There are soooo many articles on UX writing 101 — what it is, who does it, whether it is a passing fad or here to stay, how to break into the field, and once you do… what to call yourself. There is consensus on some stuff and debate about other stuff. Some of the debates are interesting and productive… others less so. One that comes up often is what all the different job titles mean. I won’t link to all the articles I’m basing this one on, but these are my takeaways after about a year of following the industry chatter.
What they do: UX writer seems to be the position with the narrowest scope. A UX writer crafts the copy inside the product, on each screen in each user flow: titles, subtitles, menus, popups, toasts, notifications, forms, empty states, error messages, and the like. They also write transactional emails and other touch points in the user flows. The UX writer works with product managers to understand the project specs, and the designer to make it fit.
What they know: UX writers are first and foremost excellent writers. They are experts on the language they write in — in grammar, in colloquialisms, and they have a huge vocabulary. The keep up-to-date on best practices. They know their style guide by heart. They also, of course, know the ins and outs of their product and have a solid grasp of the space/industry the product lives in. They know all about their competitors’ copy, and understand business and user goals.
What they do: Content strategists do all the tactical work that UX writers do while also taking on more strategic projects. They think more about how in-product copy reflects the brand’s position in the market. They work closely with Marketing to ensure a consistent voice across the entire user journey, while constantly adjusting that voice as the user base grows and changes. Content strategists are likely to be creating the style guides that the entire team adheres to.
What they know: Content strategists know everything UX writers know while also having particularly sharp analytical skills, thinking strategically, and looking at the details within a wider context including where the company is heading and how competitors are shifting across the playing field. Content strategists might have a technical background; they certainly know how to work with data — how to define the most informative A/B tests, run them, analyze the results, and elucidate and apply learnings from them.
What they do: Content designers do everything UX writers do, and some of what content strategists do, but they are less focused on market forces and more focused on the structure of the copy — how it appears on the page and how the content of different pages within the product relate to each other (though content strategists think a lot about that, too).
What they know: Content designers, not surprisingly, know a thing or two about design. They are not UI/UX designers or visual designers — but they have a solid grasp of visual design conventions. They specialize in hierarchy and navigation in a way that UX writers and content strategists may not.
What should you call yourself?
Some people consider these titles interchangeable and others don’t. On the one hand, I’m not sure it matters what you call yourself; it matters what you do. Good recruiters read the bullets below the title to find out what you actually did, and good interviewers will ask questions or even conduct a work session to see what you know how to do, and how you do it. At least for now, until the whole field is better defined, the lines between the titles are blurred, and I personally don’t see that as a problem at all.
Sometimes you’ll call yourself whatever the organization expects: at Facebook, for example, there are only content strategists — no UX writers or content designers. Sometimes you’ll call yourself whatever’s popular where you live — I’ve been told that in the UK, content designer has a broader definition than what I wrote above and is more common than the other two. Sometimes you’ll choose your title to make a statement: more marketers have been calling themselves content strategists lately, which may make product writers prefer a different name. Some product writers feel that having “UX” in their title helps collaborators understand that they contribute more than “just” words and so they call themselves UX writers.
Does it really matter?
I don’t think so.
There are still no absolute definitions of any of these titles. You might think long and hard about your title and then find out your next interviewer has a completely different interpretation of what that title means. Either you’ll realize it’s not a match after you’ve already dressed up, or worse, you’ll start the job with mismatched expectations.
And it’s not only about the differences in what people with these titles do. Sometimes two people who do the exact same thing need different titles. Depending on your location, your organization, and lots of other highly variable factors, the most appropriate title for you might not be the same as someone somewhere else doing the exact same thing.
Personally, I call myself a UX writer, even though my job description isn’t quite what I wrote above.
For a long time I couldn’t understand the differences and once I felt I finally did, I realized how unimportant it is. I hope this helps someone who is where I was, save their time and energy for important stuff… like writing their product 🙂