Why I’ve changed from UX writer back to content designer
The content industry has strong opinions around job titles and what they mean. There’s no end of (lovely) articles all about the differences between content designers, strategists, UX writers, and content specialists. Most I agree with, but also I’ve often found the differences small and inconsequential. Use whichever job title works.
But as I’ve moved through my career I’ve seen how effective a well-defined job title can be — and not just in hiring!
I’ve now been at Brandwatch for over a year. Through discussions with my manager, we looked at how I could widen my influence and get over some of the hurdles blocking me along the way.
A crucial aspect of this? Defining what your role is and what you do. It sounds obvious. But it’s a really good exercise to reassess where you are and where you want to go.
How I got to here
First, some background. When I first came into this industry, I was a content designer. I worked at the Valuation Office Agency, part of HMRC. My training began when I was introduced to the Government Digital Services (GDS) and GOV.UK. I trained on their early courses and moulded myself through their principles and enthusiasm.
Then I moved on to RSA and the world of insurance. Soon I started questioning some of those principles that I held onto. Some things in my mind changed, some stayed the same. Again, I was a content designer. But I grew.
After that came TrustedHousesitters, where I became a UX copywriter. A completely different business, a digitally-focused platform company. Content designer seemed at odds with the work I was moving onto, narrowing my field but increasing my focus. The introduction of ‘UX’ into my title seemed appropriate.
Moving onto Brandwatch consolidated that feeling and the job title into UX writer. Again, it felt like an easy-to-understand job title that reflected what I do — writing for the user experience. But soon I started to see where this became a problem. I have more to offer. I do more than edit or write copy. My experiences in government and insurance showed me the importance of my contributions to ‘design’ through information architecture, user research and collaborative workshops. There’s nothing stopping me from doing this. But the job title doesn’t quite show the work I can do and want to do.
For my colleagues and the wider industry to understand what I can bring, the job title should change.
UX writer or content designer?
Before I made any decisions, I wanted to see what the wider industry has to say on it. There were 3 articles I found particularly useful.
Firstly, Rachel McConnell’s UX writer or Content designer? It has a great, simple breakdown of the 2 roles and what they cover. This quote is a nice summary:
“There are similarities, but as you’ll see a content designer plays a much larger role in research, shaping the foundations of the content accordingly.”
Also, I found Why We’re Moving From Content Strategy to Content Design from Facebook. I was interested to see what a big, established company thinks on the matter. Although their article focuses on content strategist or content designer, the descriptions for content designer were really helpful:
“This new focus on the word “design” makes a lot of sense to us. After all, what we do is and always has been design work — from conceiving flows to creating information architectures to pairing the right design components with the right language. We want to be more open and direct about this to help others better understand both our function and value.
Our data confirmed that the broader job market is moving in this direction too.”
I also agree with what’s said about the job market. And speaking to friends in the industry, this was their perspective too.
I really loved their wonderful description of content designer as a whole:
“We proceed as content designers: people who design in words, concepts, systems and terminology, voice and tone, and who know how much these things matter in solving problems for the people who use our products around the world.”
By now, I’m feeling very strongly about content designer. But I just wanted to make sure this worked in comparison with UX writer. Then I found Yael Ben-David’s excellent UX writers, content strategists, and content designers — oh my! In her article she sums up content designers nicely:
“Content designers do everything UX writers do, and some of what content strategists do, but they are … more focused on the structure of the copy — how it appears on the page and how the content of different pages within the product relate to each other”
These articles were also really helpful:
- Designing a name by Clay Delk at Shopify
- We’re Changing Our Name to Content Design by Meridel Walkington and Betsy Mikel at Firefox
Let’s change it
With all this information I found I was on the right track. UX writer has served me well the last couple years, but now it’s time to return to content designer. It better suits the work I’m doing right now.
The job isn’t just writing the copy. It’s about design, user experience, information architecture, readability, research, and how it all connects across the experience.
I’m someone “who designs in words, concepts, systems and terminology, voice and tone, and who knows how much these things matter in solving problems for the people who use our products”.
It doesn’t change what I do. But it improves understanding and opens up future possibilities. And, hey, it might change back to UX writer in the future.
Hello! I’m Dominic and I’m a content designer👋