Content Design London

Content Design and Agile

12 November 2020

By Joanna Goodwin

Content Design

In Sally Schafer’s recent blog post, she shared that most content designers have moved sideways into a content design role from journalism, marketing, communications, publishing or editorial jobs. While these roles have elements of digital in them, an Agile approach to delivery is unlikely to have been adopted. Moving into a digital team that works in an Agile way, may be a big change.

This blog post offers some advice and resources to help people new to content design, to work out what the new Agile way of working is, and how to make the most of it.

Think Agile

‘Thinking agile’ is remaining open to change, at any point in time.

The biggest difference between Agile and Waterfall approaches is that Waterfall is a linear process, and Agile is iterative. This means always being open to change and that planning and learning is a constant.

The tip I give to people new to Agile is to let go of perfectionism, and to always look for ways to improve and develop your work. It should be ‘good enough’ at all times, meeting the user needs, but never perfect, as there is always something that could improve it, even if we don’t know what that is yet.

Guide to terminology

There are some great online glossaries for finding out what all the terms are. This glossary from Agile Alliance is one of the best ones I have come across.

Some top terms:

  • Sprint: a sprint is an agreed amount of time (usually a week, fortnight or month) to deliver an agreed goal or set of goals within the team.
  • Stand up: a stand up is an Agile ceremony where the team all get together to update the rest of the team, or discuss challenges a person needs help with from the team. They are very short meetings.
  • Retro: Retro is short for retrospective. This is another type of Agile ceremony, usually held at the end of a sprint or iterative cycle, to capture and learn what went well, and what didn’t go well, to better inform the next sprint or iteration.
  • User stories: User stories capture why a person may need to use the product or service you are working on. User stories help to check your work adds value to the people who need to use or access your work.

Roles in an Agile team

Agile teams are often multidisciplinary teams. A multidisciplinary team is when skills and expertise are brought together from a range of different professions.

You are likely to be the only content designer in your team.

Here are some other roles you may be working with:

  • User Researcher
  • UX or Interaction Designer
  • Product Manager
  • Delivery Manager
  • Software Developers
  • Business Analysts
  • Performance Analysts
  • Architects

The value of a multidisciplinary team is with the collaboration across the team. Having different perspectives provides constructive challenge. I advise content designers to get closely involved in the user research, it is great for getting a good understanding of the language being used by users.

It is important for content designers to be proactive within the team, and to ensure content is ready ahead of the team needing to use it. To do this, look ahead at the sprints coming up, and remain aware of the user stories that will require content. This way you can plan your content so it is drafted, proofed and tested on real users before the team need to add it to the product or service. Going back to my point earlier, in any Agile environment, perfection is never an option and there will be times when you need to provide content quickly and test it later.

The Agile Manifesto, adapted for content design


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