Inside Tech Comm with Zohra Mutabanna

S3E2 Through the Lens of a UX Designer - Discussion on Why Writers Matter!

April 14, 2022 Matt Rife Season 3 Episode 2
Inside Tech Comm with Zohra Mutabanna
S3E2 Through the Lens of a UX Designer - Discussion on Why Writers Matter!
Show Notes Transcript

In this quick chat with Matt, we talk about Matt's background and his eventual journey into UX design. Matt works very closely with UX writers, and my goal is to spotlight what that partnership looks like. We talk about the benefits of that partnership and the challenges when writers are not at the table.

Some of the questions we discuss:

  • What was Matt's journey like to transition to UX Design?
  • As a UX Designer, what are you looking for in your partnership with a UX writer?
  • What are the challenges in the absence of a writer? 
  • When is the right time for writers and UX designers to start working together?
  • Should writers sit in on research sessions?

Guest Bio

Matt Rife is an award-winning design professional with more than 15 years of experience spanning a variety of sectors, including financial services, healthcare, HR, non-profit, and the public sector.

Matt came to the design world after several years working in IT and uses his unique background to craft exceptional user experiences for the real world. After completing his degree in graphic design he found his way into the nascent world of mobile app design and the rest, as they say, is history.
 
Matt is currently the head of experience design at nThrive, a healthcare technology firm. He is the founder of Fifty Eight Creative and also runs the Pragmatic XD blog. You can contact Matt on his LinkedIn profile or via his website.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

Hello, listeners. Welcome to Inside Tech Comm With your host Zohra Mutabanna. In season three, we shift our focus to shed light on why Technical Communication is a core business asset. In this regard, we will speak with guests who are our stakeholders, such as product managers, marketing professionals, UX designers, QA and customer support, who engage with writers to create a seamless experience for the customer, and meet business goals together. Let's get started. I'm honored to welcome today's guest, Matt Rife. Hi, Matt. How are you doing this morning?

Matt Rife:

I'm good. How are you?

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

I'm doing very good. Thank you for joining us. Thank you. Absolutely. So let's get started. Tell us a little about yourself, Matt.

Matt Rife:

So I'm a user experience designer. And currently, I lead the experience design department at a healthcare software company. And specifically, the products we work on are those used by hospitals and clinics, mostly back office type things. So not a lot of client facing stuff. But it's very, very complex and very interesting.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

All right, I was looking at your website, which is, by the way, really awesome. And you're welcome. I saw that you had a pretty interesting background. And I wanted you want to talk a little bit about that. And you did mention that you have a background in IT. How did you end up in design? Can you share a little bit about that with us?

Matt Rife:

Absolutely. So design is my second career, I began my career in IT as a systems administrator. So I started out in data centers doing like servers and mainframe type administration. And I did that for quite a while wanting to get little closer to the business. So I actually transitioned into a business analysis role within it. And then I started doing some freelance writing. And through the writing I was doing, I kind of stumbled into the design world. And it seemed really, really interesting, something really different from what I was doing. And I for a while kind of been looking at ways to get out of doing it work. So there was this is before virtualization, all the stuff we have today. So there was a lot of 2am datacenter trips and things like that. So I went ahead and got my degree in graphic design. And the rest, as they say, is history. And it just so happened that once I graduated with my design degree, this was 2010. So smartphones had just come out the iPhone was about three years old Android was just about a year old at that time. And so it was kind of serendipitous, I had this IT background, design degree. And there was all this convergence and user experience was really becoming kind of coming to the forefront at that point. So I just sort of wound up on the path. And here I am today.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

Wow, that's one interesting story there one heck of a story. Now, to me, when somebody says they're from IT, I think of a very techie person, I cannot think of them as a creative person. And that's my limited thinking. So is that the reason why you went to design school? Or was it something that you know, innately that you had, and you just wanted to learn more about how design would apply to user experience?

Matt Rife:

I don't necessarily know that was something innate, it was just something really different from what I was doing. And it seemed interesting and exciting to me. And so I just, I mean, I obviously did some research and things before running off and completing a degree and it but it just seemed really interesting. I did the research, I did a little bit of work and talk to people and explored the opportunities in the field and just, at some point decided to go for it.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

You also mentioned that you've done writing, and then transitioned into a more specific design role. How did writing contribute to your design career?

Matt Rife:

So this kind of came about, this is another one of those funny stories. So my spouse at the time, she's a very talented writer and editor and she said, you know, you're actually not a bad writer, you should do something with that. So I'm like, Okay, sure. So I, I knew some folks, I kind of poked around and found some people who were willing to give me some freelance gigs. And I wrote primarily journalistic content. So often Woman Magazine, I live in Austin at the time. So Austin, Woman Magazine, Austin Business Journal, a couple of other local publications. So by doing the writing, especially for publications, like those, I was exposed to the larger picture of what goes into producing these websites, newspapers, magazines, whatever. So then you kind of got exposed to the photographer's the designers, and I thought, wow, it's one of the designers, one of the things, it's everywhere, a lot of times you just don't see it or don't think about it directly. And it was one of the things that one of us kind of exposed to was like, wow, this is really cool. This is really interesting. And as I said, I kind of started looking into it talking to people and thought, yeah, this is what I'm gonna go do.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

You said that you work as a designer today, and you're creating user experience design. So what's that the objective eventually or will you? Because I'm kind of trying, I'm trying to put my handle around UX design and designing for for media? Are these two different things? Or would you say that there is a commonality there?

Matt Rife:

There is some overlap. And so I went to a very traditional graphic design program, one of the professor's I had did a master's degree at a cow. And he they do a huge amount, a huge number of books like he was a very much in the bookbinding. So I learned and can still hand bind a hard bound book, oh, yes, I can set that up and glue it and put together a hand bound book. So but really, when you get into user experience, there is a fair amount of technical involved. So one, of course, is that these things have to be built. So there are printing processes and things like that, if you're doing print design, on the technical side, you have to deal with developers. And you have to deal with the frameworks and the technology and the tools available to you. And there are certain limitations. So for example, if you're designing for a mobile device, you've only got so much screen space. And one of the things with mobile devices in particular, is that, especially on the Android side, there's such a huge variety of devices. It's like, how do I make this work on the tiniest sort of lowest end phone there is versus I've got a, you know, a brand new Samsung Galaxy 20 or whatever. So there is some overlap in terms of the visuals, thinking about things like typographic hierarchies, color design, things like that, but it sort of goes off in in a lot of different ways. From there.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

Okay, I would have thought so but I think thank you for sharing that insight. I always learn something new about it, you know, as you launched yourself into user experience design, would that be the right term? Would that be the right way to coin that? Okay, sure. All right. So writing is a very important part of user experience. And since my podcast is about an audience who may be interested in launching their career into UX writing, I kind of want to dive right into that question with you. What does that look like?

Matt Rife:

It depends. If you look at traditional experience design or user experience design, you're looking typically a lot of microcopy. So if you're looking at mobile apps, let's say you something like payments app or a banking app or something like that, you're looking at the microcopy. Like how can I convey what these people need to do or what information they need to complete their task or whatever they're trying to do. And a quick, simple kind of way, because I hate to tell my copywriters, this, but especially on mobile, folks don't read, they don't really read you, they're just like getting through trying to get through as quickly as they can. So you've got to make it clear, and concise, that's the most important thing. But when you get into sort of enterprise applications, when we're talking about things like the healthcare stuff that I work on now, or, you know, CRM applications, or especially enterprise type stuff, there's a lot more there. So there's still that element of the microcopy user experience, like, hey, I need to explain to someone how to fill out this form or what happens here. So that's an important element of it. But then there's a lot of more a lot more in depth content that has to be written. So you think about traditional help content, or in I spent a lot of time, you know, I've worked in financial services for about 10 years. So when you get into highly regulated industries, like banking, and healthcare, there's a lot of content that goes along with that regulatory content, I worked on some credit card servicing applications, and our FAQ sections for that were just enormous. And so getting that information there, making it clear, making it accessible, was a little more long form, obviously. But you've got to be clear, especially when you're dealing with things like healthcare and banking, but most folks just don't really understand the intricacies of it. So making it accessible,

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

Making it accessible, I think what I'm realizing is, as we are talking about what does UX writing look like? Your technical writing is generally long form, traditionally speaking. And my takeaway from this conversation is that a UX writer, let's just call it a writer, or writer who wants to get into UX writing, has to start thinking of the medium even more, and the microcopy. Right. In your experience. Have you worked with technical writers that went on to become UX writers?

Matt Rife:

Yes. As a matter of fact, I have a friend of mine who actually actually started out as sort of a traditional content strategist, ended up doing some technical writing and then, over time transitioned into doing more UX writing. So the shorter form sort of microcopy work that she does today.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

Nicely. Did that require this friend of yours to kind of revisit the way they wrote copy?

Matt Rife:

Yeah, for sure. You've really got to be, instead of having three or four or five paragraphs or more. You've really got to get the point across and maybe a sentence or two if you're lucky. So you've got to be punchy and concise. I just like, bang, there it is. And that's kind of all you get.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

I think I haven't interviewed a UX writer per se. So you are kind of my segue into that. When a UX writer works with you on a design team, what are you looking for, besides, you know, somebody that can write, and that somebody that can write microcopy? What does that partnership and collaboration look like?

Matt Rife:

So, as with anyone on the team, especially in design, especially in user experience design, you need to understand the audience, and you need to have empathy for the people you're writing for. So user experience research is very important to kind of setting that laying the groundwork for that, but having someone who can look at that research and understand Oh, okay, I kind of understand the demographics, I understand who's using this, how am I able to get this point across in a way that's accessible to them specifically. So that's really, really important. And I also look for people who can, can not only have the empathy for the end user, but also understand kind of the bigger picture. So it's applications, and especially again, enterprise applications can get really complex. So it's someone who can look at that and say, Okay, how does this fit into the larger picture of this entire application? So it's really important for them to be able to do that as well not just focus on I'm writing this piece of copyright here. But how does this tie into everything else we're doing within this application?

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

Okay, I would agree that you got to have that, that larger picture in mind. That is, I mean, even when I'm doing my writing, I have to keep that larger picture in mind. But then I definitely have more real estate to convey that. And to write about it. It's a different mindset, as a technical writer moves from enterprise copy over to the UX side, in your opinion, have you had challenges with writers in the capacity that you are? And I want to kind of bring those challenges to the fore? Because anybody that's listening, if they're struggling with it, what can they do to overcome that is my objective in asking this question,

Matt Rife:

I think one of the real challenges is making it short. So again, you're you're used to writing paragraphs or pages, and you've got one or two sentences, really being able to convey that point like that's, I think that's one of the main challenges. And I think people in general, not just writers, writers are, I think, are certainly more disciplined at this than then lay people. But people tend to add things that they tend to write a little longer. So it's like, you really need to edit, edit, edit, edit, edit. It's like cut it down, cut it down, cut it down. I think that's probably the most important thing that the most common thing is going to face writers who are transitioning from a long form to a shorter form

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

I see. But eventually they do get there. Right. Okay. So yeah, because I think UX writing is something that I have explored. And I have not had the good fortune to kind of make it into. And everywhere that I have worked UX has, they've had dedicated UX teams, but not UX writers per se. It is the designers themselves who do the writing.

Matt Rife:

That's a challenge. And I faced that as well, in terms of being able to get staff who are dedicated writers, I've been fortunate because in the past, I've worked on teams where I had dedicated UX writers, copywriters, content, people who were able to do that work. And again, especially with large applications, it's vitally important to do that. I'm a fairly competent writer. So yeah, I can write up little copy. And I can do error messages that are no offense to anyone but more intelligible than what most developers will write. But, you know, it's not my main focus. And so having someone who's dedicated to doing that, who really understands the craft of writing, and is able to, again, understand empathize with the end user from that perspective, is just so incredibly useful. And I think that's as an industry, that's something we continue to struggle with. And we need to keep working toward improving.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

I want to say thank you for sharing this insight, because I think there are writers out there who are trying to make a business case for adding them to the UX team, and to what you said that empathizing with the end user, and the skill set that they've already been writing for the end user. And they've already developed that empathy. Hopefully, yeah. So. So bringing that I don't want to say resource, but bringing that experience onto the UX team is definitely going to position the team to achieve that business goal even better.

Matt Rife:

Absolutely. It absolutely will. And one of the areas where I think you'll see this, and consistency in your messaging is really, really important. And so again, that's where we get back into that big picture view as someone who's skilled at the craft of writing. So even if you're writing long form, you're used to writing in a certain voice that meets the company voice or the product or whatever. And so being able to apply that consistency consistently across a product or you know, in my case, a series of products is absolutely critical to that being successful. And one of the things about design in general and UX specifically is the devil is indeed in the details and so little tiny Things will make the difference between a really great experience. And something's kind of like kits. Alright, to get the job done. And I think good writing is key to that.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

Yes, I think all this while we've been talking about writing, and I know you are an awesome designer, and I've seen some of your portfolio samples on your website, and I want to kind of dive into that as well, because design and writing complement each other. And as a writer, I definitely when I look at a UX design, I'm like, wow, I don't need to write anything. The design does what it's supposed to do. So I want you to share a little bit about design, from a user experience perspective, and how if you didn't have writers, what was some of the challenges? And did having a writer benefit you?

Matt Rife:

So you're right, a lot of times, there is little to no copy, and especially on mobile applications, that it kind of depends, like, if you look at, you know, a maps application, there's not a lot of copy that because it's a map, right? Here's where things get tricky is messaging, error messaging, in particular. So if something goes wrong, you need something that kind of explains what to do and how to fix it, not just like, an unknown error occurred 0x 1234 F, it's like, well, that doesn't really help me. So being able to do that is really, really important. And when you get into things, especially with banking apps, let's say you're doing a mortgage application or credit card application, or something like that, you get into certain fields, and you know that that TextView may just be a text field, but there may be some help text that goes along with that, like, give me a key as to what I shouldn't be putting in here. You know, TurboTax or something like that, especially because, I mean, tax laws nuts, right? So yeah, yeah. And so even if that isn't always necessarily visible, those little cues, and those little bits are absolutely critical to getting that experience, right and providing the keys to helping the person trying to complete whatever task that is, help them do it in a nice, seamless, smooth way. And they know, okay, I know what that is, I can fill this field out and just keep on going. So again, like I said, kind of back at the beginning, really good design is sort of invisible. I think really good writing, sometimes, especially in the experience design realm is kind of the same way. It's like you don't think about it. It's just sort of there, you don't really see it. But it's just critical to making that experience really, really good.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

Yeah, I think the key word that that really resonates with me is experience, right? You're trying to create a seamless experience. So be it writing or design. At the end of the day, you're trying to communicate something to the end user and make sure that they've met their objective. Right? Absolutely. Yeah. So that's, that's an interesting, I mean, you kind of validate what I've been having in the back of my mind. So you know, I actually want to take a little step back here and understand, on a typical day, what does that interaction between a UX writer and a designer look like.

Matt Rife:

So there has to be a lot of really close collaboration. And that probably sounds a little bit cliche, right, because of course, you have to collaborate. But there does have to be the shared empathy, which we've already touched upon. And you really have to work together, I guess, almost in lockstep to understand what the designers doing this. And the writer is doing this, like those things have to align, because you could have great copy. That's nothing to do with what you're trying to do on the screen. Or you could make a design that doesn't really fit, especially in regulatory environments, where you've got disclosures and things like that, you've got to make sure that stuff lines up. And you've got to make sure that, for example, Hey, I've got only so much space available on this screen, or this disclosure needs to be visible here. So there's a lot of little details like that. And sometimes you don't have a lot of control over them. Regulatory is a good example, especially in banking. So you really, really have to be very closely in touch and and see how things plug in together. And a lot of times that involves whiteboarding or, you know, hey, here's the copy, drop it into your design. And let me take a look at it and things like that to make sure that it fits. So beyond just a cliche, collaboration, you really have to be kind of in lockstep together, walks up. Yeah,

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

Got it. You and the writer are working in lockstep? Do you involve the writer right from the time you envision what the UI UI is going to be like? So to me, the terminology would be right from the wireframing stage, or is there a state before that? Can you share a little bit about that?

Matt Rife:

As early as possible? So you certainly want them involved at the wireframing stage, if you can before that as possible as well. And it kind of gets to, if nothing else, you're talking through the concept and kind of what you're doing what you're working toward, and it gets back to well, if we have research, which you don't always have research, but you know, if you've got research or whatever, it's like understanding what are we trying to do? How are we going to go about it? And then you start your wireframing you start your writing, I think it's just as important to kind of get that relationship built, even before you start drawing drawing boxes on the screen,

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

The word I love research, you said that sometimes you may not have that. And in that scenario, I see so much of opportunity for designers and writers to work together. Because you're working with personas in your mind, right? You're doing your audience analysis, and you're making some assumptions. And all that has to kind of blend together with what the writer is going to write and what the designer is designing.

Matt Rife:

Right. Research is another challenge in that regard is kind of, like writing. So it's so critically important to the process into producing good products. But a lot of companies just don't, they just don't do it. It's it's everything has to be done right away, or we don't want to spend the money, or whatever. So some companies do a really good job of that. USAA, for example, does a lot of really great research. And in fact, the company I'm with now is committed to doing research. And although we don't have a, like a dedicated research team, we they certainly encourage and we put aside the time to sit with our end users talk with them, even if you're just sitting with them for a couple of hours and seeing what they do. That's incredibly important. Because you'll see things even if they don't necessarily pick up on it, you'll see things and you hear them say things. It's like, Ah, okay, that sounds like they have a problem there, I need to explore that some more, oh, that works really well. And so it's really, really important to do that. Even if it's kind of informal. Anything helps, and not having research is

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

difficult. Are you doing the research yourself?

Matt Rife:

A lot of times, yes, I would like to bring on a full time researcher, at some point. But now it's I do a lot of the research myself. And also, the product managers I work with do a pretty good job of taking notes in their client interaction. So they provide notes. And also we have a client portal where folks can put in trouble tickets or change request or feature requests, or all that kind of information. So even picking up on that can be really, really important. Like, oh, they're asking for this feature, why are they asking for that? And sometimes you want to go back and follow up and say, Well, what's your thinking here? Why do you want to do that? And sometimes folks are asking for something, and they're really trying to achieve something else. So spending some time and digging into that is very helpful to make sure you get the right solution and not just do oh, well, you asked for this thing, we did this thing, but they really wanted this other thing, right? Yeah, the understanding is very, very important.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

It's incredible that you get this opportunity to interact with your end user in whatever capacity that might be. And I'm thinking as a writer, how much that would benefit me and I think as a designer, as well, I'm trying to kind of understand how much more important that would be as you start thinking about your end user and how you're going to design a feature or whatever that is you're designing?

Matt Rife:

Yeah, absolutely. And I'll give you a good example, one of the products that I am responsible for, has to deal with managing medical claims. If you work in a hospital, they have 1000s, or 10s, of 1000s of claims that they have to process a huge amounts of data. And so, you know, it's easy for me as just a designer to say, Oh, I'm just gonna stick a data table in here, put a bunch of stuff in and it's going to be great. And then you start talking to people and you find that, well, what they really need to do is open these up and look at them side by side to maybe compare two different claims, or maybe they need to apply the same change to five claims at a time. So it's like, okay, well, yeah, I could have just stuck it in a data table. And it's fine, because they can see it, but it doesn't really solve what they're trying to do. And so, again, that insight, like what are you really doing with this? Oh, you need to put it side by side. So that tells me that I need to make that screen responsive so that you can shrink it down. So you've got two on your screen. And, again, it kind of goes with understanding what folks are using in terms of hardware, like, I've got a nice 27 inch big screen monitor on my desk. hospitals don't buy 27 inch big screen monitors for their staff, right. So I need to understand, okay, what are you really using? What kind of monitor Do you have? What does that look like? And what do I need to do to make sure that it works effectively, not just for what you're trying to do. But on the tools you have to work with it on?

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

As you were, you know, sharing all this invaluable information that you can get from these different sources? That's exactly what I think as a writer to where can I get. So I'm thinking if a writer does not have this information, they could go to the designer, because the designer will definitely have more information about what kind of technology the end user might end up using or what their environment is going to be like. So that collaboration again. And being in lockstep becomes so much more important.

Matt Rife:

Certainly does. And that's why you know, to your point, starting as soon as possible even before wireframing like, Hey, what are we trying to do here? What are the constraints we have to work with then? It's really important to have that going in because it's easier to get it right the first time then not to say you don't edit or make changes, but get it as close to right the first times come back and say Oh, well we spent three weeks Let's designing this and it's totally wrong. So we have to go back and fix it.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

Yeah, I think I definitely would agree with that. Because that actually trumps, you know, this is a good segue into my next question is, you know, you said, you want to try and get it right, or as close to being right the first time. And we all understand why that is important. Because at the end of the day, we are trying to enable the user to get to where they need to get to quickly. So the question really is, do you happen to work in an agile environment?

Matt Rife:

Yes, in fact, I think I've worked in agile environment, I know I started working in Agile environments in about 2008. And it's been quite a long time since I've done anything that's not agile,

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

Going back to the discussion that we just had, where you want to try and get it right, without too many iterations. But agile also enables you to be creative and to make changes and to respond faster. In this environment. What does that relationship look like with a with a rider? At that point,

Matt Rife:

I think the trick with Agile is making sure that you get the foundation right to start. So you've got to get that part, right. And then you're right through the iterations, you can make additions or make changes. But if you really get it wrong from the start, if you start down the wrong path, and you get six iterations in you guys, oh, no, this is totally wrong, we have to go back to the start. That's a big problem. So again, just kind of understanding where you're trying to go, what the challenges are, what the constraints are. And then putting that you're just taking a little bit of time, I'm not talking like this has to take weeks, but just take a little bit of time to understand what you've got, where you're trying to go, really helps lay the groundwork, and lets both the writer and the designer sort of say, Okay, here's the framework, we're going to use, here's, here's how we're going to do this, and then actually start executing and right through the iterations, you can refine that you can make changes, you can add on to it. Right. But that early collaboration is super important to just getting that that initial groundwork, right.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

Yeah. So I think what you're really trying to remind the audience and sort of reinforces that collaboration, as soon as you can start for both the designer, and hopefully, a researcher and a writer to start that journey, from the point of conception, onwards, would rein in and much more benefits than kind of bringing on a writer much later in that journey.

Matt Rife:

If you can even get the writer to sit in on the research sessions. Again, there's nothing like firsthand knowledge.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

I've had so many questions going through my mind. And I think I've tried to kind of bring a good perspective on what a designer does, and how a writer can complement the designer's journey, how the designer can complement a writer's journey, in meeting the end objective. Now, is there anything that you would like to add to, you know, if I may have missed anything here?

Matt Rife:

I think we've pretty well covered. And I think the thing with folks, especially if you're trying to transition from, you know, sort of a longer form or another field into tech writing, in general, or specifically UX writing is don't necessarily specialize really quickly, like, take a more of a generalist approach and see what you can find. And the other thing I'll tell people is that it's really, really important, just look around you, because there are lots of like, design and experiences are everywhere. And I'm just giving you a good sort of random example. But in the UX world, we have what's called Dark patterns. And dark patterns are sort of these tricks that people use to get you to do something maybe you don't want to do like if you're in a checkout cart. And it's like, you know, you see little checkbox under sign up for our newsletter and get free coupons or whatever. Well, really, like people may not want to do that. But how many times do you see that that tick box is checked? That's sort of a mild version that but I'll tell you one time I was I was at a gas pump. So I'm getting gas putting gas in my car. And I looked at the gas pump and something wasn't right. It confused me for a minute. And I'm like, well, that's kind of weird. And then it hit me. If you normally look at a gas pump, it's the ratings are 8789 91. This one was the other way around. Oh, so it's like how many people get out, hit the first button. And this guys are buying the most expensive gas and putting in their car. So it's things like that. Just like, it doesn't necessarily have to be like, I'm looking at my phone app, or I'm looking at something it's like, this stuff is everywhere. And there's so much stuff you can learn and pick up on. Just really look for it. And don't just look for like, Oh, that's really cool. But things like that, like, well, that's kind of weird. That's kind of bad. Like, I don't like that. And that informs the work you do. You can say oh, well, you know, had this experience that was kind of weird. So I know. I don't want to do that in my design or in my writing.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

No, that is such an amazing advice. You know, you got my attention, right when you said, take the generalist approach. And don't try to take shortcuts and dive into something too quickly. That is so important because as a writer, I'm trying to apply this advice to myself. I would have loved to be a UX writer because Is there is this thing? I don't know, is this a myth? or is this some Is this a fact. But when I look at the job boards, it appears that UX writers definitely have are on a different pay scale than what technical writers are especially experienced technical writers. So anybody that is doing has been doing technical writing for a long time should not be dismissive and say, Oh, I cannot be a UX writer. In fact, they should use that experience to inform where they can take and steer their career towards UX writing. Absolutely. Yeah. So with the generalist advice that you gave, I'm actually motivated to use that to to employ that advice and say, You know what, whatever I've done so far is not a waste, it's actually going to inform if I transition into a career as a UX writer. So that was that was invaluable advice.

Matt Rife:

Yeah, that's absolutely true. And one thing to keep in mind is that we talk a lot about short form on screen blurbs and things like that. There are lots of examples. Again, in some of the larger more enterprise applications, there are opportunities for some longer form writing that goes along with UX. So just because like, well, you know, this is what I do. This is what I've always done. It doesn't mean that there's not opportunities to transition or even opportunities to kind of, as I said, Take a generalist approach like, Yes, I can write short, you know, one sentence blurbs that explain how something works, or I can write longer form stuff. And I think, again, I talked about having copywriters and content strategist, if I can find someone who can do both, and you'd be pretty good at them. I will take those people anytime, because having someone who has more skills is always always good.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

So I think since you introduced these new actors, content strategists, and copywriters, how are they different from a technical writer slash UX writer? Can you share a little bit about that?

Matt Rife:

When I talk about copywriters, I typically I'm talking about, it's more of a traditional marketing copywriter. So folks who write ad copy or social media copy things like that, which in many ways is still the short form copy. Content Strategy is a whole other realm around information structure, information organization. And to be honest with you, some of the best experienced designers and content strategist I've worked with, are not writers and are not designers, I can tell you to the people who are just absolutely stars in this field, graduated from the University of Texas Information School, they have master's degrees in library science. And it's like, really, but that's another thing. As a writer, you understand content structure, you understand how things flow, how things piece together, how to get the order, right to make things clear. And so even if you don't say, Well, I am a content strategist, it's like, you have a sort of an innate understanding through the work that you do, of how to organize things and get things together, so they flow properly. And even if you're talking about microcopy, it's important to get that order, right. And also, and that's where that collaboration with the designer, like hey, you know, I really think that maybe this menu should be this order. It's structured this way, or, you know, you're putting these data fields on the screen, like maybe we need to restructure them or reorder them this other way. Because these things are grouped together. That's a lot of value that someone who is like, Well, I'm just, I'm just a tech writer, I'm just a UX writer. It's like, no, no, there's a lot of stuff you have there that you may not necessarily be conscious of. There's a lot of how you can bring into discussions like that that are going to be, again, you're gonna make those little differences between a good experience and a great experience.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

That's Wow, wow, wow, that's so true. That is so true. And this is something that we as writers do on a daily basis, it's just that we don't think about it. But what you're trying to do is shine a light on that skill that you may have internalized. And to kind of bring that to the fore.

Matt Rife:

Exactly. That's exactly right. Yeah. So, man,

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

this has been such an awesome conversation. Although, you know, you are a UX designer, you will have been on my show to really help writers, to kind of partner with you and to help writers. So I really appreciate your insight to anybody that is considering moving into this field. But I definitely want to do justice to you as a designer, is there anything that I can do on my show to help designers to my podcast,

Matt Rife:

I think shows like this are really, really important. So you're showing kind of a broader view of that. So I think it's easy to get sort of siloed into well, you know, we're tech writers, or we're UX writers and kind of focus on one aspect. And in fact, it's quite broad. So not only the UX designers, but also there's a little bit of a differentiation between like the visual or UI designers like that's a whole other kind of thing. And so, research is another one where that's crucially important, but I think just highlighting that, hey, you know, we're not necessarily just in this one little box, there's like this whole world and all of these, all these other interactions, and ultimately other opportunities to branch out and go look for these if you're so inclined, so I just think you keep looking for the for, you know, sort of those opportunities where we're different, I guess disciplines crossover.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

That's so true. Again, thank you so much for your time. Matt, I always ask this last question. Is there anything, anything at all that you would like to add?

Matt Rife:

Again, I think the most important thing for folks is to not just focus on what you know, or what you've done, certainly apply that because everything you've done you can take with you. But I think the fact is your point about internalizing things, people know a lot more than they think they know many times. And it's back to our discussion about contents like, Well, I'm just a writer, whatever it's like, right, but you organize stuff, there's all this other stuff you do that go along with that. Don't sell yourself short, I think is one of the key points I would make in closing,

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

I couldn't agree more with you don't sell yourself short. That is so very important. And we all straddle many roles. And this conversation has helped me to kind of not only understand and kind of feel the value that I bring to design, but to see how designers bring value to my field, especially from the research perspective. So that partnership, and that collaboration is so very important. And making a business case for that earliest collaboration that you can in your journey is the I think it's tremendously important. And I really appreciate this conversation with you, Matt, thank you so much for joining us. And I want to thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge with us. And I hope you have a lovely weekend.

Matt Rife:

Thank you. You're welcome. It's been my pleasure.

Zohra Mubeena-Mutabanna:

Absolutely. My pleasure to Matt, thank you. Subscribe to the podcast on your favorite app, such as Apple, Google, or Spotify. For the latest on my show, follow me on LinkedIn, Instagram, or visit us at www.insidetech comm dot show. Catch you on another episode.