Role of Content Designer and other content related titles in design

As per Wikipedia:

A content designer’s task is to communicate information in the best way possible. They usually work with text, images, or video. Content designers research the audience so that they can design effective content for them. They try to make it simple for that audience to find the content they need.

You might come across different content related titles such as Content Strategist, Content Developer, UX Writer, Digital Content Specialist. Are the titles completely different or are they interchangeable?

The answer is the same as the answer to other design roles, which is, it depends on the companies how they define the role and the responsibilities for each title.

Facebook and Shopify call their content folk Content Strategists, Google and Microsoft use UX Writer; while Deliveroo, IBM, Intercom, and others predominantly use Content Designer. The actual roles and responsibilities of each of these companies are pretty similar and mostly overlap.

When you visit an application, you are looking for some information because you need it, let’s say, in order to complete some task. Good content designer allows people to do or find out what they need simply and quickly using the most appropriate content format available.

Eg: In this pandemic, for my visa renewal, I want to find exact information in the best way possible so the government website should show that. Another example can be, there is a new product which is going to launch, as a user you would want to know what that product is about and how it works.

(L) Irish government Visa website addressing COVID ; (R) Apple website explaining about apple watch

There is a vast amount that can get included under the “content” banner. Everything from research and early design exploration, to planning and strategy, to content auditing and review, to SEO and data analytics, to checking terminology and writing web or product UI copy.

In the public sector(eg: government website), the content is so powerful and useful. The stakes are much higher. Get it wrong and someone may not be able to buy food that month. Someone might be charged legally/pay a fine for something that they don’t know. Someone might be deported in case there is no proper content on the visa. Sometimes, if the information is not properly shown on the website, people call the respective government departments to find what they are looking for. Solving the content issue solve all of these.

In companies, for any products which are launched, If the people are not adopting it then it will not drive business. So the product's content must be presented in a simple human possible way explaining what the product is about and how you should use it etc.

Content designer considers the entire content experience as a whole. They are involved in all phases of the product. A content designer plays a much larger role in research(compared to its other content title roles), shaping the foundations of the content accordingly.

They translate user needs and take that and present it in the best way possible. The thing they are designing has clear user needs backed up with evidence. They come up with content with specific needs for different types of users. They go into details like — How and why will users find this information? There can sometimes be more than one way to present content and the decisions have to be made carefully.

Eg: Doing card sorting to find out the terminology used in the header

UX writers focus on crafting good microcopy. They are usually handed designs with dummy text they need to replace. In that way, they are sometimes forced to fill the content to fit form.

The key difference between a content designer and UX writer is in detail. A content designer is much involved in translating user needs, so they are involved much more in research that helps shape the content accordingly.

Image from “The shape of a content designer vs UX writer” by Rachel McConnell

They plan the content and consider a lot of things. Eg: How long the content will be available, what will happen after it is out of date etc. They produce future content plans that support key business objectives. They may also need to assess their current content assets and processes, to help identify gaps and issues.

Companies are realizing that writing good content doesn’t work in silos. They must be involved in all phases of the design process. So companies are now involving the people taking care of the content in the whole process of the product lifecycle.

What does a content designer do all day by James Reith
Content Design: planning, witing and managing content by GOV.UK
Confessions of a Content Designer by Tom Waterton
How to spot good content designers by Rachel McConnell
UX writer or Content Designer by Rachel McConnell

Product Designer with an experimental mindset

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