Katie built her career from a wide range of content-related roles, from community building to content marketing to UX writing. Over time, she realized her passion for designing great user experiences was well-suited for content strategy—in particular, content for digital products. With her deep appreciation for the role of content in UX design, she’s organized several UX Content Strategy meetups, moderated peer panels, and presented at industry conferences like Confab and Utterly Content. Although she has since evolved her work in user experience design to a more visual focus (as a Product Designer at Shopify), she previously developed content strategies for a number of agencies, startups, and enterprise tech companies.
Well, it was very organic and cumulative. My first job was for a dental implant company. Officially this was a marketing role, but in reality I was constantly on the phone with dental assistants, trying to teach them how to use our implants. I was a business student! Of course I knew far less about all of this than the dentists. But it occurred to me while I was doing this that all of the information was on the website. It just wasn’t in a format or structure that was easy to find. That was the very beginning of my appreciation for User Experience Design and Content Design.
That was the initial skill set—learning the value of good taxonomy and understanding how to categorize and label information so that people know where to find it. I was starting to pick up skills for information architecture.
While I was still working in sales, I did competitive analysis for other websites in the industry and put together a report and some recommendations for restructuring my company’s website. I was starting to get my feet wet. A few years down the road, I ended up in my first position as a Content Marketing Associate. I had to organize, plan, and execute six different digital properties belonging to the agency.
I was also responsible for our social channel. For social media, being able to envision the whole journey around information and how to get it was pretty important. As all of these things were coming together, I started to realize that this was the beginning of Content Strategy as a field. It was around 2010 and that was about the time that Kristina Halvorson appeared and Content Strategy was born.
Over time I realized I had more of an interest in product-centric content (not product marketing—but the content that drives experiences within interfaces and software products), I decided that product content strategy was the place I needed to be.
A few months ago within Shopify I was talking about this with my colleagues, and we all agreed the biggest part of our job was just talking to people.
When we were building Shopify email, we were thinking in terms of how we want to allow our users to easily send a marketing email from their store. So we asked, what do we know about their store from other parts of the platform? For example, we have their product inventory and customer data in other parts of the Shopify admin.
So much of my time is just talking to other teams and figuring out how that information is structured and where it comes from.
We also need to know the language they're using, and what labels they already have in place. If there are different pieces of information that will then get pulled into Shopify email, I need to understand everything about how that works so I can create consistency across the platform, so that it all makes sense for someone who's using our product for the first time.
Breaking into Content Strategy, you need to have an appreciation for language, an understanding of how to organize things, and the ability to empathize with whoever's on the other end of this information. Never stop thinking about who your consumer is and the information they need to be able to accomplish what they came to do.
I’m very extroverted, so it plays well with needing to talk to people all the time. This is not a role where you sit in a room by yourself and have “focus” time.
The ability to empathize with your end-users, so you can envision the whole journey that they will have with your product. That naturally sets you up to be able to plan, create, and deliver all the information they need.
Project management or organization skills are useful because you are not just planning content and strategizing it, you are also involved in the creation and the optimization of it over time.
Attention to detail. You need to be able to execute content in a way that aligns with your voice and tone in all sorts of situations.
If you have no appreciation for language and words. You do need to be a stickler for every single word.