In this episode, Erica Johansson shares how she went from being a journalist with a love of music to the first content designer at a little known startup called Amazon, and has blazed the trail for content strategy working with big tech, including Microsoft and Slack.

Show notes


Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 0:01
Hey, welcome back to the UX coach podcast. I am your host, Andy Parker (The UX Coach), you can find out more about me and UX coaching at the UX In this episode, Erica Johansson shares how she went from being a journalist with a love of music to the first content designer, a little known startup called Amazon, and has blazed the trail for content strategy working with big tech, including Microsoft and slack. We talk about the role of content in design, and the differences between content design, strategy, marketing and UX design, what the role of a Content Designer is how design research differs from UX research, and how you can get into content design and research today. Let’s kick off with a little potted history.

Erica Jorgensen 0:50
Where exactly am I today? The question, I started off as hell bent on becoming a journalist. That was my dream. I did work at the Boston Globe newspaper, when I was in college, and the Hartford Courant in Connecticut, and then moved to Seattle and worked for the Seattle Times. But as everyone knows, now, journalism is not always a way to make a living. And unfortunately, with all the layoffs and all that, I guess, it’s fortunate that I sort of tripped my way into a startup called Amazon that needed some money to write a lot of book reviews for them. They needed someone to interview authors and write a whole lot of book reviews, because the website was basically a blank slate, going into E commerce dabbled a little bit in analytics, we didn’t have much in the way of, you know, we didn’t have Google Analytics or Adobe analytics, nothing of the sort, then but back to do some interesting experimentation with the website to see what was resonating with customers. And most had to convince publishers to allow us to reprint chapters online, they didn’t have that capability back then this is, for those of you who are much younger than me, this is approximately 1997. So there’s a little long time ago, had a kid a little time off. And then I’ve worked with E commerce sites, including Expedia, went back to Amazon for a little bit. And rover, worked for a lot of different websites on their editorial or content teams. So spend time at Premier Blue Cross, which is an insurance company, just like health, the health field, like helping people be better be well helped change that whole website. And then it’s been five years, it sounds dropping a lot of names. I’ve worked a lot of places I worked at Microsoft for five years. First and content marketing and then in content design. So yeah, I’ve been I’ve seen a lot of different places and worked in content and a lot of different companies. So I’m interested

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 2:42
to know the sort of main differences in your writing style, or the way that you think about writing from when you’re doing, say, like an op ed for the globe, versus something for like the Blue Cross website, that kind of thing.

Erica Jorgensen 3:02
There’s quite a lot of similarities. Actually, if you want to lead with the most important information, and add detail as you go along. I think there’s just so much parallel between journalism and content design, it’s uncanny. I know a lot of former journalists who are in content design course content design, we write much tighter, no extraneous words whatsoever. In that way. It’s challenging. I think I did also have a challenging time writing my book because my editor kept saying you write so tight, right. So short, add some embellishment, add, you know, write a little longer and I told her I am conditioned to not write long I’m conditioned to write short.

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 3:37
Do you think that that’s that’s sort of like the similarities between like, fixed amount of column inches and that really wasn’t that much different?

Erica Jorgensen 3:45
Yeah, I think with the move to digital I mean, I’ve, I’ve worked in print and digital in journalism and having the freeing power of being online versus having column inches in the print world that was that’s like a whole new, whole new way of working. But I think still choosing powerful verbs unique in the true sense of the word adjectives. You know, you want to make your writing have oomph and impact be compelling and intriguing. So there’s a lot of similarities there too. Like you don’t want to use a boring verb, you want to use powerful verb. And I think that’s one of the tricks I’ve definitely taken from journalism to content designers make every verb powerful,

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 4:21
big things we’re sort of here to talk about today is the concept of content design for anyone that has not really come across that term, or has seen it a lot and still doesn’t really get what a Content Designer is and what the difference between a content designer and a coffee writer, for example, or a UX designer is there’s this sort of extension to this, which is what the book is about, which is content research. And again, what’s the difference between current doing content research and how is that different to user research or un design research questions. Yeah, break all of that down for us to talk to us and explain like what this space is,

Erica Jorgensen 5:09
I think it’s a little I don’t want to say controversial might not be the right word. But content design is a fairly new term. It’s only been around for a few years. To me, it’s choosing the information that your audience needs to know. And making sure it’s in the right format. So that’s where the design part comes in. Like, what is the right way to deliver that message to your audience? And I’m thinking about like a mobile app, you know, do you need a drop down menu? Do you need a pop up? Do you need a tooltip? Those kinds of things? Traditionally, they use were chosen by designers, UX designers, or product designers, UX is best when are most effective, and researchers, content designers and product designers all work together to figure out what is it that somebody in your audience needs to know? And that’s a very boiled down definition, I think, and it’s different than content strategy to meet content strategy is doing some of the legwork doing some of the discovery work. Who is our audience? What do they know? What is their context? What context do they need? Is your app or website have too much information for them just enough for within like a specific experience? What do they need to know when and I’m thinking, an example to bring this home, I used to work for Microsoft Office apps. When you’re buying office, that’s a lot that’s going on in your brain as you’re trying to buy Office, if you’re a small business owner, if you’re an enterprise company, you’ve got a different mental model of what you need, you probably have different levels of knowledge about what you’re buying. The content that I included in those experiences was very different for an entrepreneur or small business owner compared to the enterprise customer who’s buying, like, 100,000 licenses. Yeah. So what information does the customer need to know how to describe it to them, you know, call to action buttons and links and things like that, you just want to give them just enough information at the right time. I think UX writing if I were to differentiate UX writing from content design, is kind of like five or 10 years ago, where designers would take a stab at what wireframes that they thought were appropriate for whatever you were, whatever you’re designing, and then they will put in lorem ipsum, placeholder content or text for the UX writer or copywriter to fill in. And that’s not a way to set Anyone up for success. That’s when things go wrong when you design that way. Yeah, the the most successful companies I’ve seen or organisations that make a lot of money, they save a lot of money by reducing costs to their customer service team. They know that content design is valuable, and worth the investment, sweeping generalisation content designers are vastly outnumbered. Most places I’ve seen, like sometimes I’ve seen like 17 to one ratios of product designers, or product managers to content designers, which is I’ll just get on my high horse and say that that’s not a recipe for success for anyone. I mean, it just, and I think it’s user research is similar to that that seems to be chronically understaffed, which is silly, because when you have a UX researcher, and you know what your customers need to know, of course, whatever you create is going to be more successful

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 8:07
content strategy is the what we want to do content design is more the how we’re going to do that. You know, I

Erica Jorgensen 8:16
think you could think of it that way. I think there’s there’s a, there’s a lot more to content strategy to that, whether it’s the discovery, like the research and understanding the audience, but it’s also strategising, and therefore the names and strategy of how to deliver the message to the audience in the best way. I guess I’d need to use the term ecosystem, what is the content ecosystem you don’t like, you’re not just making a website or an app. In many cases, you’re also coordinating with other people across your company or creating other types of content for your audience, whether it’s email or promotions, advertisements, things like that, if you buy a product, what information does that customer does the customer need after they buy, but yet people need people need help learning to use your product, they need help. They’ve got questions, you know, the customer service team, the content that they they use to help customers that can be part of the content strategy, too. So it’s a orchestrating many balls in the air. That’s how I picture content strategy,

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 9:12
having that awareness of like, what the what the relationships are, to an individual at different points in time.

Erica Jorgensen 9:21
Yeah, and then creating like the content, I think of the word journey drives me nuts, but it’s just it feels so overused, but the content, customer journey of how do they get from A to B? What what are the pieces of content or the we call them content assets at Microsoft because they are so valuable? What are the content assets that your audience is reading or consuming or not consuming? That’s another piece of information. What are they looking at? As you help bring them from point A of like, being aware of your product to point B which is hopefully buying it using it being a loyal customer for however long content designers also need to think about the big picture it’s not just you’re not just reading like, a call to action button for Have a single screen on an app it’s, well, that that needs to be consistent across if you’re using a special verb or you know, a unique term, you need to be consistent throughout the content that you’re creating how you deliver that content to your customer is a whole other can of worms, whether it’s through a content management system, or if you work with your engineering team to get it live. That’s a whole other can of worms. It’s a can of worms, and that would be content operations. That’s that’s how I think of finding operations is how, how do you get the content to your audience, the tech stack all those things? How do you analyse? How do you analyse their performance? How are you tagging up your content? So that you can analyse it? What tools are you using to understand how engaged or not your audiences

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 10:44
whenever I’ve worked with a Content Designer, first and foremost, always very keen to emphasise that they’re not a copywriter? Damn straight? Yes, there’s a number of misconceptions and copywriter is one of them. And I think that sometimes that’s because of the definition of content. So we’ve we’ve already talked where you could imply from it that the fixation is on copy that is on text, and words matter. So it’s about what words what are the right kinds of words to use there, whether you’re using your accent based language or being from the UK and working a lot in in the public sector, we have government digital service design principles, which state that you should write to match the competency of a particular learning group. So that it applies to everyone, that kind of thing. So let’s expand that out if we’re thinking about what someone needs and the way in which that it needs to be delivered, and then we are producing that, how is that different to a copywriter?

Erica Jorgensen 11:59
This might be just me, but I find the word copy to be minimising that content is more broad and all encompassing the word text makes me bristle and the word, the term string. When people describe content in strings, that’s an engineering term that’s like a line of code. I just, that’s a rant about this in my book, I really don’t like it when people refer to content in terms of strings, so I think coffee to get to your question. Yeah, it’s like, and I will gently correct people if they do that, it’s very basic, isn’t it? Well, let them know. It’s offensive. It’s kind of offensive. It’s it’s that kind of it is it’s derogatory, it is it is not just kind of it is it is offensive, but I think it’s content designers need to stand up for ourselves and make this known otherwise people will not know that it bothers us. So that’s, that’s another topic for another day. But copywriting I think of like advertising, copywriting, your writing something very, very pointed, very focused. copywriting is not easy. Yeah. I don’t know if I’m answering your question. But I think copywriting is more basic, whereas content, as all those other elements plugged in and led the analytics, the audience knowledge, the usability research, you can do the content research to inform your word choice, that kind of thing. That’s, it’s very comprehensive, in a way I’m trying to I’m, and there’s, there are many layers of it. I think a framework that I go back to time and time again, is from best done, do you nn, who used to be with HubSpot, she’s known for her book, cultivating content design, she has a framework that I adore, that talks about full stack content design. And there’s like the surface layer, which is like voice and tone, nothing surfaces. superficial, but the three layers at the top is like voice and tone and word choice and things like that very important, but not the meat of it is structure like how do you? How are you creating the content? Other parts of it like accessibility, like important, more important elements? And then at the bottom is the strategy of what on earth? Are you doing? Like? How are you getting this content to your customer, all the other pieces that go with it, that orchestration, the the end of the engineering, the operational elements of it, that’s really like, that’s a lot. So I think of her full stack content design model, as a great way of thinking of content. And that’s way more complicated than copy just the words,

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 14:21
it’s very much about understanding the material. And I use that term in the same way as we like in perhaps an industrial term. For some reason, with this season of interviews. I’ve gone back again, to founding UX thinking of architects. That’s the scene that I’m seeing from what you’re describing is that the content design itself is moving into that similar era of UX design. This is about that generalist to an extent Like the T shaped person that’s got a good foundations in some core skill sets, and then maybe goes really deep into it.

Erica Jorgensen 15:10
Yeah, yeah, I think I think you’re hitting the nail on the head, like the skills involved in content design. There’s just there’s so many. And I think, thinking back to the copyrighted content design comparison operator, you get to create a brief. And then you go off on your own, and you can do the writing and bring it back to your team and get some feedback, content design. I’m continually partnering with engineers, with product managers to wrangle the constraints like what are the constraints of the engineering teams, the staffing, like how many engineers are going to help me bring this experience to life? Understanding that, that part of it is very complicated, but very important, like I can’t just determine that, oh, we’re going to make an interactive experience that, you know, very flashy, or you have to think about the load time, you have to think about who’s going to be using this, we have to think about accessibility, like how are we going to make sure that screen readers, people who are using screen readers can consume the content, there’s so many elements to that. It’s a lot and it takes a takes a village of people and design content, engineering to make that happen?

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 16:16
I think it’s very much the the way that these, these roles and responsibilities have evolved as well, I think I think you still quite easily you will go and see a job ad for UX slash UI designer actually saw one today. So that’s definitely still out there. And that that demonstrates to me that if I see that I will take the maturity level of that organisation being in a very specific place. Right now we are either of the size or have the understanding that what we need is someone who’s going to draw the thing. We’ve heard that you need user experience thinking behind that, and not really sure what some of the things that you’re describing, if I sort of looked back on on my career, a lot of it to me sounds like the kind of activities that I would have engaged with as an information architect, which is a role that just does not exist anymore. Like it just went.

Erica Jorgensen 17:25
Well, I think of Lou Rosenfeld who my publisher, information architecture is so important, and there’s so much garbage Information Architecture out there. I think it’s a taken for granted. Teams, companies that succeed have information architects on their stuff, it’s this, I don’t know, I it’s just so absurd how some of the most key roles in product experience, they’re, they’re taken for granted and understaffed, it’s backwards and wacky, I hope in 10 years, things will be different, yet a true talented Information Architect, they are often you know, they might have a library science degree to think in the way that they do. It’s, they’re brilliant. They’re brilliant. And some of my favourite co workers throughout my career have been information architects, because they’re just brilliant. When Amazon was young, you know, we’re sold on the books. And then we’re adding product line after product line within those so many different flavours of products and categories, and things like that just makes the head explode and how they interact and the tagging required to make all of it. Work is mind bending. What a weird world What a weird world we live in where yeah, like these key rules that are so important to the end experience can help companies succeed, like I just see, like, there’s so many engineers, so many product managers valuable, valuable roles. But the ratios of people in those roles compared to content design, and UX research is just hard to hard to comprehend. Sometimes.

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 18:54
Let’s move on to your book, then. Yeah, the

Erica Jorgensen 18:56
book was stemmed from a desire to bring more respect to the content design practice to the field. And so it’s therefore a little rabble rousing I get on a high horse and parts of it were one part in particular talk about AB experimentation, which is so popular, so many companies, especially startups, because they’re trying to get an investment in the

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 19:15
startup with 20,000 views that they can actually use for it.

Erica Jorgensen 19:20
Well, yeah, I mean, I think people love AB experimentation because it gets you data. And that data is usually statistically significant. But people like to go around, talking about stats in like it’s the best thing in the world. When it is time consuming when it takes up resources when it requires coordination across so many teams. Depending on how you are able to launch your A B experiments or ABCDE. Multivariate experiments, that experiment and you’re introducing risk by showing your customers content that is not proven, I’d say content research can obviate the need for a be experimentation or replace it entirely. You don’t always get the statistical significance but it if you launch content that you or you have vetted with your current customers or a proxy audience, to your customers or audience, and know confidently, hey, most people like this, or a lot of people don’t like that. That’s powerful information that you can run with. But of C suite executives like to talk about velocity will content research enables velocity. That’s one of the many reasons why I think it’s smart to do and powerful and brings more attention to the content team, because most of the time, you know, if we’re landing the words that are resonating with the audience, and then we make those we make them go live, we publish them on our app or website or whatever kind of content you have. And then you see in your analytics, that the engagement improves, that’s, it’s just magical. A lot of design decisions can be tested. But to me, like the most powerful, transformative customer experiences I’ve seen, are based on the words, it’s not the design, it’s not the colour of an icon, or the colour of a content or a pillar of a CTA call to action button. That’s the word, the words that are clear, just enough information to help build confidence that drives engagement, and that leads to revenue that leads to business success that leads to fewer calls to your customer service team. And those are that’s like dollar bill science right there.

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 21:15
Well, I really like about the approach that you’ve taken with it. Like a lot of the books that are coming out through Rosenfeld at the moment is that it’s not just a big like thesis on a topic. There’s there’s some there’s some really great points like counterpoints, like the one on AV testing, I greatly enjoyed that. I hate anyone that wants me to do a B testing I will probably not be friends with for very long, really.

Erica Jorgensen 21:42
I mean, it has its time in its place. It’s not to say, but Well, it’s

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 21:47
just think about what is it that you you’re not gonna learn anything from it? That’s it? Because it’s a binary answer,

Erica Jorgensen 21:54
oh, then it’s only quantitative. That’s a great point. That’s, that’s another whole benefit of content research is if you’re doing the qualitative questioning, okay, so if you have a multiple choice question or a scale question, like, how appealing is this to you, and you know, like, roughly what percent of the audience is, like into it or not, or you get the quantitative answer of like, this word is appealing, or this word is not appealing, but it’s the why and why is not that takes a little time, you know, digging into qualitative verbatim are quotations from customers who participate in that kind of research takes time. But that’s where the golden nuggets, I think, are hidden that you need to dig into the why. And a quick example, a show from the book was at Premier Blue Cross the insurance company I worked for we were selling health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act, the Affordable Care Act went into, went into law, and people were forced in the United States to buy health insurance, when they couldn’t afford it or didn’t want it or whatever. With very reluctant customers. I’ve never seen such, you know, emotion around a business, I was involved in it, like people were very afraid to buy insurance. And because it’s confusing, but we thought, well, the basics are here we have gold, silver, and bronze. Health care plans and bronze are less expensive, still expensive. But bronze is the least expensive. Gold is the most expensive, but you get the most benefits. Bronze, you get the least and you get the middle you have silver. We weren’t selling any silver plans. I thought the website was broken. So I popped open the CMS site, sign into the content management system and check the HTML and I was like, well, the call to action button is working. We don’t have a we don’t have broken code. But what on earth no one is clicking the button on the homepage, gold, silver, bronze, silver was not getting clicks. And did a little research really quickly. Because we wanted to sell those plans. We had a quota internal quota in the company of how many we wanted to sell. So the CEO was basically, you know, hovering around the digital experience team saying why the hell are we selling the Silver plans, this is a problem. We found out through content research that people thought that silver meant senior citizen, elderly, Medicare, they thought it was a Medicare plan, which in the United States, you cannot buy them until you’re 65 or older. But there was the Affordable Care like the whole, the design was very simple. They’re advertising all over the United States, there was a very short period of time that these plans were for sale, only annually. I think they were for sale for like six to 10 weeks or something like that. So we had a very tight timeframe that we were working with them. And silver was not working until we added a line of content to the homepage saying Silver plans are Affordable Care Act plans. If you want a Medicare plan, click here. So that was shocking that no one knew was Silverman or not no one but a huge chunk of our audience. We found through content research. They’re like Silver’s not for me, that’s not a plan whereby I’m not 65.

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 24:43
See, I would have genuinely taken that as being the people who have wised up to the like paradox of choice and that they know that that you’re trying to drive them to whatever the middle of a bracket

Erica Jorgensen 24:56
may be, but those are standard across every insurance company and they added states was selling gold, silver and bronze plans with different names and stuff. But that’s a paradigm. That’s a mental model, that anyone who’s seen the Olympics would understand, but flabbergasting and then the designer gave me a hard time. He’s like, I don’t, I don’t want to mess up. You’re messing up my clean design with some content. And I sure am. Because the customers don’t know what’s up. The CTA button can’t explain it. I need to add, not a tooltip not something that is viewed only upon click or tap. But we had to add a persistent line of content, Ron centre in the middle of the damn homepage, saying Silver plans, our Affordable Care Act plan.

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 25:36
I remember seeing a presentation from you. Not that long ago, talking about a similar challenge with may have been Microsoft, but let’s say any enterprise software, where the way that you sell it is license keys still, even though that’s not really a thing. per seat licensing.

Erica Jorgensen 25:55
Oh, license or seat? Yeah, that might have been going

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 25:59
up. What does that mean? What does that mean? Well, that was

Erica Jorgensen 26:03
um, that was a an experiment that I was all I had, they had moved from content marketing to content design at Microsoft. And I started on like, office, we’re selling millions of dollars of software. And I thought, I can make an impact I can help us sell even more. Like license isn’t the right word I hit I knew in my gut, I felt deeply in my gut, that license was not on brand, not on the right tone. It was too bureaucratic feeling. And it’s longer than the term seat. But when I tested this with user testing, just with like 10 or 20 customers, I asked them, What would you use? Most of them said license. And I was like, Well, my coworker, Trudy, who is hilarious, I miss her a lot. She warned me she’s like, license is fine. Don’t worry about it. We don’t need to test that. And I was adamant that we needed to test it. But what we found what through the qualitative follow up question, why would you prefer that? We got all this information from customers saying, Well, you know, I some of them did say that license reminded them of going to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which in the United States is terrible experience wastes like hours every time. But what we found when we asked him tell us a little bit more about you know, what you think about this topic, we found out that many people thought you needed one license per device to if you had a laptop, and a phone, or other mobile device, whatever, you have a desktop however many devices you had, some people thought you needed a license for each. So they’re essentially buying two to three times as much as many licenses as they needed, which meant they thought that Microsoft products were really expensive. And if you have a small business,

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 27:39
because that at one point in time, that was the case, right? That was

Erica Jorgensen 27:43
the case. Right? Right. So it’s not so far fetched that they thought that Right, right. But do you think it now is a legacy legacy thing totally and, and you can see if you use user testing the age of the participants, and that was skewed by age, and people who were older, didn’t believe that you need one license per device. But this was mind blowing to us, because there’s no mention of that the user flow for signup did not include any information to that. We didn’t guide people, we didn’t give them this information that oh, by the way, you only need one license per per device. Or per user per note, you only need one license per user. I misspoke. It is one per user, not one per device. We found out that enough people were over buying that was interfering with loyalty. They were not renewing at the end of the year, when their subscription came up for renewal. They were like No, no way I’m not gonna renew because it’s too expensive. And the competitor is Google, you know, G Suite is more affordable than a Microsoft suite. So this was a severe customer service issue that warranted another line of copy rights friend centre in the user experiencing you know, more content mucking with the design saying you need one license per user. But once we added that, fewer calls to customer service, fewer complaints at onboarding, you know, less friction in the user experience from one like just a couple of words, you need one license per six, six words, made a humongous difference. You can see we could see in a funnel view we spun up a an analytics dashboard where we could see how successful people were step by step through the user experience and there was less fall off we it was like flipping a switch Jessica with The bronze silver gold improvement or, you know, fix that we made. It was like night and day once we added that little line of content. Yeah, muck with it is muck with the design a little bit but for the benefit of everyone, for the customer, for us as employees because you know, job security, like we were showing our worth by showing that we’re saving the company, making them millions, saving the millions is just good to be clear. And we weren’t clear before but we didn’t know we weren’t clear until we did the content research and then to mind blown because you don’t know people are thinking until you ask them and they’re not going to tell you if they’re doing an AV experiment they cannot tell you what this is it right. So content research for the win. Yeah, it’s it’s not statistically significant, you can’t walk down the hallway be like getting to stat SIG. Like, you don’t need to get to stat SIG, you’re gonna get qualitative information that could be vastly more valuable to your company, whether it’s a startup or a multinational.

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 30:15
Do you find that you’re in doing things like that there is a reasonable amount of work that is compensating for complex business logic. Is there? Is there a tipping point where you’re basically just trying to reduce the amount of exposure that people have to really crappy business design?

Erica Jorgensen 30:39
Oh, gosh, there’s a whole chapter in the book on that. Well, business jargon. Yeah, I think depending on your industry, people like to sound smart. And a lot of people think they sound smart when they use gigantic, complicated words or acronyms. Yeah, that there’s that there’s that whole issue. And there’s a lot in the book on that. But I think to get to your point about like, organisational environment, you know, when you’re in whatever company you’re in, there are teams, you got PM, you got design, you’ve got recent, like, you got marketing, you’ve got brand, you’ve got business development, all of these silos are often brought into alignment, or how do I say this content research can smooth out the frosting as it were, of the bumps, and like the cracks in the silos of our organisational structures. So this is a role that I think content, people who work in content naturally kind of function as like the glue that holds the company together, really, maybe we shouldn’t maybe that’s too much of a weight on our shoulders. But when you have a PM, product manager who thinks like a pm and toxic a pm and has an MBA and like their jargon to them is a way of being almost. And then you got marketers who talk their own language, and they want to shove every feature that’s in a product onto the app or website, getting them all getting all these different roles. To the point of simplicity, often is the role of content, for better or for worse, I think, to bring up the Microsoft example, again, selling office, people came to our checkout flow from a very complicated marketing landing page that had so many bullet points and so many icons that if I were an entrepreneur, like used to using, I don’t know, Google Docs and into that landing page, and I was like, I don’t even know what this icon like. They don’t know what the PowerPoint icon looks like. They don’t know what the Excel icon is for. Like there’s, there’s so much complexity that we take for granted women work in business when we’re steeped in our products and features. And we don’t think like our customers. Content research, kind of pulls back the curtain and helps us remember, we are not our customer, we are not our customer. We talk jargon, we’re biased. That kind of blows our biases out of the water. And it’s very valuable for that reason that people who we need. We need the colourful icons here. And I’m like, No, we need to tell people, they include spreadsheets, and it includes presentation software, we don’t need to tell them a PowerPoint in Excel when people don’t know what PowerPoint and Excel are. We assume they do because we work at Microsoft like No, no, no, no, you have to know what your customer knows. And content research can often help you understand that very distinctly, very vividly. And learn how people are struggling to use your your app or your website because you’re not being clear. It brings you down to earth,

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 33:20
the future. So people who are coming out of school right now, we started off as one thing. And then things have emerged. And we’ve moved into these other spaces, and we’ve been involved in kind of their evolution and helping to find them. Now they’re defined, they’re there. So there is potential for someone to start at this point. I’m interested to hear what you think they can be doing to move into it.

Erica Jorgensen 33:49
Yeah, but I think it’s hard just and I’ve seen this when I’ve been looking to hire interns or entry level, it’s really hard to work in an entry level role in content design, because it is such a complex field. And that is a challenge that I was just talking with Kristina Halvorson and a group of content designers about this, like how do we help people get into the field, we want more people, we don’t want to have 17 to one ratios. We want more people to work in content design, but it is not an easy field to break into UX in particular, isn’t an easy field to break into. But I think there’s a distinct, gaping lack in educational programs for content design. There are some certificate programs like legit certificate certificate programs, like through the school of visual concepts here in Seattle, their website is SVC And UX content collective I think there’s this decent too, but there’s you can’t get a bachelor’s degree. You can’t get an undergraduate degree in content design, but you should. And this is that’s like my next. That’s my next passion project I think is helping universities including the University of Washington support people in Getting into content design, you can become a product manager, you can get a degree in product management, you can get a degree in product design, but you can’t yet yet get a degree in content design. And that is a challenge. That is something that needs to change. And I plan on helping with that. I think the HCDE, the human computer design and engineering program at the University of Washington is so, so well, well known globally, for the information school, hugely respected. They need a content design program. And I’m not saying I’m going to become a professor as my next job. But maybe, because it’s a good thing. I think teaching teaching as a side hustle. While working in UX is draining I’ve done that I taught at the University of Washington, I taught a Web Analytics course while working full time, and that is hard. But we need more content designers, more people in content to mentor. And to think about that gap in education. Like the boot camps, the predatory Boot Camps are a dime a dozen, they’re everywhere. I’ve seen way too many portfolios from people who’ve been in those boot camps that aren’t teaching them aren’t preparing them to work in this multifaceted, fascinating field, maybe there’s a there’s a book in that maybe I can’t write another book anytime soon. But I’m half joking, it’s a it’s a thing. It’s a thing there’s we need, people should be able to, and not necessarily get a university degree, but we need to help people move into the field and thrive in the fields and not struggle so much. Because the day to day is just, it’s challenging enough, we need to help people create, like join at the entry level succeed in all stages. And we need more senior roles. There’s a big gap. I was working on this at Microsoft of principle. Even, you know, Senior Director roles and content design are hard to come by. And I think we should have Chief Content officers, we shouldn’t just have Chief Information Officers, there’s a gap at both ends of the career spectrum. And that needs to change.

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 36:57
What would you suggest for places perhaps to start looking to be able to get some inspiration to start doing some of this a little bit undercover, to introduce in that, you know, undercover UX guerrilla UX style approach to surfacing this need in in your company at the moment or where you’re trying to get

Erica Jorgensen 37:20
out? I think the most effective way I have found has been to deeply partner with engineering. When I sit down with an engineer, we dig into the code. We’re updating content in the code and they see the complexity of what I’m doing. I know HTML. I know SQL. When engineers understand the depth and breadth of content work that content designers do. They go, Whoa, they just don’t get enough exposure to it. And I think that is gold because engineering is often the most expensive role in the product, product experience field if engineers have to do rework because the content needs to be touched again, or the design needs to be touched again, like it just everything falls apart. And you’re like everything just goes into shambles. But when the light bulb goes off over an engineers mind, and you know, head when I see the light sparkle in their eye, when we’re either on a call or working in person together, they go, Oh my gosh, your job is complicated. I go yes, you are. You are correct. You are very correct. Your job is to our jobs are all complex. There’s a misconception that because we’re working with words, predominantly, the content design is basic or simple or easy. If engineers or PMS want to instigate content research, I welcome it. I think that’s, that’s great. And we often like kind of throw content design or product design over the fence to engineering or to tech and hope it gets built correctly. That’s a wacky way of working and I think, not ideal at all. When continent engineer and engineering can partner up, that’s where the magic happens.

Andy Parker (The UX Coach) 38:47
Thanks for listening. I hope you have found something interesting in the conversation that you’ve heard today. And if you have, please let me know by sending an email to email at the UX I will be back soon with more conversations with fantastic people from all over the globe. And if you would like to share your story, your experiences of developing your career within digital design is a research anything that involves digital services. And please do get in touch. I want this to be a space for you to be able to share what you have learned and help others. While she wait for another episode to drop. You can go to the UX Sign up to the newsletter I promise I will not send you anything unless I think it is really useful. See you soon