🤔 Can a Content Designer Become Head of User Experience (UX)? | by Jas Deogan | Aug, 2023

Exploring the Overlapping Skill Sets and Advantages that Propel Content Designers to Excel in UX Leadership

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As I journey through interviews and job hunting, I’ve noticed a recurring sense of surprise when people learn that I’m applying for a Head of User Experience role. The bewilderment only deepens after they invite me for an initial conversation.

You see, my background is in Content Design, always focused on user-centric copy that fosters a seamless user experience. While I might not fit the mould of a ‘traditional’ UX professional, I’ve always been an integral part of user experience departments, collaborating closely with UX Designers.

🤔 Perceptions and Misconceptions:

The confusion often arises when my CV comes into play, or we delve into those initial chats. It’s almost as if an unspoken rule dictates that the path to Head of User Experience should exclusively follow the trajectory of a UX Designer. According to this rule, one must master wireframing, usability testing, and user research to aspire to lead user experience efforts.

At first glance, attributing this misunderstanding to a mere lack of comprehension seems tempting. However, is this notion truly unfounded? After all, Content Writers have been around for ages — perhaps not since the dawn of time, but their essence is timeless. In many ways, the skillset of Content Designers mirrors that of UX Designers.

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The lack of awareness about the role of a Content Designer seems evident. Yet, it’s intriguing to observe that their responsibilities align surprisingly well with those of UX Designers.

This unfamiliarity likely contributes to the unconventional perception of the path from Content Designer to Head of User Experience. It all boils down to a scarcity of awareness and understanding. Let’s delve into this and unravel the parallels.

🌟 Shared Skill Set:

  • 🎯 User-Centred Focus:
    Content Designers craft engaging, user-centred text, while UX Designers create user-centred interfaces and interactions.
  • ❤️ Empathy:
    Both roles require an in-depth understanding of user needs, pain points, and motivations.
  • 📢 Communication:
    Content Designers excel in clear and effective communication, while UX Designers ensure seamless communication through interface design.
  • 🤝 Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration:
    UX Designers collaborate closely with designers, researchers, developers, and stakeholders. Similarly, Content Designers work with the same groups, often partnering with subject matter experts for accurate content creation.

🔍 Depth of Experience:

  • 📊 Methodologies and Processes:
    Leadership in UX demands a profound grasp of various methodologies and processes. Content Designers, too, require an understanding of content strategies, information architecture, and content creation methodologies within the context of user experience.

🛠️ Breaking the Mould:

As the pieces fall into place, it’s evident that Content Design and UX Design reside under the broader umbrella of user-centred design. While each field may have distinct areas of focus, there’s substantial overlap in their skill sets and approaches.

This convergence offers an opportunity to create a more holistic and effective user experience, highlighting that a Content Designer can indeed rise to become a Head of User Experience.

Admittedly, transitioning from a Content Designer to the Head of User Experience might not fit the conventional mould. But why not? Yes, Content Design and UX Design entail different emphases, yet both are deeply concerned with the user, their needs, and the challenges at hand.

Curiously, no one ever questions a traditional route Head of User Experience about their grasp of Content Design. Why aren’t we asking if they can craft user-centric copy?

A proficient leader need not be an expert in every discipline; they should be equipped with a sound understanding of these disciplines to collaborate strategically and enhance the overall user experience. Strangely, when the roles are reversed, and a Content Designer eyes a Head of User Experience position, scepticism arises.

🚀 Transitioning the Journey:

My professional journey spans diverse roles, from leading content teams to being a product manager. Admittedly, I’m not rooted in the ‘traditional’ UX background of wireframes and prototyping, but I’ve always championed a collaborative approach that leverages the strengths of each team member.

Make no mistake, I can handle basic wireframing, user testing, and prototyping, but my roots lie in content. As content advocates, we perceive the bigger picture — just like UX Designers and Product Managers. And when a Head of User Experience position opened up in my previous workplace, it was assumed that only UX Design Leads should apply.

This assumption baffled me because I knew that skilled content candidates could excel in the role. I also recall the scepticism when I expressed interest in a similar role before it became available. The department manager’s doubt was palpable, but I proved them wrong. I, a Content Designer, became the Head of User Experience.

In embracing this unconventional path, I brought a wealth of knowledge to the role. I skillfully addressed specific issues within the UX team and the organisation at large. Here’s how my background as a Content Designer enriched my leadership:

🎯 Advantages of a Content Designer as a UX Leader:

  • 💬 User-Centered Communication:
    I harnessed my Content Design skills to ensure user-friendly language across the user journey, from interface text to notifications and error messages, aligning them with the user’s mental model.
  • ❤️ Empathy for Users:
    The deep understanding of user needs that characterises Content Designers translates into a user-centred approach to designing interfaces and interactions, prioritising the user’s experience.
  • 🌐 Consistent and Coherent Experiences:
    As a Content Designer-turned-UX leader, I contributed to a consistent user experience across various touchpoints, using messaging and storytelling expertise to ensure a unified journey.
  • 🤝 Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration:
    I fostered collaboration between content and design teams, bridging the gap for more integrated design solutions.
  • 🌍 Holistic Understanding:
    Drawing from Content Design, I understood the role of content in the broader user experience, leading to thoughtful and effective design choices encompassing textual and interactive elements.

💡 Challenges Solved by a Content Designer as a UX Leader:

  • 🔍 Ineffective Communication:
    Clear and user-focused communication became a priority, minimising user frustration caused by unclear messaging.
  • ❤️ Lack of User Empathy:
    Injecting empathy into design decisions, driven by an understanding of user needs, led to designs that truly resonated with users.
  • 🧩 Fragmented Experiences:
    I worked to create a cohesive user experience by ensuring messaging consistency across different interface sections.
  • 🔮 Missed Design Opportunities:
    My background prompted me to explore unique design opportunities grounded in users’ engagement with content.
  • 🤝 Collaboration Challenges:
    Understanding both content and design perspectives, I facilitated seamless collaboration between the two disciplines.
  • 🎙️ Alignment with Brand Voice:
    I ensured that the user experience aligned with the organisation’s brand voice, maintaining brand consistency.
Door is open
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🌈 Embracing the Unconventional:

In summary, a Content Designer’s ascent to the role of Head of User Experience holds significant promise. This unconventional trajectory infuses the UX team with a unique union of skills, refining the user experience, streamlining communication, and nurturing a user-centred design ethos.

This transition also holds the potential to bridge gaps between diverse design facets, culminating in a more coherent, empathetic, and impactful user experience strategy.

It’s pivotal to acknowledge that the non-traditional nature of this journey doesn’t undermine its viability. Accomplished UX professionals have emerged from various backgrounds, including Content Design and Writing. The transferable skills of a Content Designer — encompassing empathy, attention to detail, and communication — transition seamlessly into UX design.

While this path might demand the investment of new skills, relevant experiences, and steadfast commitment to the broader UX discipline, it’s essential to embrace the enrichment non-traditional routes bring to leadership roles.

These paths introduce unique perspectives into the team dynamic and invigorate the approach to user-centred design.

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