The content designer role is multifaceted, and it is hardly shocking that the skillset it requires is changing dynamically.
New entrants in the content design landscape often get confused when looking at job descriptions about what skills they need to build to become masterful content designers. Hence, in this article, we talk about the top essential skills you must have to succeed as a content designer and how you can build them.
If you want to learn via video, then watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead.
Content Design Skills
Research is one of the foundational phases for every content designer, no matter the product they work with. Solid research helps content designers work more effectively and create better strategies. Such aspects increase the chances of the final creations fulfilling user needs and satisfying business expectations.
Content design research mainly focuses on the product and the users it wishes to target. The process will involve you to:
- look through competitors
- learn from competitor's good and bad decisions
- study the overall market dynamics.
It also focuses on understanding the user and their needs more intimately through surveys and interviews.
For a more specific look into what you'll be encountering when building strong content design research skills, go through the aspects below:
- Understand Business Goals: Your research process will require you to comprehend the product's business outcomes you wish to achieve. Understanding this aspect will affect how effective your final content design is.
- Possess Adequate Data Analysis Skills: Research is all about gathering, analyzing, and understanding data. To derive valuable insights from your research, you need proper data analysis skills.
- Develop and Test User Behavior Assumptions: Seasoned content designers like to begin with a set of assumptions about the user before surveying them. As this hones your understanding of the user demographic, you need to learn how to create realistic user behavior assumptions and test them appropriately.
- Use Necessary Survey Tools: Since user research is an integral part of content designer research, you need to know the right tools to gather and aggregate survey data.
- Apply Research Findings to Content Ideation: Once you are satisfied with the research and have enough insights, you need to apply them effectively. Your content strategies need to be informed by the research and derived insights.
Make sure to practice your research and analytical skills on practice scenarios as you train to become a talented content designer.
Content designers have to employ strategic thinking to create different kinds of content. Therefore, the role involves a lot of writing, and that too for varying needs. You need to sharpen your language skills and spend time improving your writing skills if you wish to succeed as a content designer.
Apart from writing content according to the content design strategy, your user research will also require effective writing to communicate insights. Some content designer roles require you to occasionally handle a few UX writing responsibilities. Your language skills will also come into play for clear team communication. Therefore, having impressive writing skills is crucial for every content designer.
The following aspects give you a deeper look into what particular attributes you need to ensure in your written content:
- Clear Voice and Style: Successful writing conveys powerful ideas straightforwardly and directly. Your writing style needs to be succinct and clear.
- Balance of Technical and Non-Technical Words: Content design involves jargon which seems unnecessary in some cases and is indispensable in others. Your writing needs to strike a balance suited to the particular scenario, for example, when communicating to students using a budgeting app.
- Informative and Detailed: Content design is about writing helpful and insightful content. However, you need to ensure that it isn't detail-heavy and hinders the user experience.
- Conveys Design Elements and Strategy: Content design strategies provide all the information about making user-centered content. Therefore, your writing needs to convey design philosophies and choices while making their importance clear.
- Adaptable to User Kind: Different content design roles involve creating content for various user kinds. Your writing needs to be the right fit for the type of user demographic you are focusing on.
Your writing skills are crucial for your content design career. Therefore, you will have to maintain a portfolio of your written works to showcase your talent when pursuing lucrative content design opportunities.
Logical Problem-Solving Skills
No matter what kind of products they are working on, all content designers constantly engage in problem-solving. The research phase helps you accumulate the foundational set of problems you need to solve. Afterward, you will come up with intelligently designed content that addresses the very core of the issues.
Some essential questions that you need to develop a keen sense of problem-solving for are given below:
- What kind of user experience would the average user expect from the product?
- Is the content needed for navigating around the product? Or is it part of the knowledge that the product's trying to transfer to the user?
- What features can further enrich the user's content experience?
- Is some content only targeting a specific user need, or can it address other diverse user needs?
These are only some examples of the problems you will be addressing as a content designer.
The content you design and develop will have to enable rapid delivery of solutions to such problems and more. Therefore, logical problem-solving is a crucial ability you need to build. There are several ways of familiarizing yourself with content design problems and learning how to design their solutions. Some of them are as follows:
- Go through case studies and analyze the problem-solving processes experienced content designers follow.
- Read through literature by diverse content designers and learn how each addresses problems based on the different contexts.
- Practical experiences, such as internships, offer you the opportunity to shadow professionals as they engage in content design problem-solving in real-time.
As you get in the habit of understanding problems and working for their solutions, the answers will come through more easily than before.
Like any other creative field, collaboration is vital for quality content design. Content designers consistently work with technical and non-technical professionals to create successful user-centered content. You will need impeccable communication and management skills to add to your credibility as a content designer.
Content designers work with personnel from a diverse variety of fields. Some of them are given below:
- UX writers
- UI designers
- User researchers
- Content managers
- Business advisor
Since the content designer role involves working with different roles, the absence of adequate communicative abilities will create enormous challenges. Therefore, you will need to invest time and effort into becoming better and managing and communicating with other professionals associated with your projects.
Take a look at the aspects given below to understand what you need to ensure while developing effective communication abilities:
- Communicate Constantly: You need to establish consistent communication with all stakeholders to ensure everyone's on the same page. When everyone is well-aware of project updates, it helps maintain productivity and accommodate any challenges.
- Use Appropriate Modes of Communication: Modern teams now use a range of communication and collaboration teams to maximize productivity. However, choosing a suitable medium can get tricky, and you will have to select the proper mode of communication to ensure clear delivery.
- Be Aware of Collaboration Strategies: You can use a collaboration framework when working with teams as a content designer. Strategies like Agile are famous for boosting productivity, and you should know the right ones to employ for improved collaboration.
With the right set of collaborative skills, you can solidify your reputation as an experienced content designer and ensure that your content comes to life exactly as you envisioned it.
The design in content design doesn't only refer to visual content creation. It refers to designing the content strategically and intelligently to serve multiple purposes. The content designer aims to add value to the user experience, and it does so by taking a smart approach towards the content involved.
Since it involves strategizing the use of content to suit a product's user's needs, the content designer role is also referred to as content strategist. You will need to learn the details of choosing the right content design based on the scenario. Additionally, you will need to put your technical knowledge to practice and better understand what works and what doesn't.
You will need to keep the aspects given below in focus if you wish your content design to be effective and stand out amongst a sea of competition:
- Make Content Multipurpose: Quality content design involves making content that serves varied user needs. Your content design needs to build in choice in pieces of content, so you don't have to accommodate different user needs separately.
- Take Data-driven Design Choices: Data has become the most powerful commodity globally. By making your content design strategy data-driven, you increase the chance of its effectiveness and gain confidence from important stakeholders.
- Ensure Your Content Design Is User-Centered: Content design strategies can get complex, and you lose track of what matters the most: users. You must continuously ensure your content design serves the user's needs without obstacles.
- Develop Strategies That Incorporate Feedback: Even the best strategies made by experienced content designers and backed by research can potentially fail. However, incorporating feedback means going through iterations and improving your design with time.
- Design For Experiences: Instead of creating content that fulfills individual user needs, focus on the user experience as a whole. The best content designers advise that the best work of content design arises when you understand the user's needs and the user experience they wish to have.
Design is a subjective matter, and it may take some time before you develop a unique sense of content design. However, you must be consistent and keep practicing to hone your content design abilities.
Like other design philosophies, content design isn't just theoretical. It requires you to communicate your design ideas and strategies to fellow stakeholders and test them out as well. Content designers fulfill these aspects by creating tentative examples of their content design choices called prototypes.
With prototypes, you create a rough example of how your content design strategy will look and feel after implementation. It allows you to improve your strategy and include aspects that you might have previously missed. Additionally, non-technical stakeholders can better understand the content design philosophy and contribute their suggestions.
You will need to become familiar with the right prototyping tools and practice developing prototypes with different scenarios. Some popular prototyping tools are:
- Adobe XD
- UX Pin
These tools help efficiently create mockups and design content workflows.
You also need to be familiar with different approaches to prototyping within content design. One such methodology is a content-first design that instructs you to start with content. You move on to develop your design and product features around the content so that your content takes center stage.
However, such an approach is more well-suited to content-intensive products like websites and blogs. Therefore you need to know what techniques to use given a particular scenario.
Build Your Content Design Abilities
Now that you know the set of crucial skills you need to work on and develop to become a talented content designer, you also need to see the roadmap.
As you saw, the skillset for the content designer role involves diverse abilities. If you venture out without a learning plan, you will end up wasting a lot of time and effort.
The critical details of the roadmap to becoming a content designer are described below:
- Have a Bachelor's Education: Not required, but many content designer roles require a minimum Bachelor's education. A degree in relevant majors like communication design, web design, and UX design is more beneficial.
- Study Different Courses and Certifications: You need to take quality content design courses to have the necessary technical knowledge. Pursuing certifications will help prove your experience and abilities and are often seen as more valuable than a degree.
- Research and Learn From Professionals: Follow the leading content designers in the industry on different platforms. Go through the literature they post and understand what knowledge a professional content designer ought to have.
- Gain Crucial Practical Experience: You will have to gain relevant technical experience and knowledge through a practical opportunity. Pursue internships and part-time jobs so you can achieve the necessary expertise required for a full-time position.
- Stay Updated About The Field: The content designer industry is dynamic. Keep in touch with new developments and see if you need to learn any new skills to stay relevant.
Build your content design and UX writing skills with out detailed professional UX writing certification course:
The list of abilities you will need to build to become a content designer is described above in detail.
However, every content designer aims to serve and advocate for users' needs. They extensively study and design content around these needs.
Therefore, if you wish to become a successful content designer, make sure you always prioritize the user experience.
If you are new to UX writing and are looking to break-in, we recommend taking our UX Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of being a UX writer, how to dominate UX writer interviews, and how to stand out as a UX writing candidate.
Josh is the founder of Technical Writer HQ and Squibler, a writing software. He had his first job in technical writing for a video editing software company in 2014. Since then, he has written several books on software documentation, personal branding, and computer hacking. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.