Writing UI content
Working with product teams to deliver great content
- I work with lots of different IBM product teams. For example, a while back I joined the IBM Event Streams team for a period of 5 months.
- I ran a content audit to help the team review what content they already had published, what user needs it addressed, and what needed removing, updating, or creating.
- After learning about the target users, I wrote all of the UI content for the new features that the team were working on.
- I helped the team design a new set of marketing pages that articulated how the product addressed common user goals.
- We won an external design award 🏆 for the product itself and a separate external design award 🏆 for the docs site.
Setting content standards
Providing guidance to IBM designers on all aspects of product content
- Back in 2016, I was asked to produce IBM Design's first voice and tone guide. I started by conducting thorough research to understand what aspects of writing designers and engineers were struggling with.
- I then focused on how we could best design and deliver the guidance so that it would be fun, useful, and easy to use. I've written a little about this process in this article.
- When IBM started using the awesome Carbon Design System for all product UIs, I began contributing to both the brief external and more extensive internal content guides.
- This is something that I and others continue to evolve — inspired by the knowledge that Carbon is used by hundreds of IBM product teams, as well as many outside of IBM.
Researching and testing terminology
Ensuring that the words we use communicate clearly with our target users
- One IBM product team was showing some potential customers early product designs and noticed there was some confusion around some of the terms in the designs.
- The team were divided about which terms to use and unsure how to proceed so I was asked to work with them to help resolve these terminology issues.
- I designed and ran a 'cloze test' research study where recruited target users were given a series of sentences about the product and asked to supply missing words.
- This research activity provided the team with empirical data showing which terms resonated well with the target audience and which terms did not.
- This taught the team more about their target users' mental models and enabled the team to make informed decisions about which terms to use.
Delivering content education
Creating a UX writing course for all IBM designers
- IBM has a community of over 3,000 designers. And while we have some dedicated content designers (like me!), many design teams don't have access to a content specialist.
- So, in 2022, I was asked to create a self-service online education course to help our many talented UX designers, visual designers, design researchers, and other design colleauges further improve their own UX writing skills.
- After getting input from a variety of design colleagues, I came up with a course outline that mapped to both our Carbon content guidelines and to the content heuristics used in our internal product design reviews.
- As I researched and drafted each module I then sought feedback from some early adopters, which enabled me to further refine the contents until it was ready for publication.
Providing content assessments
Helping product teams to further improve their UI content
- Sadly, many IBM product teams do not have a dedicated content specialist.
- While they have content guidance to follow (see earlier section) their UI content often has scope for improvement.
- Before being released, all products go through a formal 'Design & User Experience' review and I often provide the content-specific part of this assessment.
- I assess the written parts of the product UI against a set of content heuristics and provide detailed feedback to the product teams highlighting both the good content and the areas where content could be further improved, along with suggestions and supporting materials.
Helping to create a spark
Writing the comms for the internal 2023 IBM Spark Design Festival
- For the last few years, IBM has run a fantastic (internal) annual design festival. This three-day event features presentations, lightning talks, panel discussions, and workshops on a wide variety of design-related topics.
- I joined the leadership committee for this in 2023, responsible for all festival content and communications.
- I worked closely with other committee members, speakers, and volunteers to ensure that all festival information was communicated clearly and on-brand.
- This involved writing website copy, event emails, and many Slack announcements before, during, and after the festival.
- A colleague and I also started a monthly Spark blog. Each edition explores one design topic and features talks and assets from the Spark archives related to that topic.
Establishing a community of practice
Bringing together colleagues who have a passion for great content
- Back in 2018, many people in IBM hadn't even heard of a content designer let alone worked with one.
- So I got together with the talented Maranda Bodas and a handful of others, and we formed a small community of practice, which we called the IBM Content Design Guild.
- From an inital meeting with just 7 of us, our community has grown month by month over time, and we now have 50+ people at our monthly meetings and many more (500+) who engage with our Slack channel.
- At our lively meetings we share best practices and resources, run content crits, and learn about different aspects of content design and strategy.
- You can read more about how we established this vibrant community of practice in this article.