The chronic undervaluation of content designers and the urgent need for change

Stressed content designer sitting at a cafe table, visibly frustrated while looking at a laptop covered with various tech-related stickers. The environment is modern and minimalistic, with a neutral color palette
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

“Oh, s***! We’ve got a problem.”

“What now?”

“We’re about to go live, and guess what? We forgot about the copy for the user journey.”

“No worries, just pull a content designer from somewhere. They’ll sort it out quickly.”

Does this sound familiar? If you’re nodding, then you’re not alone. Many organisations find themselves in this dilemma: a new product or feature is poised to go live, the clock is ticking, and — oops! — The essential copy cannot be found.

The stress. The panic. The chaos.

This isn’t just a minor hiccup; it’s a full-blown crisis. It all becomes too real as everyone scrambles, once again trying to meet a deadline that can’t be pushed back because that’s not even an option.

So, content designers are thrust into the role of emergency fixers. “Just whip something up quickly,” they say, as if content creation is nothing more than a trivial afterthought. It’s as if crafting clear, simple, and easy-to-read content under immense pressure is a simple, minor task anyone can handle.

Like a recurring nightmare, this problem will occur again and again, showing how misunderstood content design is within the digital arena of user experience. And let’s face it — it’s infuriating. This misunderstanding of what content design is and its value undermines a content designer’s expertise and jeopardises the quality of the product and user experience itself. Why is content design only remembered when things go wrong? Why is content design seen as a quick fix rather than a foundational element of the design process?

The frustrations of being an afterthought

Time and again, content designers are called upon at the last minute to salvage a project. This fire-fighting mode is not just stressful; it’s downright disrespectful. It suggests that our craft — the careful, thoughtful creation of user-focused content — is just a box to be checked as quickly as possible.

We see projects where the visuals have been pondered over for months, where every pixel and palette colour has been debated in endless meetings. And yet, the content? “Oh, just throw something in there. Any words will do.” As if the words — the very tools our users rely on to navigate and understand — are just filler.

Why this keeps happening

What’s the root of the issue? Is it perhaps an organisational failure to understand and integrate content design from the outset? I think it’s a mix of historical bias towards visual design, a lack of awareness about what content design actually entails, and a siloed approach that segregates disciplines which should inherently work together.

Content design is often seen as the grammar police or the last-minute poets rather than as essential contributors to the user experience. This perception has led to content being shoehorned into designs that weren’t built with words in mind, resulting in a user experience that feels disjointed or even confusing.

Educating the uninformed

It’s high time organisations realised that content design is as critical as visual design. Content design isn’t just ‘text’; it’s a user guide, the voice of your product, and the conversation you’re having with each user who interacts with your platform.

So, how do we educate those around us? How do we elevate content design to receive the recognition and early integration it deserves?

  • Demonstrate the value
    Share examples where excellent content significantly boosted user engagement and retention. Show how bad content did the opposite.
  • Advocate for early inclusion
    Push for content design representation in initial planning stages and strategy meetings. We need to be there from the start, not as an afterthought.
  • Bridge the silos
    Encourage cross-department collaboration. Content designers should work alongside UX designers, developers, and product managers from day one.
  • Educate on Process
    Many don’t understand what content design entails. As content designers, it’s our job to educate our colleagues about our processes, the time it takes, and the value it adds.

Yes, content design is about writing, but it’s also about so much more. It’s about empathy, strategy, psychology, and design. It’s about shaping the user’s journey and influencing their interaction with the product.

So, to my fellow content designers, it’s time to make some noise. Let’s stop being the unsung heroes who sweep in to clean up the mess and start being recognised as the key players we are, integral from the get-go in crafting experiences that users don’t just use but love.

Content design isn’t dead, but it’s on us to bring it to life and ensure it thrives. It’s about showing not just why our work matters but why it’s indispensable. Let’s make sure that the next time a project kicks off, content design isn’t just included; it’s considered essential. Because, at the end of the day, what are designs without content but empty shells?

It’s a tough road, but change is possible with persistence. And now, more than ever, it’s time for that change. Content designers, are you ready to step up and reshape the narrative? Because truly, there’s no time like the present. Let’s not wait for the next emergency call — we’re worth far more than that.

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Is Content Design Dead? was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.