Before we get going, let’s start with a few definitions to make sure we’re all on the same page.
Substantial information communicated through a medium
to create or construct according to plan
us-er ex-pe-ri-ence noun
a person’s perceptions and responses resulting from the use and or anticipated use of a product, system, or service (from International Organization for Standardization)
When Mike Atherton and I wrote Designing Connected Content last year, we wanted to give the content strategy community a framework for not only doing content first but making sure content is the center of design. We decided on using the phrase “connected content” because content should be connected to other content and also to people. Content in one system should be connected to content in other systems. Content should connect the people on a team to create (dare I say it?) delightful experiences. Content should connect an organization to its audience. And content should connect people in an audience to one another. Sounds an awful lot like it is part of the user experience.
Yet, the user experience (UX) and content strategy communities seem miles apart, especially when it comes to conferences. In Spring 2018 while I was facilitating the only content strategy workshop at UX Lisbon, there were three other major UX and content strategy conferences happening: UX London, Confab, and the STC Summit (Society for Technical Communication). There were exactly zero talks about content on the UX London lineup. At Confab, only one session was about anything other than content, though several were about getting buy-in for content strategy work. A glance at the STC Summit schedule shows the biggest variety of non-content topics. That’s 1 for 4 conferences that brought complementary disciplines together in a significant way.
This is not unusual. Generally, when content is on the agenda of a non-content event, it is someone saying how important it is. Yet, when I talk to people in the user experience field, no one disagrees about the importance of content. That message has been received loud and clear. Something has to change.
It is time for the user experience community to embrace content strategy. To stop thinking about UX as designing interfaces but designing the overall experience and everything that it includes–especially the content. As Kim Goodwin said at UX Lisbon, “A user experience is built of decisions. It is not made of content or pixels or CSS.” Those things must work together for the experience to be a good one.
Conference organizers: You need to be inclusive of thought. To connect people and ideas. Bring people from the connected disciplines to your conference. Have them learn from your attendees and have your attendees learn from them. The practitioners from the periphery need to have a new message: “Here’s how we can work together.”
Each of us should continue to hone our chosen craft. People need to be content strategists and interaction designers and software engineers and marketers and much more. We need to know our professional area in depth. But not in isolation or to exclusion. We can no longer sit in our disciplines’ silos and complain that no one gets us.
I am willing and ready to help and be part of the solution instead of another voice in the echo chamber. If you run conferences or a community that focuses on UX, CMS development, or digital strategy and want to bring content strategy to your audience – and have content strategists understand you a bit better – please get in touch. If not with me, then with someone from the content strategy community. We are not all the same. And there are hundreds of us who willingly get on the stage (and sometimes the soapbox). We aren’t that hard to find if you’re looking.