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Image by Jason Goodman

The strategic thinking behind content design

It's crucial to good product design to have a UX writer on the team. In this project, you'll see the problem with not including a writer at kick-off, and how I changed the direction of a poorly executed project.

The Problem

Due to the number of projects at AfterShip, UX writers simply don't have the time to be involved at every stage for every project. In this instance, I did not join the project until the design review. A draft design had already been created, but when I reviewed the design, I found it was impossible to explain to users.

AfterShip is a shipment tracking platform for eCommerce stores. Sellers can track their shipments and even see the estimated delivery date (EDD).

However, in this design, the EDD had been split into four different types, depending on the source of the data. 


If this sounds confusing, it's because it is. I was convinced that four different estimated delivery dates would cause confusion. Below you can see the original proposed design, with four columns of EDD information.


My approach

I always train my team of writers to ask "why". And so rather than try and use UX content to explain this design, I arranged a meeting with the designer and product manager to discuss the problem.

My approach was to ask why we were building this feature. When the product manager explained it was a customer request, I suggested we look at the original customer email together.

One of the biggest problems I see at a lot of companies is that they turn into "feature factories". They just build whatever features a customer asks for without questioning why, and more importantly, questioning what problem the customer is trying to solve.

I suggested we look at the original customer request to gain an insight into the client's pain point. It turned out they did not want four different EDDs displayed on their dashboard. They actually wanted to import the delivery date they promised customers at checkout and use that as a filter for their shipments to see how accurate their promises were.

The solution

This was a very easy fix. AfterShip already supported this "promised delivery date", however it was not a commonly used feature and was called "Order EDD" in our system.

After looking deeper into the customer request, and conducting conversation mining online, I suggested we simply pull out the Order EDD as an individual field that users can then use to filter, and change the name to "Promised delivery date".

This greatly reduced the workload of all teams, simplified the user interface, and improved the content design so that the naming was more in line with what our customers were familiar with.

The final design was one addition field called "Promised delivery date" that our users could then compare against the actual delivery date after a shipment was delivered.



Product design teams can often get so caught up in the design that it's hard for them to look at things objectively. The above example shows how important it is to have a UX writer on the product team.

It's my job to ask why we're doing something, and importantly, if it's the best way, or only way, to do it.

A UX writer is the one person who has to explain the product feature to the users. If they can't explain something clearly, it's not a good design. The UX writer serves as the litmus test for your design.

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