Content and UX Collaboration When Planning Experiences

Content and UX collaboration when planning experiences

Successful design projects depend on collaboration and sharing knowledge. What do content and UX teams need to know about each other’s work and how they should work together to create a sustainable design solution? 

Michael AndrewsPublished on Jul 7, 2021

Previously we looked at the range of content and UX contributions to design projects and the need to align them. In this post, we’ll explore forms of content and UX collaboration in more detail. 

Identifying opportunities for collaboration

Large design projects entail defining various dimensions:

  1. Planning the high-level experience that the design will offer
  2. Planning systems supporting the design
  3. User interaction planning
  4. Evaluating outcomes

All these dimensions offer opportunities for collaboration. 

Since the customer experience is a key motivation of most design projects, let’s look at how content and UX activities contribute to the planning of the experience the design will deliver. 

Providing a shared canvas

For collaboration to be possible, each side needs to know what the other side is working on. Only then can everyone see if and how an activity is relevant to their work.

Each side can show and share their work by writing down what they are doing. They may create a formal deliverable such as a document or even a polished visual that’s shown to executive stakeholders. But often the means of sharing is more utilitarian:

  • A template
  • An online spreadsheet
  • Notes in a wiki
  • Photos of whiteboard discussions
  • Virtual diagrams created in a tool such as Mural or Miro 

The format and medium are less important than how this material is used. All members of a design team should be able to access it easily and understand what’s there.

These artifacts provide a common frame of reference for the entire design team. They help the UX and content sides understand who is working on a dimension of the design and what they have done so far.

Not all design activities involve content and UX collaboration—or need to. Activities can be coordinated in a range of ways:

  1. Activities where both content and UX jointly participate (it’s everyone’s job)
  2. Activities that one side does but that the other side will later make use of
  3. Activities that one side considers not their job—they don’t need to participate and don’t need to use the output

We’ll discuss later on cases where one side doesn’t care about the other’s work.

But first, let’s look at some examples of activities that define the emotional experience of the design. Many of these happen in the early phases of a project, though some occur later. 

While UX is explicitly concerned with the experience, it’s also important to recognize the importance of content to the experience. What does collaboration around defining the experience of a design look like?

Example 1: The construction and use of personas

In the early stages of a design project, developing personas is a common activity. These are an encapsulation of user research. Entire books have been written about personas, so we won’t talk about them in detail here. Instead, we will focus on their role in the collaboration between content and UX.

Both content and UX teams need to understand the users of the solution and how they may differ. As such, they may want to collaborate on the gathering of user research and its analysis.

Personas represent different segments of people who will use the design. They capture the important variations in the expectations of target users. Personas segments represent behavioral differences among users, in contrast to marketing segments, which focus on demographic differences. 

Personas guide many content and UX activities. They will influence how interactions are designed and inform how communication is constructed.

If only the UX team is involved with developing personas, they may focus on users’ technical skills but not consider why someone became initially interested in the product. If the content team develops the personas, they may be overly focused on the user’s buying decision and not on how they use the product or service after buying it. A collaborative effort will provide a more complete picture of user needs and motivations.

Personas will reveal the user’s:

  • Behaviors
  • Goals
  • Past experiences
  • Existing knowledge
  • Mindset, including attitudes, beliefs, and explanatory style
  • Motivations to spend time learning
  • Range and frequency of tasks performed
  • Understanding of the domain discussed in the content
  • Preferred terminology for discussing the domain
  • Utilization of content resources in online and offline discussions with family, friends, or colleagues

While both UX and content roles draw on personas, they may have slightly different motivations. UX designers hope that the target users won’t vary too much in their needs. It is hard to create a design that will please everyone if their needs diverge to a great degree. While the design needs to be stable, the content can be more flexible. Content can be customized and personalized. As a result, the content side may be interested in additional distinctions that aren’t important to the UX side. 

When developed thoughtfully, personas illuminate how the user would respond in different scenarios. They can help team members prioritize “must-have” features and “nice-to-have” personalization options. 

Example 2: Promoting the value proposition

The value proposition of a product or service is typically developed by the product owner, sometimes in collaboration with product designers on the UX side. The content side may not be actively involved with its development.

The value proposition explains what the product does and who it is for. In essence, it defines the mission of the product. Users must always be clear about what the product does for them.

Even if the content team did not advise on the value proposition’s development, they will need to communicate its essence to help users notice and understand the value of what they are using. Various content activities such as the product pillars and other editorial guidelines utilize the value proposition and extend it.

Example 3: Rendering high-fidelity mockups

Finally, let’s consider an activity that happens in a later phase of a project. After the major screen layout issues have been decided, teams on some projects will create high-fidelity mockups that present colors and pixel placement. They may be static mockups done in Photoshop or dynamic ones prepared in a tool like Figma. They provide a visceral sense of the screens that users will encounter.

Traditionally, high-fidelity mockups have been done by the UX side with little input from the content side. But visual details do affect content. They influence the user’s perception of the hierarchy of information presented and how the message hierarchy is communicated. And the font size and area dimensions determine how much space is available for content. These factors will determine how long a heading or the text on a button can be. Without insight into these issues, content may be truncated, which damages the user’s experience. They could lose interest, or worse, won’t see needed information accurately. For this reason, it’s important that the visual design shows real content rather than “Lorem Ipsum” or idealized placeholder text. 

Locating the overlap of UX and content priorities

The priorities of UX and content teams overlap considerably, though they are not identical. Some UX activities such as mood boards won’t be of high interest to content people. Similarly, UX people won’t be so interested in word-focused activities such as developing the brand voice. But together these activities shape how the brand is presented, even though they can be developed independently of each other.

Content people may need to consider experiences that are outside of the product being designed. For example, they may need to plan email communications that will be part of the onboarding experience for a new product. 

In general, the more thematically related that the activities of the content and UX sides are, the greater will be the opportunity for collaboration between them. As we’ll see in upcoming posts, this potential is especially strong when defining the functional dimensions of a design—the foundational systems, the user interactions supported, and the evaluation criteria.

Written by

Michael Andrews

I’m Content Strategy Evangelist at I appreciate the value of great content. My mission is to help others produce the best content they can.

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