Are you a new UX designer feeling weighed down by the need to develop and manage content as part of your deliverables? Or have you ever had that feeling that your design team is treating content as an afterthought in the design process?

Well, here's the truth: content is essential to creating great UX design. While clients and stakeholders may offer their input for content, well-researched user needs often lead to the most helpful and purposeful user experiences.

This is where content design comes in. 

Keep reading as we delve into the core principles and processes of content design as a discipline. After reading this guide, you'll have a clearer understanding of content design's impact on the overall user experience. 

If you're looking to dip your toes into content design, this guide is also an excellent starting point. 

What is content design: Design through the lens of language

Content design is about meeting user needs with insightful, timely, and helpful information. Sarah Winters, a content design thought leader, coined the term "content design." Essentially, this practice involves using research and data to create content that meets the audience's needs at the right time and in a way that’s easy for them to understand. 

"The main difference between many other forms of writing and content design is that content designers generally don't move without research. It can be desk research, usability research, expert research, any kind of research really but there has to be data and evidence of what the audience wants and needs," explains Sarah.

Becky Houlding, former content designer at Deliveroo and senior UX writer at Spotify, further explains:

"So what is it we specialize in? Figuring out the information people need to solve a problem and complete a task. The essential information. Not what we want them to know, but what they need to know."

Meanwhile, Meta, in a content designer job listing, describes the practice as “approaching design through the lens of language”. 

Content design

Is UX writing and content design the same? 

Both UX writing and content design aim to create user-focused content for digital products, but some professionals in the industry highlight subtle distinctions between the two.

For instance, here's what Sarah has to say when asked about how UX writing differs from content design:

“A lot of people will see UX writing as micocopy in transactions. They don't do long-form copy. So, they won't do information pages, they won't do selling pages, they won't do landing pages, they don't do any of that. They just do microcopy in transactions. And for some people, that's what a UX Writer is.

This is where the confusion comes.

Content Design, as a term, was used for the British Government at the time as I wanted to change the conversation around what we were doing. UX writing wasn't prevalent then and it wasn't relevant for us because we were doing more than microcopy. More than tools and transactions. I wanted Content Designers to understand the whole journey. Do all the data, do all the evidence, be present in the research process. Understand all of that information and then pull it across to wherever it needs to be in the user's journey.”

Meanwhile, Karen McGrane, content strategist and website accessibility advocate, has this to say when asked whether a content designer is what UX writers are called now:

"Content Design is a term from the UK. It was popularized by Sarah Winters and Gov.UK was one of the prominent case studies. UX Writing is more commonly used in the US, and I prefer it, because it forms a nice triad with UX Design and UX research.

The field of writing for and about user interfaces is not new. Variously in my career the field has encompassed technical writing/communication; information architecture; content strategy; now content design and UX writing. Content management is a related but foundationally relevant discipline.”

With these two perspectives, you might be asking: What exactly is the difference between UX writing and content design? And where does content strategy fit in?

Kristina Halvorson, recognized as one of the most important voices in content strategy, explains the distinctions well, including how content strategy differs from the two disciplines too:

“When we tackle content at the product design level, specifically, there really are three levels of content activities that are happening:

Product content strategy is like the choreographer or the gatekeeper that oversees the function in the world of content, not only across product teams, but also making sure that voice, tone, messaging, the actual asset of the content as a product is in harmony with what's happening over in marketing, what's happening over in support, what's happening with technical content management, etc.

Content design is the set of activities that's very closely partnered with product strategy and design, thinking through requirements and features with a variety of stakeholders and users.

UX writing as a function is the actual ‘pen to paper’. Where we are actually choosing the words. And this happens on the ground with active design, typically in sprints.

So what's important to know, in my opinion, is that content strategy, content design, and UX writing are sets of activities and areas of accountability. They are not necessarily job titles that should be treated as precious, immoveable monikers. And so at any given time, someone who is doing content design can also be doing UX writing, and can also be practicing content strategy.

Here is where I land. Do I think that UX writing is an important, discrete set of activities and area of accountability? Yes. Do I think that UX writing should be sitting on its own as a field of practice, apart from content design or content strategy? I do not.” 

From these points of view, we can conclude that focusing on these disciplines' functional roles is more important in creating a seamless and valuable user experience, rather than getting hung up on specific labels.

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What does a content designer do? 

Now that we've cleared the confusion between content design and other relevant disciplines, you’re probably wondering: what does a content designer typically do? 

To answer this question, we turn to job listings.  

Here's one from Meta, where the content designer is expected to design and create: 

  • Product flows

  • New features

  • In-product language

  • Content frameworks

  • Navigational nomenclature

  • Terminologies and taxonomies

  • Product names for various platforms, including mobile, desktop, AR/VR, hardware, and voice

Content design job description

And here's another job listing posted by the Australia Gas Light Company (AGL) where the content designer is responsible for creating compelling content that enhances the digital experience for AGL customers. In this role, the focus is on “driving acquisition service outcomes aligned with business objectives”. 

Content design

Finally, here's a job listing for a senior content designer role at the HM Land Registry in the UK. In this role, the content designer is expected to take a data-driven approach to understanding users and turn content concepts into user-centered services. The position requires close collaboration with other UX team members like senior user researchers, service designers, and interaction designers across various projects and services.

Content design

This video by Yvonne Xiao, an Uber content designer, provides a glimpse into the life of a content designer working remotely.

Embedded video

Why is content design important to UX? 

Content design is like a glue that holds user needs, business goals, and the overall user experience together.

How is this so?

"Our job is to help users accomplish goals on an interface by providing them with the right guidance at the right time. Unlike visual designers, content designers are not responsible for the graphic layout or the look and feel of a given interface – instead, we own what we call the conversation between product and user along each journey to ensure that the user has all the information they need to reach their goal," describes Alice Bracchi, former content designer at Cloudflare when she explained how content design is more than just writing.

One key aspect of content design's contribution to designing helpful, purposeful UX is understanding user needs and goals through UX research. Content designers collaborate with UX researchers and designers to learn about user needs, motivations, and challenges. The insights gathered from user research will then guide the content development process, including the type, format, and tone of the content.

"In partnership with visual designers, [content designers] sketch out user flows and wireframes. Only as a last step do they sit down and write," Alice shares. 

Key principles of content design

The key principles of UX design and content design share a common foundation: putting user needs at the forefront. You’ll recognize good content design through application of the following principles. 


  • Research: Conduct user research to understand user needs, goals, and pain points.

  • User testing: Test content with users to ensure it's clear, usable, and meets their needs.

A good example is when a software company conducts user testing to improve the clarity and usability of its product documentation.


  • Meaning: Use simple, direct language that's easy for users to understand. Avoid jargon or overly technical terms.

  • Structure: Organize content logically and use clear headings, subheadings, and visual cues to guide the user's eye.

For example, a health insurance company website uses plain language to explain complex terms and concepts, making it easy for users to understand their coverage options.


  • Fact-checking: Make sure all information is accurate, up-to-date, and reliable.

  • Consistency: Maintain consistency in language, tone, and formatting throughout the content.

As an example, an online banking app provides clear and accurate account balances and transaction histories, giving users confidence in the bank. 


  • Relevance: Tailor content to the specific needs and goals of the user.

  • Personalization: When possible, personalize content to create a more relevant experience for each user.

A good example is when a travel booking website displays personalized recommendations based on the user's past searches and interests.


Make content easy for users to discover and access – both within a specific platform or interface and through external search engines. This is important because users can't interact with or benefit from content they can't find.

  • Navigation and labeling: Clear menu structures, relevant headings, and descriptive labels help users locate specific information quickly.

  • Search functionality: An effective search bar with relevant filters and suggestions allows users to find what they need even if they don't know the exact wording.

  • Content hierarchy and information architecture: Organizing content logically and progressively, from general to specific, guides users through the information they need.

  • Search engine optimization: Using relevant keywords in titles, meta descriptions, and headers makes content discoverable in search engine results. 

  • Link building: Establishing connections with other high-quality websites helps search engines understand the relevance and value of your content.

  • Structured data: Adding schema markup to your content provides search engines with additional context and improves search results.

A good example is when the product listings on an ecommerce website have detailed descriptions, images, and filters to make it easy for users to find specific items.


  • Accessibility: Design content and deliver information that's accessible to users of various abilities. 

  • Cultural sensitivity: Be mindful of cultural differences and avoid language that could be offensive or exclusionary.

  • Internationalization: Adapting content for different languages and cultural contexts ensures a smooth and localized user experience across global audiences.

A government website that offers content in multiple languages and provides options for users with visual impairments is a good example. 

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What’s the content design process like? 

It's helpful to have an idea of what the content design process is like to gain a better understanding of how it works. Plus, it helps content designers become more involved even at the start of the design process (which is highly recommended!).

“It’s true that organizations are looking at content designers as a necessity, but they often have no idea what to do with us. They don’t know when in the design process to involve us and what the best methods are for engagement in an increasingly remote work environment,” writes Heather Hamilton McBride, a senior content designer. “Chaos reigns when you don’t have a content design process.”

Here are the key steps of the content design process, as highlighted by Sarah Winters. 

1. Research

In the research phase, gather relevant data to understand user behaviors, preferences, and pain points. This may involve analyzing user feedback, conducting design surveys, and studying analytics to identify patterns and trends.

2. Define user needs

The next step is identifying and defining user needs based on your research findings. Determine what aspects of the content are most crucial for fulfilling user goals. User or job stories are great tools you can use at this point in the process. 

3. Channel and journey mapping

Map out the user journey across different channels (e.g. website, mobile app) and touchpoints. Identify key interactions and decision points throughout the user's experience. This step helps visualize the user's path and ensures a cohesive content strategy across all platforms.

4. Take language and emotion into account

Pick the language that resonates with the target audience and aligns with the brand's tone. In addition, consider the emotional impact of the content. For instance, a charity website might use compassionate language to evoke empathy and encourage donations.

5. Content creation

Develop content based on the insights gained from previous steps. It's worth noting that content here doesn't just mean texts or words. The piece of content your user needs could be a visual, video, or even a voice memo. 

6. Share and gather feedback

Collect feedback through content crits to make sure that the content aligns with organizational goals and user expectations.

A Pro tip from Heather for this step of the process:

This is a great time to iron out points of friction as the copy becomes more permanent. I prefer a casual review cycle where work is looked over on a weekly basis with one or two formal reviews. Points where testing is needed is easier to identify while everyone is looking over the copy and different interpretations occur. As the writer, I make sure I document every decision that affects the content and make the documentation accessible to the designers and product managers.”

7. Iteration

Based on the feedback received, iterate on the content design. Make necessary adjustments to improve clarity, address concerns, and enhance the overall user experience. Iteration is a crucial step for continuous improvement, ensuring that ‌content remains relevant and effective over time.

Remember, the content design process is a continuous loop. Each step informs the next, and you may revisit earlier stages based on your findings.

In addition, the process may not look the same for all organizations. While the core steps outlined previously (research, user needs, etc.) remain broadly applicable, the details and emphasis of each stage can vary based on several factors like:

  • Organization size and structure

  • Industry and business goals

  • Resources available

For comparison, here's a quick look of the content design process at two different organizations:

Where to learn more about content design

Below are some good sources of information if you or anyone in your team wants to learn more about the ins and outs of content design.

Blogs and websites

Notable articles and guides



Elevate your content design practice with Lyssna

Content design isn't just about writing witty error messages. It's the invisible hand that guides users through your product, builds trust, and turns them into loyal customers. This is accomplished through research and analytics, developing content and messaging that resonate with users, and making every interaction friction-free for users. 

With Lyssna’s user research platform, you'll have access to valuable insights through user research and analytics. You'll be able to create user-centric, data-driven content that aligns with your audience's needs and expectations. And the best part? You’ll get valuable insights at every stage of the content design process, from initial ideation to iteration. 


Kai has been creating content for healthcare, design, and SaaS brands for over a decade. She also manages content (like a digital librarian of sorts). Hiking in nature, lap swimming, books, tea, and cats are some of her favorite things. Check out her digital nook or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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