Every site or app requires words to communicate important information or instructions to users. Case in point: remove the text from any interface and it’ll become impossible to reliably interact with. This is true even for simple, visually intensive sites.

A screenshot of a YouTube homepage with all text redacted. Mysterious icons run down the left-hand side navigation next to a baffling assortment of videos arranged in a grid with no contextual information, with content ranging from animation and cooking to music and… who knows what else.

Would you want to play YouTube roulette?

As the primary means of delivering information, words will have a major impact on design elements and development choices. Your team needs regular input from your content strategist on business, interactive, and technical decisions. Otherwise, they’ll be about as effective as an interface with no words.

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen—to Content Strategy

From shiny new idea to product launch, your team will need the perspective of a content strategist. And content strategists can only provide real, contextually appropriate language and expert insights when they’re empowered to work right alongside everyone else. They’ll need to not only work in the same tools and be in on the same conversations, they should take lead on early definition work.

Lead with Content Strategy

For industrial architecture, form follows function for maximum efficiency. In UX, design should follow content strategy. Content strategy plans for every piece of communication and every interaction. Going to design without solid content strategy means dealing with layout limits from placeholder content, wheel-churning from unhelpful prototypes, and launch delays from expensive revisions that will happen well into development.

A content-first approach comes with built-in change control that limits late-game surprises and broken designs. Ask your content strategy expert to help define early wireframes and set patterns, and you’ll know exactly what you need to say—and where—from the beginning. This will streamline the design and development process, saving you time, budget, frustration, you name it.

Get Content Strategy Working in Wireframes and Prototypes

Wireframes will offer little value in early decision-making stages if you aren’t including real content strategy. Real content ensures you are solving for the right problems and identifying potential issues. Get your content strategy expert a seat, software license, or whatever is required for them to work alongside others doing definition work in your wireframe and prototyping software of choice. The only way for content strategy experts to plan for actual communications and interactions is to do their work in context of how it will appear to users—in the UI.

Encourage Cross-Discipline Awareness

It’s crucial for the rest of the team to learn basic content strategy concerns and principles. In the same way that it’s helpful for everyone to know a little design and code, cross-discipline understanding enables deeper collaboration. Support your team to think like a content strategist by hosting a Lunch & Learn session, make reading materials available, and even letting them practice solving content strategy problems.

Invite Perspective

If you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Development and design are operating within their discipline-specific ideas and constraints. Content strategy offers rare communication expertise that can streamline solutions and solve sticky problems. Even if it seems like a technical discussion, your content strategy expert should be included.

Include Content Strategy in Mediation and Strategic Feedback Discussions

Stakeholders sometimes have strong ideas that ultimately don’t serve the user—or would actively ruin their experience. A content strategist can often intervene with a brilliant compromise that works for everyone. As skilled communicators, they are adept at translating complex, difficult messages in a way that makes sense for the intended audience. They’re unbiased negotiators for your business/technical requirements and the user’s needs.

Get Content Strategy Help When Creating Standards and Guidelines

Creating a standardized library of patterns and components can streamline your design and development process, but your library will be weak and interactions inconsistent until you include content strategy in this work. Your content strategy expert will ensure that you communicate to users thoughtfully and consistently across the product, all while using less content variants to convey that information.

Content Strategy—A Force Multiplier

Content strategists provide monumental value to your organization, your product, and your users, but only if you empower them to work collaboratively with the wider team. Give your content strategy experts hands-on, active roles in business, technical, and interactive decisions then watch every project become more collaborative, intentional, and successful with your users.

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About truematter

Our team has been doing the real work of user experience since the earliest days of the commercial web. We’re out to make your digital products a whole lot better.

As project managers, UX leads, information architects, designers, developers, and content strategists… together. ♥

Author: @trdwsn
Graphic: @djosephmachado