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11 key content design considerations

I’m a content designer at Microsoft. My job is to design the content experience for our products, specifically, the Microsoft 365 admin center. The content experiences I work on help customers sign up for, set up, and manage Office apps and services.

This content design work includes the following:

Content design is of paramount importance for ensuring that Microsoft 365’s customers are happy and that they can smoothly and easily do what they need to do when they visit our site. I work with crackerjack feature teams that include visual designers, user researchers, product managers, and software developers.

As much as I enjoy working with my teams, now and then I get urgent requests to write content quickly.

“It’s just a few sentences. Can you turn this around in the next hour?” Or, a common one: “The dev team is waiting for it. Can you get this right back to me?”

When I hear these questions, my immediate reaction is, “Heck no.”

Content design is complicated. It’s nuanced. And it’s often quite time-consuming. It’s not at all something that you want to rush.

When done well, good content elevates the customer experience and improves customer satisfaction, business performance, and revenue. Content designers are worth their weight in gold to the business. On our team, customer experience is measured in several different ways, all of which can be influenced by great content design. These include task completion rate (TCR); net promoter score (NPS); and a Microsoft-specific metric called customer support incidents per million engaged users (IMEU).

I understand why people may think content design can be done quickly. We all work quickly these days — with instant messages, chat comments during Teams meetings, and emails. But content design is next to impossible to do it swiftly.

I hope the following list of things I think about when I work on content design shines some light on just how complex it can be.

Content design requires extensive knowledge of the mechanics of exceptional writing, from parts of speech to syntax to punctuation, and even poetic techniques. It also requires knowledge of linguistics, etymology, inclusive language, and psychology. It’s complex and challenging in the best way. But it’s not at all something that should be done quickly if you’re looking to create a stellar customer experience.

What I think about as I work on content design:

2. Product and features

3. Writing style

4. Writing mechanics

5. Precision ​​​​​​​

Are the following avoided? These can be difficult for translation and can be challenging for English language learners.

6. Writing design and content coherence

7. Terminology

8. Brand voice and tone

9. Translation and geopolitical elements

10. Accessibility, diversity & inclusion, and sensitive language

11. Team and stakeholder alignment

Whew! So much to think about while doing content design. While it’s challenging to consider all these things, it’s rewarding when the end result is a clear, effective customer experience.

I hope this inspires other content designers to keep fighting the good fight. I also hope it provides food for thought for product managers, visual designers, and software developers. (May you never again ask for a 1-hour turnaround on content work!)

I also hope it offers insights for the senior leaders in each company in charge of hiring and compensating content designers. As this list shows, content work takes plenty of time and attention to detail. Content designers and UX writers deserve to have their (rare!) talents and hard work compensated accordingly.

Erica is Senior UX Content Designer at Microsoft. Connect with her on LinkedIn.