What would you say you do here, Andy?

The Bobs, from   Office Space  . Surely you get the reference. 20 years later, and it still holds up.

The Bobs, from Office Space. Surely you get the reference. 20 years later, and it still holds up.

 
 

I get asked this question a lot. Mostly it’s from coworkers who are trying to understand what I or my team does at Adobe. This is an attempt to provide a short, succinct explanation.

I’m a UX content strategist.

This could cover many things, but mainly, this means that I work on a UX design team (in my case, Adobe Design, our centralized product design org), to create words in a product experience. This might include:

  • microcopy

  • buttons

  • labels

  • on-boarding experiences

  • error messages

  • terms

And it might even extend to messages that are related to, but live outside a product, like:

  • emails

  • marketing copy

  • support documentation

But mostly, I prefer to stay as in-product as possible.

But wait. Isn’t that copywriting?

Words are our lowest-cost, lowest-risk way to design.
Steph Hay, Head of Conversational Design, Capital One

Yes and no. Traditionally, copywriting at a creative agency, or a big old software company (coughcoughADOBEcoughcough) comes later, after the strategy and the design are completed. Writers fill a hole full of words, and it’s just too expensive or slow to go back and fix anything that doesn’t make sense.

Because of that, words often get used as band-aids, to try to fix something that really needs to be re-designed.

Copywriting is a component of what we do, and many of us come from a copywriting background. But before we can write that copy, we want to figure out the system around it. That’s why I work on a design team, to think through the flow, the system.

I’m writing while designers are designing, so my words are often non-linear, research-based and holistic.

You might say that we design with words.

I work on digital products and physical goods, so I’m deeply involved in the design process. But I also want to call out early that my process is the design process. I don’t write fiction or short stories; I use language to solve problems— whether that’s behind the scenes or in the product itself. I use words as material.
Nicole Fenton, former Content Design Manager, 18F