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UX Writing Over Coffee: UX writers talk about their workflow - Part 3

The third post in the series: Leading writers from IBM and CallRail talk about their UX writing workflow and the challenges they face at work over a cup of coffee
Frontitude
Frontitude Team
April 14, 2021
4 min read

Catch up with the previous post in this series, where we talk with UX writers from Microsoft and Intuit.

While we build and develop Frontitude, our team speaks with many UX and product teams, discussing their content workflows, what challenges they face, and the tools they currently use. We believe that sharing this information with the UX community can take everyone’s work to the next level.


In line with the previous posts, this one also focuses on writers, who are the ones who initiate and own content workflows within their teams. We took a couple of them, who work in big companies, for a short coffee break to discuss these topics.

So, grab your favorite coffee (or any other hot drink). We're waiting for you.

All set? So, please meet...

Interviewee ProfileInterviewee Profile

Could you describe the process of writing new UX copy in your team? At what stage it starts and who is involved?

Tom: IBM is a huge corporation, so this varies quite a lot from team to team. In the best scenarios, we have dedicated Content Designers embedded within product teams. These Content Designers are involved right from the outset, working closely day-to-day with their design, development, and product management colleagues throughout the full product delivery lifecycle.

However, we also have many product teams that don’t have the luxury of a dedicated content professional. In such teams, the UX content is typically written by members of the design team, who follow guidance from our Carbon Design System. We also run regular user experience reviews for all products, during which teams receive feedback and guidance on their UI content.

Andrew: The process depends on the situation. The past few years, I’ve experienced quite a few processes. For big projects, the best-case scenario involves me joining a UX designer, product manager, and perhaps a UX researcher at the beginning to talk about the problem we want to solve. Maybe user tests or interviews will influence how we conceptualize a design. Then the designer and I will iterate on wireframes in Figma. During that time, I’ll share my work and any roadblocks with my UX content teammates. Along the way, the UX designer and I will receive feedback from internal stakeholders until we reach a buildable version of our work.

Occasionally, product managers I work with will ask me to write copy for things like emails or new alerts. Usually, those requests come via a Slack message, during a brief meeting, or a tag within a user story.

As a UX writer, you must be flexible and understand that processes vary depending on the task and the people involved.

Want to level-up your UX content workflows? Try Frontitude.

What do you find as the biggest challenge in UX writing?

Andrew: I wish more UX writers thought about creating impact that goes beyond their job descriptions. In this role, it can be easy to feel overshadowed or be treated as a sidekick for UX designers. But there’s room for UX writers to pilot larger strategic projects and invent roles within their organizations.

A few months into my job, in 2018, I told my manager I had video editing experience from my time as a journalist. With her support, I started our product video project. Now we have more than 80 tutorial and conceptual videos that live on our support site, marketing site, and within our app. In addition to building the videos, I tabulate our monthly and quarterly view stats and present trends to the UX team and Product Development leadership. I also have an awesome UX content teammate who creates original music and records voiceovers for those projects.

A few years ago, who would have guessed two UX writers would build videos and make cool music to help with customer education? Who would have guessed that was even possible? Take pride in what you were hired to do. But think big, too.

Tom: Because IBM has literally thousands of offerings, a significant challenge for us is how to both encourage creativity in our designers and writers and at the same time offer our customers a common user experience across our offerings. So, while we strive to ensure that each product offers an engaging and delightful user experience — and content clearly plays a significant role in this — we’re also mindful that many of our customers use a number of IBM products and that they should experience a consistent voice and tone across the portfolio.

IBM also operates in highly technical and complex domains (cloud computing, AI, blockchain, etc.) and this poses additional challenges. Like any other content professional, we are always looking to deliver clear, concise content, but in contrast to working on simple consumer apps, for example, there is often an inherent complexity to the enterprise offerings that we work on.

"As a UX writer, you must be flexible and understand that processes vary depending on the task and the people involved." (Andrew Astleford)

What do you wish to improve in your UX writing workflow?

Tom: We often work in fast-paced environments, where designs and implementations can and often do evolve rapidly, and many teams don’t have a good single source of truth for their content. This can sometimes lead to confusion and changes being missed or overridden.

Also, those working on marketing content, in-product content, and support content often work relatively independently. While this is something that we are actively working to improve, we still have a way to go to deliver a more seamless end-to-end content experience to our customers.

Andrew: Keeping the language consistent is a big thing. Especially when it comes to the value proposition of products, I’m a fan of achieving alignment between marketing’s vision of something and how we describe tools within our app.

Also, time is the secret sauce for me. I need time to grasp everything within a design. I need time to think about my words and make sure I’m consistent with how a concept is described elsewhere within my company’s content ecosystem.

Confession: I’m horrible about spitting out words on the spot in a meeting. With how I work, there’s lots of research involved. For a word or two I’m writing within our user interface, I might look at multiple support articles and product pages, plus various corners of our app. This work requires so much care and concentration. I love that part of the job, though.

Did you find this content helpful? Interviews like this are about to be published regularly. Subscribe below to get new posts to your inbox right when they’re out of the oven.

If you want to participate in one of our upcoming UX Writing Over Coffee posts, or suggest any questions for next posts, feel free to drop us a line.

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