should gather and document the information learned in these sessions, then share recommendations regarding copy to the rest of the design team. This demonstrates the value writers can bring at the very beginning of a design process.

    This is especially important, considering 41% of content strategists said they have a hard time getting buy-in for their ideas according to the recent State of Content Strategy report. This can often happen because departments aren’t talking to each other — writers can help bring them together.

    2. Lead and contribute to sketching sessions

    Sketching is a natural part of the design process, though many writers aren’t often invited to participate or are actively stopped from doing so. Where UX writers can, they should be involved in sketching out ideas and bringing them to life. If writers are involved at this early stage, it becomes easier and more natural for the design team to listen to their advice.

    Where UX writers can, they should be involved in sketching out ideas and bringing them to life.Click To Tweet

    If getting into those sketching sessions is too difficult, writers should suggest creating content priority plans in advance to inform the sketching session.

    A content priority plan, or content priority map, takes into account all the information you gathered during your data analysis and stakeholder workshops. From there, you create a broad-level map of what content should appear where on a particular flow.

    If writers frame their “sketch” as an instructional document that advises where and when users should see certain content, they may be more likely to get a voice in the room.

    3. Conduct or observe research

    UX researchers are natural partners for UX writers and content strategists. Writers are naturally curious about language and how it affects human behaviour, which means UX writers and content strategists should partner with researchers as soon as possible.

    Not only should writers help take notes or observe research as it occurs, but they should work with researchers to create copy-specific research tasks and observe reactions to certain pieces of language.

    Writers could even propose leading workshops that focus on copy-specific testing as well. They could use a variety of testing methods such as comprehension testing or highlighter testing to understand the impact of any language used within design.

    4. Help with research synthesis

    As UX researchers conduct synthesis on design, writers should help to highlight any areas that are language and copy-specific.

    However, writers also need to consider this important point: any piece of information they find within that process should be rigorously documented and placed in a localized area where anyone can read it.

    Unfortunately, writers often have difficulty convincing design teams to adopt specific language changes when they aren’t a part of the research process. Or, if they are, they aren’t trained in UX research processes so they can’t pinpoint specific quotes or patterns of behaviour.

    If writers want to affect change within design based on what they’ve seen in research, they should thoroughly document each quote, each piece of behaviour, and then note where, when, and how that particular behaviour was observed. Include links, pictures, and screenshots to document it properly.

    If writers want to affect change within design based on what they’ve seen in research, they should thoroughly document each quote, each piece of behaviour, and then note where, when, and how that particular behaviour was observed.Click To Tweet

    The more writers adopt a data-first approach to justifying their content decisions, the more likely they will get the buy-in they’re looking for.

    5. Conduct edits to copy within design tools

    It can be difficult for writers to achieve this in a design system that doesn’t always value copy directly, but writers should pitch this as a time save. By allowing writers to enter Sketch files and edit copy, designers will save a significant amount of time and effort.

    Of course, this means writers themselves need to work on understanding how to use design tools. The more writers understand the “language” of other disciplines, designers will be more likely to value the contribution of a content strategist.

    These techniques are designed to embed writers in the process

    Writers can often feel as though the roadblocks that keeps them out of design processes are unfair. Instead, writers should adopt these techniques to demonstrate how they can provide value earlier in the process. The more they actively reach out and show that value, the more they’ll be rewarded with earlier buy-in.