Content designer interview questions – plus what to ask your interviewers

Read Time:8 Minute, 40 Second

“How would a content designer check their content meets user needs?” Lizzie Bruce shares 40 potential #ContentDesign interview questions, plus what to ask them, a CV structure and an example career path.

Here I share some interview topics and questions you might encounter, plus what you could ask the interviewers, a simple CV structure and pointers for stepping into content design.

For each topic I flag what to consider and provide links to relevant modules from my content design and UCD e-learning. These could be a helpful springboard – but remember interviewers are looking for real world context. Demonstrating how you overcame challenges and how you showed pragmatism in coping with, for example, budget and scope constraints will generally go down well.

Comments are open on this post – please add any more interview questions, topics and considerations that might be helpful for the community.


Interview topics and questions

1. User needs

What is meant by a ‘user need’? How would you describe a ‘user need’?
How do you discover user needs?
How do user needs relate to content design? How do user needs relate to page structure and information architecture?
How would a content designer check that their content meets user needs?

Consider:

Needs versus wants, user stories, job stories, acceptance criteria, user research, language research, analytics, content hierarchy, page sketching, task-based content, topic grouping.

Prepare:

User needs: meaning and design purpose module 🍰
Content design pathway course 🎂

2. Content accessibility and usability

What are 3 essentials for accessible content? What factors come into content accessibility?
In what ways can a content designer make web and digital content more usable?
Can you tell us about a website or app you’ve come across recently which was not usable? How could you improve this with content design?
Do you have any examples of how you have improved content accessibility in a past role?
How would you make the case for content accessibility and usability?

Consider:

Text alternatives, clear language, readability, legibility, literacy, button size, font, tech, non-flashing images, user research, situational, temporary and permanent disability, WCAG 2.1, Equality Act, accessibility is usability, social model of disability, stats, reaching the widest audience and customer base.

Prepare:

Content accessibility an introduction module 🍰
Content usability basics module 🍰
Content design pathway course 🎂

3. Language research

How do you make decisions on which words to use in your content?
What language research methods do you use?
What would you say are the differences between optimising content for (your own) users and optimising content for search-engines? Humans use search engines, so why shouldn’t an SEO-focused approach be the default?

Consider:

Clear language, readability, user research, literacy, audience and customer base, location, context, jargon, user needs and motivations, Google Trends, Answer the public, Google Search Console, SEM Rush, keywords, metadata, user interviews, user feedback, help desk data.

Prepare:

Content findability module 🍰
Content design pathway course 🎂

4. Content inclusivity

How do you approach designing inclusive content?
What are some important considerations for inclusive design?

Consider:

Diverse team, diverse user research participants, representation (of broad range of genders, races, cultures, nationalities, ages, abilities, sexualities, class backgrounds, financial situations, relationship statuses, family set ups, more).

Prepare:

Content inclusivity: an introduction module 🍰
Design out bias FREE module 🍰
Content design pathway course 🎂

5. Scaling quality content

How would you approach introducing content quality standards across a large site?
What processes and methods can support content quality?
How would you make it easier for remote, devolved editing teams to adopt content quality standards?

Consider:

Strategy, governance, tech, team size, central support team, standards, style guidance, content patterns, structured content, user-needs bank, task-based content, consistency, processes, gatekeeping, publication flow, approval flow, localised content, personalisation, customisation, content management systems, training, maintenance, community of practice, content workshops, internal content conferences with remote access.

Prepare

What is readability? module 🍰
Task-based content module 🍰
Content design pathway course 🎂

6. Governance and content strategy

What should an organisation’s content strategy cover?
What publication models have organisations you’ve worked at used (centralised, devolved, hub and spoke) and what are some advantages and disadvantages of each?
Have you had any experience developing content standards?
How have you gone about engaging content owners in the past?

Consider

Content creation, content ownership, maintenance, consistency, accessibility, asset library, style guidance, content review, factual sign off, content management system, publication flow, responsibility, standards, show and tell, stats, analytics, presentation.

Prepare

Content usability basics module 🍰
Content design pathway course 🎂

7. Working with stakeholders

How do you engage stakeholders and subject experts in the content design process?
What approaches do you take when a subject expert is unhappy about their content being changed?

Consider

Show and tells, pair writing, presentations, best practice, competitor/sector examples, readability, clear language, how people read online, task-based content, user needs.

Prepare

Pair writing a content item 🍰
Content usability basics module 🍰
User needs: meaning, and design purpose module 🍰
Content design pathway course 🎂

8. Advocating for content design and UCD

How would you explain content design to someone who had not heard of it before? Same question for user-centred design.
What are 3 things you would like someone new to content design to remember about it?
What activities have you been involved in previously where the aim was to engage other teams with content design processes?
Have you ever needed to convince a budget holder to invest in user research? How did you go about it?

Consider

Show and tells, blog post shared in all-staff email or featured as internal news item, championing content design to directors as well as subject experts and service teams, community of practice, demonstrating uplift, before and after examples, value, ROI, explaining what content design is, user needs, usability, accessibility, stats, best practice examples, presentations, guidance, sharing training, recommending books.

Prepare

Content usability basics module 🍰
User needs: meaning, and design purpose module 🍰
Content accessibility an introduction module 🍰
Design out bias FREE module 🍰
Content design pathway course 🎂

9. Return on investment, success indicators

How have you shown the value of content in a previous role?
What measurements and indicators have you used to show uplift in user satisfaction with content?

Consider

Fewer complaints, help desk less busy, positive feedback, surveys, user needs acceptance criteria fulfilled, user interviews, representation, accessibility review, analytics show page visits to previously unfound content, more conversions, completed transactions, quicker user journeys.

Prepare

Content findability module 🍰
Design centred on users: an introduction 🍰
Content design pathway course 🎂

10. Collaborating with other disciplines

What are your experiences of working in a multidisciplinary team?
How do you communicate with user researchers, visual designers and developers on a project?

What is the most useful thing you have learnt from another discipline and how do you apply it to content design?
How have you collaborated with service teams, project owners, subject experts and other stakeholders?

Consider

Daily stand ups, video calls, team meetings, talking to them, retros, show and tells, user research analysis sessions, asking questions, understanding the offline service experience, presentations, lunch and learn, question and answer sessions.

Prepare

Why multi-disciplinary teamwork works 🍰
Pair writing a content item 🍰
Content inclusivity: an introduction 🍰
User-centred design pathway course 🎂


“Have you got any questions for us?”

What is the digital content team size?
How long have you been practising user-centred design at [organisation name]?

How on board with content design processes are the content owners or subject experts?
Do you have content owners who approve content changes, or subject experts with factual sign off?
How often do you do user research interviews or usability testing?
Do you design iteratively? What is the content maintenance cycle like?
What opportunities would there be for me to progress in a content design role at [organisation name]?

Do you hold daily stand ups and regular retros?

A good reference for the UCD maturity of an organisation is Padma Gillen’s 5-phase digital maturity lifecycle. You will have different opportunities and challenges as a content design er at different points of the cycle.


Your CV structure

Here is a simple outline that you can adapt. You do not need to include your gender, age, marital status or address on your CV.

Profile (1 or 2 lines)
Skills
Software and tools
Professional training
Qualifications
Publications
(blog posts, articles, papers, books)
Awards


Work history (could be more than 1 page)

Languages (if relevant to role position this section at top, for example after or within Skills)
Interests

Presenting your work history

If you are you continuing in the same career direction and building on previous roles, you can present this chronologically as:

  • recent: brief narrative
  • mid: bullet points
  • older: only title and dates

But if you are changing direction, put focus on transferrable skills and relevant experiences by presenting your experience by relevancy, which could be non-chronological, so:

  • relevant: brief narrative
  • less relevant: bullet points
  • not very relevant: only title and dates

Stepping into content design and user-centred design

If you have not worked specifically in content design before, there are many transferrable skills you might have. 14 of us offer career tips in this Working in Content article, including examples of how to best frame your existing experience.

Hippo Digital and Made Tech offer salaried academies where you can learn as you earn and graduate into client work with their agencies. Both have highly skilled , UCD-experienced staff, and great project work opportunities.

Scroll has an excellent newsletter and there are many great #ContentDesign folk to follow on Twitter.


Career path

You may also like to explore the content designer career path and official skillsets from the UK Government Digital Service, the organisation where the discipline originated.

Content design career progression can be from associate to head of, but you may end up stepping into another user-centred design discipline, or may come from one.

Working in content design and strategy, you may frequently need to advocate for content design and user-centred design. You’re welcome to re-use my e-learning content for presentations, just add a reference to Cake Consultancy Ltd as your source, and if you use social media post a tweet, LinkedIn update or blog entry tagging Lizzie Bruce (@CakeContent on Twitter).

Good luck!


“How would a content designer check their content meets user needs?” Lizzie Bruce shares 40 potential #ContentDesign interview questions, plus what to ask them, a CV structure and an example career path.


Image credit: Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com.

‘Task-based intranet content’ book: now published

Read Time:2 Minute, 46 Second

My practical, step by step guide is now available. Currently, it’s the only book on creating user-centred, task-based intranet content.

“This will become the go-to resource for intranet projects” – Robert Mills

Buy the book

You can buy my book in print or as an eBook. The print version has additional shipping costs.

About the book

“Create content that makes it faster for people to find what they need on the intranet than from a colleague. Learn user-centred design as you progress through this practical, stage by stage guide. Generally, people want information about a specific thing, fast, when they visit an intranet. They need it in as little time as possible, so they can get to a meeting, or enjoy their lunch break.

This book outlines processes that put into practice these 3 essential principles for user-centred intranet content:

1. Content reflects a staff need for it.
2. Information is easy to find.
3. Style, tone and language is optimised for users with little time to read and absorb content.

Lizzie Bruce pours her experience of designing intranet content around staff needs for UK government into 100 pages of advice and techniques for creating usable, readable content.

Includes:

  • list of universal intranet tasks
  • glossary of user-centred design terms
  • project “shopping list”
  • timeline planner
  • tips for stakeholder buy-in
  • links to case studies and blogs

Every organisation planning an intranet redesign needs this book.”

About the author

Lizzie Bruce is a content strategist and user-centred design training creator. Firmly committed to user-centred, accessible and inclusive design, since 2003 she’s applied her skills in multiple sectors: public to property, legal to leisure, art to eco, finance to fashion. Clients have included UK central and local government, RNIB, Great Western Railway, John Lewis and University of Cambridge.

Lizzie led Content Design London’s award-winning Readability Guidelines project, writing the guidelines, wiki and handbook content, and is a regular contributor to content publications. She’s spoken on content at conferences and meet-ups in Brighton, Budapest, Canberra, London, Melbourne, Sydney and Tokyo.

Thank you

Thanks very much for your interest in this book, and thank you in advance for buying it if you do. It’s for anyone involved in an intranet redesign project, particularly those new to user-centred design practices, but should also be useful to people who haven’t previously worked on a task-based intranet.

Thanks again for everyone’s encouragement during my writing of this new book.

It’s dedicated to all the user-centred design advocates, content strategists and clear language experts whose work in the field have paved its way.

For all the user-centred design advocates, content strategist and clear language experts who have gone before me, and made my path smoother.

External further references are marked in the second edition of the print book (amber cover) with a square bullet. Direct links are listed on this website: access list of further reference links.

Where to buy

You can buy in print or as an eBook:

I may create an audio version or put the book up on more platforms, and will update here if that happens. It won’t coming out on Amazon, due ethical concerns about their working practices.

The content designer role: a definition and ideal way of working

Read Time:4 Minute, 28 Second

Conversations last week led me to share the basic fundamentals of the content design role, as intended when it was created in 2012: a content designer is a designer on a multi-disciplinary team.

Worth noting which words the organisation who created the discipline included, and excluded, from the role name:

1. They included the word ‘designer‘, to highlight that the role involved design skill and is a design role.

2. They excluded ‘user experience‘, as one of their organisational mantras was that user experience is everyone on the team’s responsibility.


An extended definition

This intends to offer flexibility, while also providing a baseline of the fundamentals needed for a content designer to work effectively.

”A content designer is a designer who is part of a user-centred, multi-disciplinary team on a project, product, service or programme.

They are responsible for conveying information to users.

Their focus is presenting information that users need clearly, inclusively and accessibly for all, so that it can be absorbed and understood quickly, and thoroughly. To do this they research user needs and language, then use, adapt, and design with:

  • words
  • format
  • layout
  • structure
  • governance
  • strategy

They test their designs, and iterate them based on analysis of user research insights.

They are an integral part of the design and development team attached to a product or service, from the beginning, ideally from the very beginning, to the end, and need to be involved in all product-relevant discussions and meetings.

They should be able to continue iterating content elements, based on user feedback, after the product or service is live.”

– Lizzie Bruce, 2020

This is a baseline description, and the role flexes.


My content design background

I feel in a position to put forward a full definition of the content designer role as I:

• worked in content at the original organisation before and after content design was introduced
• took one of the first ever courses in it
• worked in, introduced and promoted it in 9 other external, cross-sector organisations, including: law, retail, transport, education and charity
• am a consultant for Content Design London, founded by the person who was head of content at the originating organisation when the term was created
• have trained and mentored content designers
• co-researched a paper on the value of content design to business
• keep up to date with peer discussion of content design and role of content designer across industry


Non-ideal and ideal ways for a content designer to work

The skills of a content designer are not always understood by the organisation that employs them. It’s best for a content designer to be embedded on a project from very early on. I’ve written about the benefits and insights gained from involving a content designer from the discovery phase.

The one and only

Sometimes a content designer will work unsupported by a multi-disciplinary team, for example in an organisation new to user-centred design. That means they take on all the responsibilities of all the roles in an ideal multi-disciplinary service or product team: carrying out the user research and service design by themself, as well as the interaction design and web page development, or they may work with an external development company, who, though then working on the same product could not be said to be on the same team.

They may even be the product owner and delivery manager, too, as well as having to translate technical language into plain English and create visual design elements. This is not the ideal way for a content designer to work.

No ”i“ in team

Sometimes a content designer will work as part of a core product or service design team, which will also have a dedicated user researcher, product owner and delivery manager, and may have various of the following: service or product designer, interaction designer, technical writer, graphic designer, accessibility assessor.

All roles in a multi-disciplinary team enrich the product or service’s design and development with their unique expertise. They find out what is right for the user, based on usability evidence (rather than who is right, based on hierarchy or voice volume). This is the ideal way for a content designer to work.

Pulled in too many directions

Sometimes a content designer will work in more than one multi-disciplinary team on more that one product or service at a time. The higher the number of different, disparate projects a content designer is working on, the less they will be able to delve deeply into any one product or service’s complexities and user needs, and the greater the amount of context switch they will be subjected to which can carry a high cognitive load and reduce effectiveness and efficiency.

Working on more than a couple of or a very few products at the same time is not an ideal way for a content designer to work. The only exception is where the products are directly co-related and knowledge of one brings greater context to another.


Further reading

Why editors need to design, Content Design London
What we mean when we talk about content design, GOV.UK
Content designer, GOV.UK
Content design, GOV.UK
What is content design? GOV.UK
Why multidisciplinary teams are good, Medium
“Why do you need a content designer? The words just appear, right?”, Digital Drum
Get a head start on digital projects include content from the discovery phase, GatherContent