The next great position in UX: Content Architect

I want to propose a relatively “new” position in the UX space.

As a UX Designer, I design applications, campaigns, design systems, and consumer-facing experiences. I take research, do my best to interpret it, gather every meaningful insight possible, and work.

Oftentimes in projects, content is treated like liquid in cups, and oftentimes I’m there to design those cups.

While that technically “works,” this traditional (arguably, antiquated) content model is a missed opportunity to provide greater experiential value for the audience.

There’s been repeated conversations around the treatment/strategy of content in dynamic digital experiences, and until even a few years ago, most of the conversations were fairly nebulous. One blue sky interpretation: the digital experience follows them (with permission, obviously) and works to serve their needs, fulfill their tasks, and solves their problems. It’s about nothing less than ensuring their satisfaction (with permission, obviously) and ensuring their continued engagement with the brand.

That kind of blue-sky outcome requires — outright demands — dynamic content creation to fitfully engage the customer. And that creation requires the content “creators” to understand all of the necessary conditions that the customer may run into. That requires exposure to UX, information architecture, development, so on. And many content analysts may or may not be trained (yet) for that kind of exposure.

Usually, content analysts are working within the confines of an existing content management system, an existing strategy, existing touchpoints. We need content analysts to have elevated authority, a role to play in not justcontent strategy, but business strategy. These analysts would have far greater jurisdiction over the digital experience of their customers. They wouldn’t just be writing copy. They would architect how a customer is communicated to.

The Solution: we need Content Architects.

A Content Architect would “architect” and implement content strategy, coordinating with the revolving disciplines of product development to ensure the best possible user experience.

 

The word “architect” is stressed, here, obviously. CA’s are hired to swim inside the head-spaces of everyone on the UX team; to connect the dots of each player involved; to cut through the seeming demands of every product manager, marketer and stakeholder; to navigate the sitemaps, UI, bootstraps, calls to action, et al; and to have a seat at the same table as anyone else strategizing and managing the experience. They have an essential role on how to thread the design to the content in ways that are smart, scalable, targeted and fits the user’s scenario at any given point.

A cursory search of “content architect” in Indeed gave me a few positions that have this title, but from what I had seen, it wasn’t in the specific context of User Experience. Most were fancy titles for copywriters, or had some sort of process management positions in an IT capacity.

The big difference, with what I’m proposing, is this: a Content Architect knows content is the lifeblood of the modern digital space, and pumps it through every artery of the experience.

 

Their deliverables would be similar to an Information Architect and a UX Research: flowcharts, user scenarios, personas and documentation that solve for tone and treatment.

Copy and content aren’t afterthoughts, but they’rebaseline to the product ecology.

CA’s would work directly with UXAs and developers on how to ensure there’s true content dynamism; and if there isn’t, they know how to fill in the gap. They’re smart, economical, and waste nothing. They understand how interactions, front end design patterns, and calls to action can influence the impressions of an end-user. And they leverage that.

In the same way a web design utilizes standards, templates, atomic design principles, so on, Content Architects incorporates intelligent content treatment. They get how content may (or may not) work in a given device based on context and treatment.

A Content Architect is inquisitively challenging how an organization writes, promotes and, simply, “does content.” Suppose someone in the company wants to do a blog. For what purpose? The CA would have direct access to the UX Manager, who in turn has access to the business roadmap. The CA would understand the opportunities to reach out their audience, and thenengage accordingly.

A Content Architect would have their ear to the rumblings of the customer base via access to the research, metrics, analytics and qualitative testing of the organization’s products/services.

Content Architects synthesize what the rest of the team learns, and finds a way to deliver the content in the best way possible.

 

A Content Architect doesn’t have to code. They’re not involved in marketingdirectly. But they understand how to treat content in dynamic digital experiences, and understand how to optimize content for marketing purposes.

A Content Architect would strategize, and implement, for every condition. Working with Information Architects (at large, their sister position), and with developers, a CA would assess how best to communicate directly with a user, and provide advisement when needed.

A Content Architect also educates other writers in the company on how to become more intelligent practictioners of their field in the digital space, in the same way a Visual Designer educates a print designer on how to design a webpage. Many of these writers would be coming from other spaces, much like a Visual/UX Designer comes from, say, print/brand. (Myself included.) Magazine writers would come to mind. These writers may have decades of experience writing. That’s perfect. They would only really need a few weeks to understand how to thread their work into the near-limitless liquidity of the online experience.

Any organization of any scale, size, or UX maturity would be served exceptionally well with this position.

Their training would be in a mix of human factors, marketing, with some basic understandings of logic and interactive design sprinkled in. It would be (should be) well compensated.

Best of all, they would provide what, in my experience, has been an immense organizational gap. Filling that gap would provide essential advocacy for the immense potential of a fully actualized, UX-centric organization; and, as a result, provide growth and job security.

It would also help make my job as a UX designer easier, by amplifying the experience to which I design. I would have a field day with a Content Architect — every day I work.