In this series, we ask our UXCC course instructors and graders to share their unique backgrounds, insights, and advice for fellow UX content people. This time, we chat with Rob Mills, Founder of Fourth Wall Content.
How did you get started in UX writing and content design?
My path was a meandering and common one like many others I know, yet somewhat serendipitously all my previous jobs are somehow relevant to the work I do today in content. I just didn’t know it was all leading to content strategy and content design at the time.
I’m a journalism graduate and worked in a data analysis role for local government as well as a stint as an Audience Research Executive for the BBC. Whilst I’m more comfortable with words, these numbers-based jobs have provided lots of experience and knowledge that I apply in my current work.
I have also been a Studio Manager and Head of Content for multiple design agencies which gave me a good insight into all things UX as I worked closely with designers and developers. This is also where I started to facilitate voice and tone workshops and work closely with clients on their content strategies.
More recently, I was Head of Content for GatherContent. This included planning, creating, managing, and governing a high volume of content and resources for the content strategy and UX community. A large portion of this work was content marketing too, and building a system as part of the content operations.
Then in 2021, I took the leap into self-employment as a content strategist and content designer under my own company, Fourth Wall Content Ltd.
Can you talk a little bit about your current role and what your focus includes?
As a consultant, I am working with a variety of clients on a pretty broad range of projects. Some of my work in the last twelve months has included rewriting lots of complex content so it was in clear language for a digital inclusion charity, content creation and management for an end-of-life charity, and working as a content designer on a project for a UK public sector organization.
I’ve also worked on Alphas and Betas for some government and third sector organizations.
The variety continues away from larger projects focused on transformation work. I have been producing The Content Strategy Podcast which is presented by Kristina Halvorson (dream job!) and, of course, I am an instructor for UX Content Collective. I have also been doing some magazine and book editing work too, which has been a real joy.
I’m enjoying sharing my experiences with the community through conference speaking, article writing, and being a guest on podcasts.
What’s your favorite thing about working in this field?
The variety of the work keeps it challenging, interesting, and rewarding. The context switching and multiple project needs can be challenging on occasion, but I have tools and processes to keep that under control.
I really love that one day I may be working with a user researcher preparing for testing content, then I could be facilitating a workshop on internal communications, getting lost in writing content, producing a podcast, editing books … they are all different tasks requiring different skills but the golden thread through it all is content and communication.
What insights, themes, or learnings have you uncovered while working with students at UXCC?
I have been so impressed with student enthusiasm to further their own careers and their ambitions of doing meaningful work. They have all been so willing to receive feedback. I grade the Marketing Writing for UX Writers course and it’s really interesting to see how students write for different channels and for different stages of the customer journey. Some of the questions ask students to share examples of positive brand experiences they’ve encountered and it’s always so interesting to see what makes a good experience (or a bad one) for them in terms of content and UX.
What skills do you find most valuable in this work?
Giving feedback. It’s really important to me that the feedback I give to students is honest, useful, and constructive. Giving and receiving feedback is a really important skill in all of the work I do, but I feel an added responsibility to get it right with the UXCC grading because I want to encourage and help students.
Giving feedback is also an opportunity for me to put into practice some of the material in the Marketing Writing course. An example is tone—the tone of my feedback will really influence how it is received by the students.
OK, time for a quick lightning round…
- Favorite book: I feel like I’ll betray all the books I love that I don’t pick for this one. The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin (so technically three books, I know) are just astounding in their originality, world-building, and immersiveness. Plus, The Twits by Roald Dahl.
- Favorite app: Instagram. I post about the books I’ve read and then get lost watching Reels from people I don’t even know.
- Favorite movie: So many! But when I first saw Jurassic Park in the cinema it blew my mind, so I’ll always have a soft spot for that. Oh, and I studied Psycho as part of my Journalism, Film, and Broadcasting degree and that is a wonderful film to analyze and deconstruct.
- Favorite word: Serendipity. It’s not one I use a lot but it’s always a joy when there’s the chance.
- Favorite hobby: Writing fiction or going to the theatre.
Any last parting wisdom or advice?
Any career and type of work will have its challenges. It will be rewarding and frustrating. Don’t wait for the tough times before you prioritize your own well-being—make it a priority at all stages and phases of your career. Put boundaries in place, trust your instinct, and don’t compromise on your own personal values and principles. Sometimes, that may mean making decisions that can feel risky or uncertain, and they may well be, but I truly believe that with intentions that are nurtured by integrity, wellbeing, and self-care the outcome will always be positive.