Strategic Content Design with Erica Jorgensen

The Interface: Strategic Content Design with Erica Jorgensen

What does strategic content design look like in practice? Erica Jorgensen joins Patrick on the podcast to advocate for research and testing throughout the design process.

The Interface is a brand-new podcast exploring trends and hot topics for UX content people.

Erica Jorgensen is one of the most accomplished content designers in our industry. A senior content design manager at Microsoft and now at Chewy, Erica wrote a book that comes with a key message: you should be more strategic with your content design work.

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Episode transcript

Patrick Stafford: [00:00:00] The title of your book, Strategic Content Design. I’m a big fan of anything that attempts to quantify or at least put into some sort of strategic framework, content design, rather than something ephemeral and…I was going to say airy-fairy, but hand-wavy. It’s interesting because, you know, it kind of implies that you can do content design without strategy. So I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you came up with this title. Like, why this? Why did you decide to focus on strategic content design as the title for this book?

Erica Jorgensen: [00:00:46] Well, the title was a late-breaking change. I had originally been focusing on “Content Research for User Experience” as the title because so much of the book is focused on research techniques to improve your content. But one of my testimonial writers, Kristina Halvorson, who of course is known for the Button conference, Confab, Content Strategy for the Web, and Brain Traffic. She was writing her blurb for the back of the book and said, no, no, no, no, no. You must include content design in the title. She was pretty adamant about it because so much of it was focused on content design. And there are so few books out these days right now about content design. She felt very strongly that it ought to be included in the title, and I took a step back and rethought it. And, you know, there’s so much promotion in the work, so many promotions in the works and other things that were dependent on the title and the artwork and all that. And I was like, I don’t think we can change the title now. It’s too late. But I had added so much about content design best practices before I got into the research part of the book. I was like, you know, Kristina is totally right. So had to chat with my publisher, Lou Rosenfeld, and my editor, Marta Jurdak, and I said, can we? Can we change the title? And they said, Yeah, I think you raise a point. Can you do content design in a non-strategic way? I hope not. I hope not. I mean, I think of what goes on in the minds of all the content designers I know and those who I work with and who I have worked with in my career. Everyone is strategic, so it does feel almost redundant. But I also hope that people outside of the content world, whether they’re product managers, product designers, content marketers, or engineers, I’m hearing from many engineers who are reading the book, which warms my heart. I hope that they get a better understanding of the scope and breadth and depth of content design from the book.

Patrick Stafford: [00:02:41] Why did you feel the need to write this book? Because something that we hear from people who enroll in some of our courses, including our content research courses, is that they have this sense of testing for general principles, but they don’t necessarily have a really good idea about how to test for content. I’m wondering, is that the same motivation that led you to write this book, or what was your journey?

Erica Jorgensen: [00:03:14] It was definitely more focused. Yeah, definitely focused more on, hey, you might work in a content role. You can and should…I would say that’s a strong word, but I’d say I highly recommend you embark on some content research efforts to make your content work better, to make your user experience work better. And I didn’t intend on writing a book. I’d ghostwritten a few books early on in my career, some travel books when I was in my 20s. So I have written books before and I know all that goes into them. It’s a lot of work. But one of my Microsoft coworkers, Tom Reising, I had done many workshops across Microsoft on how to do content research, and we were fortunate to have lots of access to at Microsoft, lots of people had licenses and were able to use online survey tools like UserTesting to do the work. And he was just joking and said, Well, Erica, you could do these workshops in your sleep. You’ve given so many of them. There’s so much material here. You know, it’s more than just an hour’s worth. Like there’s a lot to cover. You could probably write a book about this.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:04:18] And this is right in the middle of COVID. This is probably peak COVID in the US, in early 2021. I’d been just giving lots and lots of workshops across the company, not just for my user experience and content design team, but other teams at Microsoft and the whole company, sometimes for the whole company design week and things like that. I just kind of brushed him off, but then thought about it and I said, you know, a book could be helpful. I’ve written some blog posts, including for you and UX Content Collective, that got a lot of traction and a lot of readership. But I thought…writing a book sounds kind of daunting, but if I can’t go to concerts, if I can’t see my family and travel, I might as well write a book. So the timing was just right and there was a lot of demand. You know, a PowerPoint is only useful to a point. Having a lot of explication in book format, something that people said, yeah, I could use that and I would read that.

Patrick Stafford: [00:05:21] So I rewatched all of Lost and you wrote a book.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:05:25] I also rewatched Lost. You know, I tried to take a break. I had a very ambitious original schedule for my deadlines and writing, which I did not quite accomplish. I think I overestimated how writing, you know, working full-time and writing a book, that’s also a full-time job. So I stretched out the writing a little bit longer than I had intended, but I too did watch Lost and some Alias. I also rewatched some Alias, which is hilarious and quite gripping. I also recommend that if someone’s going to binge episodes. Yeah. Jennifer Garner. Oh gosh. Jennifer Garner in Alias. And Bradley Cooper is also an Alias.

Patrick Stafford: [00:06:04] Oh, blast from the past.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:06:06] Yeah. Yeah, definitely. A lot of folks got their start on Alias.

Patrick Stafford: [00:06:12] So let’s break this down because I think a lot of content designers would think, okay, well, I think I’m strategic, right? I’m taking part in usability testing or perhaps they’re watching on while they have a dedicated UX research team or if they’re doing things by themselves, they’re trying to prove results as best they can. It seems like the message of your book is that what they’re doing is good, but there’s a lot more that they could be doing. So what’s the message here? What is strategic content design and how do you do it?

Erica Jorgensen: [00:06:52] I think the main message of my book is you can be digging into your words and phrases and messages more deeply than you are. I think it’s great if you have the luxury, I guess I stumble on that word to describe when you have a usability researcher on your team, it shouldn’t be a luxury, but it often is a luxury. We don’t often have a usability researcher as part of our core UX team. I feel like it’s like content. There are often not enough people in that role to go around. But as a content designer, how do you know what words are working? You probably have a good idea because you are a good writer and you’re close to the customer. Maybe you’re working with your voice of customer team, but the words that appear over and over on your website or app often are assumed to be clear and effective. I guess the technique that I would recommend is testing parts in isolation (TPI). Test your words in isolation from your design. That doesn’t often happen when you’re working with a UX researcher. They’re often doing system usability scale or system ease score that looks at the design and content in tandem, which is a great thing to do. I don’t want to put down UX research whatsoever. It’s so valuable. But if you take a step back and say, how do we know the words are clear? How do we know the words are effective? How do we know what emotions are being elicited by the words? That’s when really interesting things bubble up.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:08:26] And that’s when you have these gobsmacking moments of, oh my gosh, I was assuming this word was clear. It turns out it’s not. Or I was assuming this was understandable. It turns out it’s not. And then when you find out the why, when you combine the quantitative research of what is going on with the qualitative research of why is this happening, it’s very humbling. It’s very empowering, and it has a huge impact on your customer’s experience, on your business’ bottom line, and if you clarify those words, if you improve those words and replace them with things that are more clear or in some cases extra content to explain what’s going on. Sometimes you need to provide definitions and explanations so the customer knows what on earth is happening. That’s when you get a lot of impact. I have a lot of dollar bill signs in my book. My coworker at Microsoft, Trudy, improved Microsoft’s invoices and she’s saving the company $2 million a year because she did a little research to understand what was missing, what was clear, what was not, and what were the gaps. That is digging into the content by itself is really, really smart and really, really effective.

Patrick Stafford: [00:09:39] Absolutely. So we recently did a salary survey and one of the things we asked was not just about salary, but also about what are the biggest challenges you have at work. And by far, the biggest challenge people have is having influence and demonstrating impact. And we also asked people and we had nearly 600 responses. So it’s a pretty wide dataset around the world. And we asked people, who do you collaborate with the most? And then we broke that down by years of experience and we found that content designers at the beginning of their careers tend to collaborate most with product managers and other designers, which makes sense. Then as they grow in their career and they become more experienced and they take on roles, senior, lead, director, they collaborate more with UX researchers. I think this makes sense because if you want to demonstrate impact and you want to grow into more senior roles, you need to demonstrate impact. And UX research plays a huge role in that. I think one of the challenges content designers have is they understand, cool, I need to test the words, but as I’m sure you’ve discovered, if you go into a usability test and you ask people, what do you think of these words, the responses are usually underwhelming because people don’t really know how to describe how they feel about a certain phrase, or they can’t necessarily pinpoint what about that phrase is making them feel uneasy or doesn’t really work properly.

Patrick Stafford: [00:11:26] And that’s not because they are not intelligent enough or something. It’s just something they don’t think about every day. If you’re a content designer, you think about words every day. Most people don’t. They’re thinking about other things. So what are some techniques…I don’t want you to give away all the secrets in the book…but what are some techniques or some tools that you’ve discovered in your own career that can help people understand the feedback people are giving about the text in designs and to actually help pinpoint some of the issues that they can address in their designs.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:12:05] People often take a little while to warm up when you’re doing research with participants, it can take them a while to warm up and feel comfortable or they might have difficulty articulating what they’re feeling. I do think that a fill-in-the-blank sort of question can be very, very telling. If you ask someone what word would you use to describe X, Y, Z, and maybe that’s a feature in your site or a functionality or some sort of functionality on your app or website. Ask people what would you call that? And without any suggestions, just fill in the blank and see. Do they struggle? Do they come up with something right away and go, oh, blah, blah, blah. How confident are they in their response? I think there’s that. You can see with video recordings of participants whether they look confident, whether they’re smiling, whether they have that air about them that they feel like they’ve got it or do they scratch their forehead? Do they rub their chin? Are they struggling? Does it take them a while to provide an answer? That tells you a lot too, not just the response, but how they respond. And then if you ask them why? That’s once again, you get all sorts of insights, the golden nuggets of the content research.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:13:26] I think another technique I would recommend is. Sometimes you can use a multiple-choice question and provide a few sample answers and then a fill-in-the-blank, so you get the juices flowing. The bias, there’s always bias. And say you have three responses, and then the fourth response is a fill-in-the-blank. You’re going to get a skew to your responses. If people are like, oh yeah, I like A or I like B, but the fill in the blank. You’re going to find a lot of really interesting responses from people. Another quick suggestion I would have is if there’s a word that you’re using on your site, whether it’s for your core product or feature the words that appear, I call it the most important content words that you use all the time, the words that you type every day that are in all your sprint stories. You know, these things that pop up time and time again. Ask your customers to define that in their own words. And it reminds me of high school or junior high where you’d have a quiz, you’d have a pop quiz, and you’re like, oh, no, not a pop quiz. You’d be given these words, you know, it might be a vocabulary test. You can spell the word, but can you use it in a sentence? Can you use it in a sentence confidently that conveys that you clearly know its meaning and intent?

Erica Jorgensen: [00:14:42] If you got it, if you’re confident about that, boom, you get 100%. If you get half, if you get 50%. If you get half off of that response, you’re not confident. And that’s a signal to you as a content designer to dig in a little bit and figure out, what would make it more effective? What would make my customers more confident as they’re using my app or website or whatever the experience may be? I often use that partial credit kind of question. The qualitative responses are always, always just remarkable when you truly understand what’s going on in your customers’ heads. An example I provide in the book of that is at Premera Blue Cross, it’s a health insurance company. Health insurance in the United States is just fraught with anxiety and complexity. We had gold, silver, and bronze healthcare plans for sale during a very short window, like an eight-week window. And we noticed that nobody was buying the Silver Plan. Something like a handful of customers were buying the Silver Plan. The Gold Plan was very expensive, as you might imagine. The Bronze Plan was more affordable, but didn’t give you many options in terms of flexibility for going to the doctor or hospital you wanted.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:15:57] But we wanted to sell Silver Plans because we knew those customers would be more likely to renew at the end of the year when you only have one chance to make your selection for your health insurance plan and then you’re stuck with it for a whole year. We ask people which would they be likely to buy bronze, silver, or gold? Very simple question. And a lot of people chose bronze if they couldn’t afford it or, you know, were very unlikely to go to the doctor or they would choose gold if they had chronic health conditions. But very few people chose silver. And when we asked them why, people said, well, silver, I don’t have silver hair. I don’t need a Medicare plan, which in the United States is for people over 65. People said, no, silver is not for me. But these plans had nothing to do with Medicare. They were for people specifically under 65. But the word silver was loaded. Anyone who’s seen the Olympics would know gold, silver, bronze, easy peasy. No, not in the mental model for our customers. There was confusion and friction in the customer’s mental model because the other ten months of the year we did sell Medicare plans on the homepage so they had it in their head.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:17:12] Oh, Premera sells Medicare plans. Silver is for, you know, silver hair. Centrum Silver is a vitamin brand in the United States for people who are of a certain age. Silver to our customers was something that evoked, I don’t want to say elderly, older, older, you know, being over 65. And so we had to add content to the home page explaining silver plans are Affordable Care Act plans. They are like gold and bronze plans. If you want a Medicare plan, click here to send them to the other part of the website that for the other remaining part of the year does sell Medicare plans. So it was gobsmacking to understand that the word silver was unclear to our customers when we assumed it was not. And that was that. Talk about impact. Like that was a moment when content saved the day. The CEO was very upset about how we weren’t selling silver plans. And once we added a line of content to the home page and then subsequently to social media posts, radio ads, and other instances where we were selling our products, it clarified to the customer exactly what they needed, what they should do. And so the Silver Plan started selling immediately after we added a line of content to explain what was up.

Patrick Stafford: [00:18:37] The success of what you just described, I think speaks to a little bit of the moment we find ourselves in right now. You and I just spoke a little bit about this before I started recording. But the content design industry right now is in a…I wouldn’t say state of flux…I think it’s having a moment. And not just us, but product managers and content researchers or UX researchers and a lot of other professions, proving profit right now is extremely important for a lot of organizations. A lot of companies have moved from a growth model to a profit model. And apart from those companies, there are many other organizations, you know, high-interest rates and tighter economic market. The pressure to show impact is now far greater than ever. And not just now. I know of at least two instances where companies have laid off content designers during reorganization efforts because they were unable to demonstrate exactly how to show their impact on the bottom line. Now, there is a school of thought that would say, well, how can you prove the impact of something that is so integral to your overall design? It’s kind of like saying, how can you prove the impact of having desks at work? Right? You know what I mean?

Erica Jorgensen: [00:20:16] Yeah, it’s fundamental.

Patrick Stafford: [00:20:19] Yeah. It’s a building block of what you’re doing. But I think the environment we find ourselves in makes it all the more crucial for content designers to be thinking about the questions you’re raising. I think one of the biggest questions that we hear from people is, okay, I’m doing these qualitative tests, but how am I supposed to…if I find things in those tests, how am I supposed to demonstrate that as some type of ROI equation. I don’t know how to think about this in terms of dollars or I don’t know how to think about this in terms of money being saved or time being saved. And yeah, I think a lot of content designers are looking for guidance in that way.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:21:10] I think, to make a sweeping generalization, I’d say a lot of content designers are unfortunately saddled with the task of doing office hours or work sessions where, you know, product managers, product designers who you don’t normally work with because there’s not enough of you come and ask for 15 minutes or half an hour of your time to problem solve a user experience and you’re supposed to fix (I’m using air quotes) fix the words in a very short period of time without much context, without much experience. You’re supposed to work magic. And to me, content office hours are…I struggle with them so much because it is great to meet other people on your team and to show the impact. You’re immediately showing that there’s work to be done on these user experiences that you’re fixing. But my recommendation to content designers is to take that time, whether it’s an hour a week, two hours a week, three hours a week, put that into content research to find these nuggets, these golden nuggets of insight that you find when you do the quantitative and qualitative research on the words. And you can partner with your customer service team to quantify that impact, to measure the impact in terms of dollar bill signs, whether it’s money earned or money saved. You know, your customer service team is often in the throes of…they know what your customers are calling in about or they know what they’re chatting using your chatbot or emailing in. They know what’s what about what customers are complaining about where the spikes are, things like that.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:22:47] They don’t often have time to come up for breath and say who in the company can fix this problem? They’re just heads down, cranking out, you know, talking to as many customers as they can in every hour in and out, day in and day out, trying to fix stuff, or trying to solve each individual customer’s problems. If you can show as a content designer that you fix something on the website or app that solves a problem like that, whether it’s improving an FAQ, improving the help content on your site, or clarifying something in a user flow that’s core to your business success. And you can mark the date down, was it June 12th that you made that improvement? Monitor that for a week or two and see if the volume of calls goes down. And it probably will. And then you can do the math. If it’s $75, say for example, it’s $75 per phone call if you think of the time spent from the customer service team to solve these problems and then follow up if there are subsequent questions and things like that. If you reduce the number of calls by 100 and it’s $75 a call, you’ve got some impact right there. And if that’s per day, then extrapolate that per week or per month or per year, you’re going to have a big chunk of change that you’re talking about that would get the attention of your senior leadership, the folks in charge of hiring, firing, determining layoffs and things like that.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:24:13] If you can show distinct impact on the customer experience, that’s awesome. If you can show improved revenue, whether it’s AB experiments or, you know, improved content, that’s also powerful. I’ll make a quick aside here. I do go on a little bit of a rant in my book about AB experimentation because everyone thinks it’s so cool that you get to statistical significance with your AB experiments. I recommend that you can inform your AB experiments through content research by getting smarter options for your test version of content or just throwing AB experiments out the window and using content research instead of AB experiments. Because content research can often be so much faster to get results and answers and insights than AB experiments if you don’t have a huge volume of visitors to your website or app and you’re sitting babysitting an AB experiment for who knows how long. You can expedite, you can boost the velocity to use an MBA term, if you want to make business impact faster, you can use content research to do that to figure out what words will be more engaging, attention-grabbing, more likely to prompt call CTR, click-through rate, which could probably lead to revenue or new accounts or whatever it is that your business is doing to make money. It’s a no-brainer. Every company should be doing content research if they value the strength of their business and the livelihood of their business.

Patrick Stafford: [00:25:45] I think the point you make about AB testing is a good one. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about AB testing and people are drawn to it because it is a concrete way to demonstrate whether content specifically has had an impact on revenue, profit, choose your metric here. But I think one of the interesting things I’ve found in my career is when I was at MYOB, there was a lot of AB testing going on and there would be tests where one of the options would clearly be a bad experience. Right? Or at least inferior, right? I’d be like, why can’t we just make this change? We have the one that’s better. Let’s just do it. We don’t necessarily have to quantify everything. And the answer is that in an environment that’s overly dependent on metrics or at least doesn’t understand the concept of AB testing as it should be, it’s all about proof, proof which one is better. But you know, as you just said, AB testing has to be informed by the quality of qualitative research that comes before. AB testing has a place, it’s for refinement, it’s for…we have two really good options here. You know, which one is our customers going to respond to.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:27:26] That’s exasperating. You should not AB test something that you know what the winner is going to be, it should be ambiguous. It should be, well, we can’t make a decision because we really don’t know. And if you’ve got, you know, who knows how much revenue riding on that decision. Of course there’s risk in launching content that hasn’t been proven. But I feel like there’s more risk in not moving fast. I have a mile-long backlog of things that I want to test and do research on to better know what’s going on in my customer’s heads. I could do only content research for my whole job. I feel like AB experimentation is very resource-intensive and time intensive. We’re not making a new COVID vaccine. I don’t feel like we need to get to statistical significance with website content, do we? With website design, do we really? I feel like it’s a crutch or has become a crutch. I’m trying to think of back when I first did AB experimentation, it’s probably like 15 years ago or so where, back in the day, I’m going to sound like a crotchety old grandma, back in the day when I worked at Amazon, the first time I was at Amazon, we did not have these tools. We had to rely on our instinct and our knowledge of the customer and our partnership with customer service to make informed decisions about what was right.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:28:46] And look, Amazon made a lot of money. They expanded a lot. They’re selling billions of dollars of stuff now. We did not have AB experimentation. We relied on our brains and our connection to the customer. So it feels like AB experiments, they have their time and their place. But again, the why, the qualitative, what’s going on here is completely missing from AB experiments and I feel like that’s disappointing. I love taking content research and then updating my style guides or my content design components or libraries with these insights from content research. It’s wonderful to be able to share that with your peers. I think that’s another pro to doing content research. And another thing is if you make reports, like I recommend in my book, you do a study or a test, you get the quantitative and the qualitative feedback and then you get these insights. When you publish those somehow across your company, whether it’s a wiki or however, however you’re able to share that with your peers, I love measuring how many people read that report. And there were some reports at Microsoft where I dug into the language in the Microsoft Office checkout flow. Talk about revenue, talk about stress.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:30:11] Business success hinging on customer success in that user flow. I dug into the words and I could see hundreds of Microsoft employees were reading my report. So not just me in the user experience, but people in marketing, people in public relations, people in all sorts of departments across the company were reading those reports and benefiting from them, benefiting from the clarity, benefiting from…don’t use this, use that. For example, if you’re describing Microsoft PowerPoint, people don’t necessarily know that that’s a program or an app that you use to make presentations. You need to describe it as a presentation app, not just call it PowerPoint, those little things that people are like, oh yeah, people know what that is. No, you know what that is because you work at Microsoft, your customers do not. You need to err on the side of meeting the customer where they’re at. Those insights are really powerful and valuable. And then people get talking about them. And then I feel like when you get like a buzz going around content research, people are waiting for your next study or waiting for your next report, it generates this wonderful, positive energy, this customer-centric way of working that can support more research and support more focus on content, which is desperately needed in so many companies right now.

Patrick Stafford: [00:31:35] I think one of the other challenges content designers have is, and particularly anyone who’s interested in language, you can be really tempted by exploratory research that has no goal or connection to anything that you’re doing. I think that’s because people who love words just love to understand how people are affected by them. How is user behavior affected by language? And so if you don’t have a connection to a specific product strategy, organizational goal, then it can become really difficult to articulate the benefit of what you’re doing. When I was at PwC in the digital consultancy, I could say a lot about PwC, but one of the things they were really good at was making people understand specifically what are the goals of the organization, at least the department, and what are we trying to do? And if you’re a content designer, then making sure that your testing processes and your individual tests are connected to those organizational goals and being able to articulate those in conversations with people, especially as you go higher up the organizational hierarchy.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:33:02] Mapping research to however you measure your success if it’s KPIS or OKRs, key performance indicators or objectives and key results. Yeah, that’s really, really smart. And there’s so much to be done. There are so many assumptions. Every step, everywhere you turn in our working lives in usability, we’re making lots and lots of assumptions. And you know what happens when you assume, it’s not a good thing. If we can truly understand. You can’t test every word, you can’t test every phrase or every message. I was looking at Microsoft Office, for example, like license or seat or even the word app, cloud storage, and megabyte, these things that we think are clear, they are not. And when you can explain what’s not clear or what is baffling or maddening or makes your customers feel stupid, that’s the worst. Making your customers feel like they can’t use your product. When you can elucidate and simplify. Simple language is another chunk of the book that I think using plain language is an underestimated tool. I think I blame Donald Trump. I think a lot of people are averse.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:34:31] Seriously, I heard this in some places I’ve worked where people did not want to use simple language because they did not want to be perceived as dumbing down the content, as if they were writing in Donald Trump style. I think that’s a thing, at least in the US. We definitely don’t want to talk like Donald Trump because he’s redundant. I think simple language, plain language is hard to accomplish, but a worthy thing. I think if you are using plain language throughout your user experience, you often don’t need necessarily to do content research, but who’s using plain language, who’s writing the content before the content team gets to it? You know, it’s PMs, people with MBAs, or maybe it’s your lawyers who have gone to law school. There are lots of big words and unclear words and marketing speak and smoke and mirrors and obfuscation on every app and website. I would love to see a website or app created entirely using the expertise of content designers. Show me that. Any listener who has something like that, I’d love to see. I would clap for that.

Patrick Stafford: [00:35:43] Have you seen those YouTube videos? I can’t remember who does it. It might be Wired or some other type of publication. They have these videos where they take a scientist or a subject matter expert and then they have that person explain a very complicated concept to several different people, but those people will be of different ages. So they’ll say like explaining quantum mechanics. And the first one will be to a five-year-old and then it’ll be a ten-year-old and then an 18-year-old, a 30-year-old, and then they’ll sort of end with someone who’s actually maybe a peer, like an industry peer. And as you watch them, you can see the conversations becoming more complex. And it’s really great, I love watching them because it’s such a great reminder that you don’t have to forego complicated concepts just because you’re using simple language. And I think one of the best, he isn’t a content designer or anything to do with design, But Michael Lewis who wrote Moneyball and the Big Short and a bunch of other really great books. I always recommend people read his stuff because to me he is one of those great writers who can write complicated subject matter, and describe it to you, but never make you feel stupid while you’re trying to learn it. And it is such a valuable skill.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:37:29] It’s a huge skill. We’ve got Pulitzer Prizes for explanatory journalism. Those are my favorite every year. I love to see those. It is Wired, I just did a quick web search. It’s Wired. You know, it doesn’t hurt to be simple. Think of all the energy we all need to get through every day. Why not be? Why not be helpful? Why not be clear and plainspoken and forthright, transparent, down to earth? You know, I think content research is something that’s great to do in partnership with your marketing team to help them understand that when we use vague terms or fluffy terms in our content, it hurts the customer experience, it hurts the business. Also partnering with your brand team, who’s coming up with your product names, your feature names? Sometimes it’s the product management team, but often it’s your brand team. If they can understand what’s clear and what’s not. Are there homophones? Homonyms? I’m thinking of Bard from Google. Like who came up with that? They obviously didn’t think about what could this be misconstrued as. Barred? When I heard of that product name, I just winced and thought, someone from content was not involved in the creation of this product name. Clearly.

Patrick Stafford: [00:38:49] I think one of the other examples there is Disney and not Disney specifically, but it’s so clear that their brand team is naming everything. So I went there last year with my family and you have to download the app now, the Disneyland app, to get a bunch of different features and stuff in the park. Everything is branded and influenced by their IP. So you get into the app and it’s like you have to buy the Genie Pass and it’s like, well, what does that tell me?

Erica Jorgensen: [00:39:27] Is that formerly known as the Fast Pass? I remember using a Fast Pass.

Patrick Stafford: [00:39:32] Then they also have things called lightning lanes which are the evolution of the Fast Pass I guess. But if you go into the app there are all these different branded terms. I had to go into a subreddit to understand what to do in order to use it. It’s clear that because their IP is so valuable, they want to use it wherever they can. But yeah, that team is naming stuff, which is as you say, the more you can collaborate with those types of teams, the more influence you can have.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:40:15] I think it’s really valuable. I really look back on some of my partnerships with marketing at Microsoft, like, hey, this landing page that you have that has all sorts of content on it that you think is great and premium and expressing value is actually intimidating and overwhelming and too much and people think it’s too expensive. They can’t afford it. Partnering with marketing and having the light bulb go off. It’s valuable. It’s time well spent. It’s really great. Thinking back to your Disney experience, I think of the localization or translation teams. At Microsoft, I think we translated into or localized into 45 languages. That’s a lot of work for a localization team, that’s expensive. I think content research can also help minimize the cost of goods sold by helping the localization team do their job in a more streamlined way. We’re talking about velocity again. Localization takes time. The more plain language you have simple, straightforward, and understandable language on your site or app, you’re going to benefit your localization team, which will then in turn benefit your customer service team again. If they’re not having to answer questions or people are not confused, it boosts customer loyalty too. When your language is clear because people who are confident and happy using your product and not encountering friction left and right are more likely to renew or be loyal customers and resubscribe or whatever your business model is. It’s just smart.

Patrick Stafford: [00:41:52] I want to pick up on a phrase you just mentioned there, and we’re coming to a close here soon, but you mentioned the phrase cost of goods sold. Anyone who’s run a business or taken part in business management knows that phrase. Content designers who may be insulated a little bit more from the mechanics of business and finances, may not find that familiar. But if you are wanting to demonstrate influence and impact, it strikes me how many content designers aren’t able to speak at the level, at the same level, to whom they’re trying to convince. So if you’re speaking to a product manager, department head, even CEO, what are the things that they care about and how does your content testing speak specifically to the people you care about? So if you’re speaking to a CEO, for instance, something like cost of goods sold, that is going to resonate with them way more than the minute language. They might find that other stuff interesting, but what they really care about is how is this impacting the bottom line? So being able to speak at that same level is crucial.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:43:10] It is. It is. And think of, you know, measuring user experience, friction. You can measure friction. You can measure friction, whether it’s system usability scale, system score, you can measure maybe you have a funnel view and you can see…there are a couple of examples in my book where there’s a seven-step user experience and you can see on step three, clearly, there’s some drop-off. People just abandon your app or website when they get really confused because there’s friction and the friction is often the words. It’s not the color of your call to action button. It’s not the image on your landing page. It’s often the words need to be clearer because the content team isn’t staffed properly to put the time and effort into making it awesome and clear from the get-go. Often it’s revisiting content and redoing it or revamping it or redesigning it, if you will. That has to happen because content designers were not involved in the soup-to-nuts user experience development. Which is a shame and wrong, and it’s an ethical issue. I think having content designers on staff is an ethical issue at the end of the day. It’s an accessibility issue. You know, we’re making words work for everyone, especially people who are using assistive devices like screen readers, Braille readers. They need your content to be clear. They need your user experience to be clear, and that requires the expertise of someone working in content.

Patrick Stafford: [00:44:38] Excellent. I think that’s a great place to bring this conversation to a close. Erica, thank you so much for joining me today. Anyone who wants Erica’s new book, Strategic Content Design Tools and Research Techniques for Better UX, published by Rosenfeld, you can get 15% off using the code UXCONTENT15. We’ll include a link in the show notes. Erica, thank you so much for joining us.

Erica Jorgensen: [00:45:02] Thank you so much, Patrick. And thank you, everyone, for listening.

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