I joined Cleo way back in the summer of 2020, when we were still getting used to the idea that wearing shoes to work was no longer mandatory. At that point we were a team of 4 UX writers, mostly working on a chat-first product with few non-chat user flows.
Each writer was embedded in a product squad and we were starting to work with Figma prototypes and pair with product designers on journey flows. Initially, our jobs could be, somewhat reductively, summarized as:
— Defining chat flow journeys
— Writing and building chat flows
We were also, in true startup fashion, chipping in wherever else we were needed, be it marketing campaigns, board decks or company merch. Throughout it all we were known as the UX writing team.
And over time our responsibilities have only expanded, which has meant the title “UX writer” has never felt quite right. Sure, some of the tasks are similar to a “normal” UX writing role. We also work together to write scripts, partner with product designers, data analysts and engineers on end-to-end journey flows and create complex chatflows in tools, which often require a significant understanding of how our code works.
And we haven’t even got to Cleo’s many tone of voices yet. This means crafting jokes, like this, which we recently created for Barbie mode.
WAIT... SO WRITERS DON'T JUST WRITE?
In short, no. The title of UX Writer has always seemed quite narrow. And that’s before the arrival of chat GPT which has given us yet another area of responsibility. GPT effectively works with our existing chatflows to expand Cleo’s range of possible responses. So on top of designing the original chatflows we evaluate GPT’s responses to users as well as create the original prompts (a sort of set of directions on how GPT should respond to user questions) as well.
In fact, actual writing has always been a small (at some points tiny) part of the job. Mike Stumpo at Uber sums it up quite well: UX writers don’t just write, but that title leads people to think so”.
And when we are thinking about words it’s always in relation to the overall design, such as where they’re placed in a user journey, or how they interact with UI components. Or, how our users’ engage with them. All of these things are more closely linked to the role of a designer than a “writer”.
WHAT DO OTHER COMPANIES DO?
As you can probably gather from the Uber quote, the issue we faced wasn’t just a Cleo one.
Over the past 3 years, we’ve seen a significant number of tech companies shift away from using “UX writer” (or content strategist) as a job title. Meta and Shopify are two examples of big tech companies making this change.
So, much like Cleo circa 2020, we’re rebranding. It’s a moment.
We’ll now be known as CONTENT DESIGNERS (caps lock optional)
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
The name change successfully does three things (among others):
- It more accurately encompasses a very broad range of skills
- Brings titles into line with industry-wide thinking
- It helps reinforce the idea that content designers are partners in the creation of user experiences
This change shouldn’t fundamentally alter what we do, but perhaps it is a good time to remind people.
To shamelessly quote Meta:
We proceed as content designers: people who design in words, concepts, systems and terminology, voice and tone, and who know how much these things matter in solving problems for the people who use our products around the world.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR CONTENT DESIGNERS?
As I’ve already mentioned the name change doesn’t dramatically change how we work, so we’ll continue to partner with product designers on end-to-end journey flows, evaluate and expand how we use machine learning across Cleo, help out on marketing campaigns and, ultimately, with the user at the heart of what we do, design, for them, in words.