Understanding the Role of the UX Content Strategist

By Karina Margit Erdelyi

In the vast sea of content that comprises the digital space, finding what you’re looking for when you need it can sometimes feel like a minor miracle. So, who are the professionals who put the usable content we need right at our fingertips? Say hello to Content Strategists!

UX (or user experience) design refers to any interaction a person has with a product or service and has become the foundational approach to product development in the digital world. With Design Thinking principles at its core, user experience is positioned as the central theme via a deep understanding of the target user.

Among the many roles on a UX digital design team is the Content Strategist. Since content is at the core of any UX, it is essential to clearly and intentionally plan out how users will interact with it. The most commonly used definition of content strategy comes from Kristina Halvorson’s book, Content Strategy for the Web. She defines content strategy as “planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.” This simple definition sums up an extremely wide-reaching, interdisciplinary skill set that combines market and user insights with brand style and design.

Brain Traffic has developed the “Content Strategy Quad,” which breaks down the main content strategy components. The two main buckets are content design and systems design.

Content design includes:

  • Editorial strategy — Brand story, tone, and point of view
  • Experience design — How a user navigates the content

Systems design encompasses:

  • Structure or content engineering — Making content findable for the target audience
  • Process design — How this strategy will be maintained and future decisions made

Content Strategy & UX Writing: Work in Concert

UX writers create content that leads the user on their journey through the product to achieve their goal. They want to make you think as little as possible — using straightforward, conversational language to craft an intuitive experience. To inform those choices and create effective microcopy, UX writers turn to content strategy.

Content strategists supply insights into the user base, define tone and style for a brand or product, and clarify audience interactions with the content. These are critical pieces of information for UX writers to craft the language for a seamless experience.

Asking the Right Questions

The core of a content strategist’s role is to ask questions and then make content-related decisions based on that information.

+      Why Create Content?
There are two main intentions behind any given piece of content: fulfilling user needs and achieving business goals.

  • How does this content enhance your customer’s relationship with the brand or product?
  • How are you helping your user accomplish their goals?

Clearly defining the content vision is the starting point for developing content that serves the business and audience.

+      What Kind of Content?
There are so many different content types: blog posts, newsletters, long-form articles, videos, images. It’s important to ask what kind of content package is most usable and intuitive to accomplish the goals laid out. Do you need some form of visual content to best showcase a product? If you’re sharing information, what format makes it most clear and digestible? Is this content that needs to stay up permanently or only for a short period of time? The format a content strategist chooses creates the frame through which the user engages, and different structures work better to serve differing end goals.

+      Who is Being Targeted?
Time to get to know your user base deeply. How have your audiences engaged with your product in the past? How do they engage with competitors? What do you need to give them so that they will actively engage? User research is an integral part of a content strategist’s arsenal to speak to their audience in a way that resonates with them.

+      Where Should the Content be Pulished?
With so many available platforms, where will the content be most easily found by the target audience? The most effective content strategy takes on an omnichannel publication approach, optimizing content across all possible access channels. Users interact with content differently on desktop webpages, mobile, and social media — so content strategists need to adapt to these differences and beyond.

+      When Should it be Shared?
Timing is everything. From long-term content and marketing strategy to gleaning fine-detailed insights from a single-user interaction — timing can determine whether a piece of content is valuable and welcome or intrusive and turns the user off. In addition to creating editorial calendars that stipulate the release of content over time, content strategists track the user flow through a product or experience and determine at what point to include specific information or calls to action. You don’t want to ask too much at once; this can be intimidating, causing users to abandon their engagement.

+      How Should it be Crafted?
Content strategists are critical contributors to defining a brand’s tone and style. Even if not creating the content themselves, content strategists work to ensure a product’s voice is consistent across platforms and media. They need to fully understand the voice and style to effectively share it with the content creators in the organization, typically by compiling a style guide informed by research and content assessments.

Content Strategy in Practice

These are all big questions — so how do you find the answers? To get the right content to the right people in the right place at the right time, content strategists rely on research, data, and planning.

User Research & User Testing
Knowing your users is key to understanding how they will interact with content. Content strategists utilize quantitative and qualitative data to figure out the best processes for creating and distributing content. One popular method of analyzing user data is building personas or theoretical customers’ profiles based on your target user base that explores their personality, behaviors, and motivations—and lends understanding to who is interacting with your content and why.

Content Audits & Evaluations
Once content is published, and users interact with it, content strategists will look at how effectively any given piece of the inventory (a catalog of active content) is accomplishing its defined goals. These content evaluations will inform ongoing strategy and whether specific approaches need to be changed or if replicated. Good content strategy is adaptive and data-driven, using analytics and statistics on their defined KPIs (key performance indicators) to determine their outputs’ success.

Content Mapping & Style Guides
With information from user research and content evaluations, content strategists can determine what elements engage their audience and build their plans from there. Working closely with other UX team members, content strategists create a narrative voice, visual language, and an editorial calendar for a brand that allows for consistent content creation, even among different creators. Content strategists can also be responsible for putting into place a process for developing and building content to align with the named goals.

These are the attributions and characteristics you need to succeed at being a content strategist

Successful content strategists will have an eye for detail balanced with long-term vision. Equally important is a user-centered approach to the design process.

Understanding how people think and process information is necessary to turn data into a comprehensive content strategy. Inquisitive minds that readily apply what they learn are ideal in this kind of position.

As the field of content strategy is expanding to cover more specializations and responsibilities, companies are looking for folks with:

  • Empathy
  • Creative problem-solving skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Curiosity

Additionally, strong communication and collaborative skills will make you a valuable contributor to any digital design team.

Qualifications

Data drives content strategists — so the ability to conduct testing and research and analyze and apply the information — is necessary to succeed in this role.

Knowledge of — and experience with — the many elements of the digital design and implementation processes makes a strong candidate. Content strategy is a highly collaborative role that works with so many different departments, from programming to marketing to product design.

There are many resources and courses available for folks interested in diving into the field of content strategy. If you think it might be for you, check this out to learn more.

Salary

The average salary for a UX Content Strategist varies across the United States; in NYC, according to data gathered by Creative Circle, it ranges from $51,214 on the low end to $136,572 on the high end, whereas in San Francisco, the range is from $58,890 to $157,040.


About the author.

An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist—Karina writes, produces, and edits compelling content across multiple platforms—including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Yahoo News, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties and has spanned insight pieces on psychedelic toad medicine to forecasting the future of work to why sustainability needs to become more sustainable.