Building skills for UX and content strategy work
November 11, 2015 6:07 PM   Subscribe

I've developed an interest in UX and web/content strategy and may have an opportunity to shift my career in that direction. What should I be reading/doing to make the most of it?

I'm currently employed as a IT business analyst. However, I've been asked to do some more strategic work around identifying ways to improve our website. I'll be working with some of our developers and designers to this end, but I've been charged with identifying some projects that we could do.

I've done a lot of reading on my own (a lot of what are probably the usual suspects like Don't Make Me Think, The Design of Everyday Things; other books like The UX Team of One, some more product-design oriented things like Lean UX; and a lot of content on websites and blogs like Smashing).

I've found this stuff fascinating and I'm eager to apply what I have learned, but I feel like I'm still missing a few pieces to really professionalize myself in this area—like I have book knowledge, but that I don't know how to begin applying it properly. I feel a bit like I am (or would be looked at as) a bit of a dilettante right now, but I don't want to be. And now that I have a good opportunity within my organization to start doing this more, I'd like to make the most of it. What can I do to this end?

As a sub-question, I'm also deeply interested in content strategy, and I'd be interested in stuff that talks about the intersection between UX and content strategy. I'm currently reading Content Everywhere, which is very interested, and have previously read Content Strategy for the Web.

For what it's worth, I don't have a highly technical background—my education is in the humanities, but I've worked in or around IT for a while. I can build a decent-looking webpage in CSS and HTML, and have dabbled in doing some programming but would hardly call myself any kind of developer. I've also worked as an editor, done some writing and content curation, and worked with (but not in) marketing.
posted by synecdoche to Technology (7 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Here's some specifically content-focused talks from Webstock that might be useful:

Karen McGrane - Adapting ourselves to adaptive content
Erin Kissane - Little Big Systems
Kristina Halvorson - Content/Communication
posted by maupuia at 6:34 PM on November 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

You might check out Vanessa Fox's books.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:01 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend checking out this book:
Letting Go of the Words, 2nd Ed. by Ginny Redish
It is not as well known as Don't make me think, but is an excellent companion for understanding how to design and write with your users in mind.
posted by 2ghouls at 7:17 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you want a more pragmatic resource (as opposed to abstract, ivory tower stuff), you can never go wrong with MOZ. Here's a great step-by-step guide to conversion optimization (assuming you're more interested in getting ROI from UX.

Hubspot is also a great intro resource, as is Kissmetrics.
posted by Nevin at 7:52 PM on November 11, 2015

Best answer: I'm a professional UX Designer. If you're interested in the foundational applications of UX principles while also exploring the basic premise of whether this is something you want to do for a living, there's nothing better than Dr. David Travis' "Ultimate Guide to UX" course on Udemy. Very, very much worth the money.
posted by Snacks at 11:15 PM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I recommend looking at Coursera (free) and General Academy (not free, but very affordable for courses.)
posted by canine epigram at 4:46 AM on November 12, 2015

Best answer: Karen McGrane is fabulous. So is Josh Clark. You can't go wrong with books from Rosenfeld Media or A Book Apart. Seems like you really need one of the fundamentals: Information Architecture for the Web and Beyond by Morville and Rosenfeld, aka "the polar bear book." Learning about IA will help you lay a foundation for understanding structure and organization.

For hands-on practice, I suggest 5 things:

1) Interview some users in their environment about how they use xyz product. Read Steve Portigal on user interviews.

2) Get hold of a heuristic usability review template. Conduct a review of a site or application you feel strongly about. Justify your opinions by citing usability studies or standards.

3) Conduct guerilla usability testing or a card sort exercise for a site or application you feel strongly about. This could mean asking 5-10 friends and family members to each spend 15 minutes with you. You'll need a script. You'll also need to come to some conclusions in your analysis.

4) Create some wireframes for an imaginary redesign. These can be in Power Point or on paper. Take them to a local UX meetup in your town and get feedback. Speaking of which: if there isn't such a meetup, start one.

5) Get access to your organization's web analytics. Figure out what people are looking for, if they're finding it, and what they do next.

Lastly, find local UXers on Linked In and offer to buy them coffee or beer in exchange for asking their advice. Local novices do this with me, and I'm happy to help because I want to beef up the UX job candidate pool for when I'm hiring.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:11 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

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