Are Content Strategists Product Designers?

A few weeks ago, Jon Colman posed a question to the content strategy community. He had recently read an article on product design which stated that product designers are:

  • Interaction or UX Designers,
  • Graphic or Visual Designers,
  • Motion or Animation Designers,
  • User Researchers,
  • Data Analysts,
  • Prototypers,
  • Business Strategists

He asked us, “shouldn’t content strategists be among them?” I gave it some thought, and decided that no, we shouldn’t be.

Content Strategists are Product Designers

Product Design

But this past week I worked with a client that does not invite content strategists to planning sessions. That’s what changed my mind. When content strategists are treated as copywriters and not product designers, we have no say in messaging, which causes major problems. Including, but not limited to…

The User Flow is Lost Amidst Functionality

The business analysts keep track of our big picture, and the designers and developers are focused on the functionality. But without content strategists in product design, no one looks at the story that turns the functional pieces into the big picture.

Writing copy doesn’t take as long as designing a UI, and perhaps that’s why content strategists have the time, or choose to take the time to connect the dots. Or perhaps its because we work in narratives, or because we aren’t copywriters but strategists. Perhaps it’s because we’re the new project managers. Regardless, content strategists connect the dots.

Consistency suffers

Content strategists are the ones who differentiate error messages from warnings. We are the ones who identify the copy consistencies and guidelines, just as the UI designers identify buttons vs. links. When content strategists are not part of the product design team, there is no consistency of language.

Time is Wasted

Frankly, when our time gets devalued it’s difficult to get work done. A product design meeting serves two purposes. First, it is quite literally when we design the product, from user flows to messaging to functionality. But secondly, it’s when we identify the work we need to accomplish. If content strategists don’t help plan, then no one with that expertise identifies that we need to do messaging or UX writing.

As a former project manager, I know first hand how difficult it is to estimate time for a task I have never done. Visual designers, developers, and business analysts are not adept at scheduling time for content strategists and copywriters. We need to sit at the table.

Learning from Experience

I enjoy playing devil’s advocate. It helps me to see all sides of a discussion. In this conversation, it helped me to see just how wrong I was – content strategists are product designers.  The product needs us.

One comment Add yours
  1. Exactly. We design with language, taxonomy, structure, and flows. Those sorts of things can’t be bolted on to an otherwise “designed” product. Well, they can, but the result won’t be a very good product experience. Content strategists can’t just write copy with the hope of living up to the potential of their name; we have to dig in.

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