UI19 OnDemand

Videos from the 2014 User Interface 19 Conference

Content-First UX Design: A Lean Approach

Steph Hay · Monday, October 27 · 8:30am – 5:30pm ·Pacific F–H

Photo of Steph Hay

Create more compelling products by first mapping the conversation you want to have with customers, then designing around it. Learn how to find the “right” words for your customers.

Make a content roadmap in super low-fidelity—plain text!—to drive discussions and decisions. Before starting design, run small experiments to find out if your content works.

Steph pioneered the Content-First UX Design approach with Ben & Jerry’s and AECF.org.

The day’s agenda


Stop designing for lorem ipsum

  • The 3 characteristics of Lean Content: Reliable, authentic, and direct
  • Case studies of companies whose content is cohesive and builds trust
  • How different channels feed the end-to-end conversation you’re having with users

Create a Content Workbook and Language Board

  • Tools to use, places to look, and the 3 questions to ask when gathering user data
  • How to capture data in a Content Workbook your entire team can use to collaborate
  • How to make a Language Board: outlines of ideal conversations with target customers


Practice Content-First UX Design

  • The Conversation Map, a text-only representation of the flow users should experience
  • How to design a functional user journey that scales to multiple audiences
  • Where the Conversation Map fits into Waterfall, Agile, and Lean design processes

Write functional copy for web and mobile

  • Differences between writing for desktop v. mobile (Hint: What’s the user’s context?)
  • Techniques for achieving clarity in labels, taxonomies, and calls to action
  • How to document functional requirements as you practice Content-First UX Design

Get to the point faster

Know who you’re talking to

Stop designing for high-level demographics like “women aged 18-25.” Analyze social data and feedback loops to understand who your customers really are—and what content they want from you.

See your content as a conversation

When users arrive at your doorstep—whether it be desktop or mobile—what are the top 3 questions they typically ask? Anticipate their arrival by using direct words that spark more conversations.

Design with real content

Sketching and visual design become more powerful when we’re all speaking the same language. Start your design process by creating a Content Workbook to document how your users already communicate.

You’ll see how to:

  • Write Lean Content for interfaces, email, blog posts, and interactions
  • Plan your user experience with text (the lowest fidelity!) in a Google doc
  • Discover your customers’ specific content preferences and behaviors
  • Use the Content Workbook to facilitate design discussions across organizational silos
  • Test content for understandability by running experiments using AdWords and email
  • Design fewer iterations overall by first getting sign-off on messaging first

Start using the content-first approach right away

Confidence in your ability to write content, even if you’re not a writer
Pull reliable, authentic, and direct words right from customer research data.
Tools for finding the “right” words
Gain customer insights from Google Analytics and Keyword Planner, Facebook, and YouTube.
Experience creating Language Boards and Conversation Maps 
Stop leaving fellow designers and developers on the hook to “fill in the blanks” of UX content.
A process for doing Content-First UX Design for any device
Launch more engaging products faster by solving content problems before jumping to design.

You’ll write content based on customer data

You’ll work individually and in small groups to conduct customer research, create a Content Workbook, craft a small Language Board and Conversation Map, and practice a Content-First UX approach to design.

Steph Hay, UX Contentologist

Photo of Steph Hay

If you ever thought having final content before starting design was an impossible dream, you haven’t met Steph Hay. She’s worked with organizations of all sizes—including Ben & Jerry’s, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and a throng of startups—through a process that starts with writing real content and then designing around it.

Under her guidance, companies like Tuee.it jumped from a 5 percent conversion rate to 75 percent just by changing their messaging in alignment with audience data. She’s done the same for us, too; Steph is the copywriter behind much of the conference and virtual seminar descriptions we publish here at UIE.

And now we’re sharing her with all of you. (But just for a couple days!)

Steph has been an independent content strategy consultant since 2010. She launched MusicForWODs.com (playlists for CrossFit)—which she grew to more than 20K Facebook fans in 12 weeks—and a CrossFit profile site called tougher.me (want to be a beta tester?).

She’s a top-rated presenter in our Virtual Seminar series, and you’ll soon see why—if you’re looking for an energetic, refreshing, practical copywriting workshop that’s fundamentally based on user experience design, this is it.


Listen as Steph explains how starting with the content first will help you build out the design and determine the appropriate places for each type of communication.

Listen to the Podcast Now Read the Transcript

Prefer a different workshop? There are 3 other options on Monday

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Nine 90-minute UX videos for $149