User experience, or UX, is a lot more than prototypes and wireframes. To take a product and transform it into a human experience, you need multiple tools in your tool kit: insight, empathy, understanding, creativity, technical aptitude, and…content? Yes!
Written content plays a huge role in UX, but not many people know that. It’s not the focal point of good UX design—and it shouldn’t be. Similar to many other design aspects like button placement and menu items, the best written content does its job so well that people don’t even notice it. What people typically notice, however, is how they feel when interacting with products, teams, and companies. And content can be a big factor in that.
On Red Hat’s User Experience Design (UXD) team, we treat content the same way we treat products: the open source way. Everyone contributes ideas and feedback as we create content for all different channels, with one shared vision: to create the best user experiences possible. Here’s how we work together to write and distribute a variety of content for the user experience.
UX content types
UX content isn’t limited to just one channel. On Red Hat’s UXD team, we create a few different types of content:
UX writing: UX writing refers to creating the words in a user interface. These words are commonly referred to as microcopy. You probably see microcopy all the time: login screens, error messages, welcome screens, button text, and so on. These words establish a human connection, creating an experience that appeals to a user’s logic and emotions. On top of that, microcopy is part of the design, facilitating a functional understanding between the user and the product. By delivering the right information at the right time, microcopy helps users easily navigate through a product and use it effectively.
PatternFly: PatternFly is an open source design system maintained by Red Hat. And it has a lot of content, ranging from website pages and technical documentation to social media and blog posts. It provides resources for anyone to create accessible and unified product experiences at scale. And it’s open source—so everyone and anyone is welcome to share their ideas and help build PatternFly’s collection of content.
Community: Technically, we aim to foster a sense of community when creating all content. But with some of our content types, creating community—inside and outside of Red Hat—is our ultimate focus. So we refer to these kinds of content as "community." Social media and blogging are a couple of channels we use to connect with the community and establish our external presence. Internally, we create presentations and documentation so that others can easily learn more about us and connect with our team. After all, Red Hat is a big place.
How we operate
Red Hat’s UXD team primarily consists of researchers, designers, and developers (and me, a content strategist). We don’t have any full-time writers and editors. So to make our content creation efforts work, we get a little creative. Everyone is involved in content creation—it’s not just limited to people who have "content" in their title.
To scale our content strategy resources, project management is crucial. But this isn’t fancy. For quick questions and fun idea exchanges, we use a content support chat channel. This is an easy way to keep our global team connected with our content efforts as well as learn from each other’s questions, answers, and input.
For content work that extends a little further than a quick question and answer, we have a content request system. We use a Google form to collect writing requests, which come from all over: assistance with UX writing, reviewing existing content, creating PatternFly content, and more. Then those requests get added to a queue of work so that all product groups fit into a content schedule. With this simple system, we keep things open and collaborative without sacrificing organization and speed.
Blogs and social media aren’t just for Marketing teams. They’re a great way for UX teams to connect with others, share knowledge, and learn more about customers.
To keep our UXD Twitter channel running smoothly, we have a "Tweet Sheet" (aka, a social media calendar). This keeps us on track so that we consistently publish every day. Also, all UXD team members are free to contribute ideas and content to our Twitter channel, provided that content fits into the topic areas we focus on for social media.
Since establishing a regular publication cadence and including everyone’s ideas in our social media content, our metrics have skyrocketed. In the first month alone, our UXD Twitter channel gained 11 new followers. We also saw an almost 300% increase in tweet impressions, as well as a 72% increase in mentions and a 5% increase in profile visits.
This collaboration also extends to other teams. Red Hat has a lot of talented content folks: technical writers, digital marketers, editors, and more. By creating alignment and sharing resources with these groups, we make each other (and our content) stronger.
Technical writers bring a lot of product knowledge and writing talent to the table, and they sometimes assist with UX writing, too. Marketing writers and editors help us keep our community content fresh and aligned with the market. They also share a wealth of brand knowledge, which plays a big role in the effectiveness of our microcopy, internal content, and public-facing content.
Not all content types are always the same, and we know that. But by aligning with other content groups, we find similarities in our goals. We all want to share information and connect with others. So by supporting each other and sharing ideas, we reach new heights together.
UX needs content
In a sea of beautiful colors and sleek layouts, content can easily be overlooked in a product. But don’t count it out! Words can be a key way to reach people and resonate with a user, getting them to fall in love with products and benefit from all they have to offer.
On the UXD team, content doesn’t steal all our attention (which is a good thing), but it is something we put a lot of time and energy into. Our users need it, and it can help make product experiences that much better.
If you want to see how we work on PatternFly, check out the PatternFly GitHub repos.
About the author
Abigael Donahue strives to make software more human, approachable, and accessible. As a content strategist, she combines her creative side with her technical and analytical skills to create growth strategies, content community, and seamless user experiences—while writing and editing along the way.