Do UX teams require new skills for Content Strategy, Service Design, or Lean UX?

Jared Spool

July 7th, 2011

Content Strategy, Service Design, and Lean UX. These are what I call special collections of skills. Let me explain.

We’ve identified a bunch of skills that make up user experience design.

A list of skills necessary in UX teams

Skills necessary in UX teams

These include the core skills:

  • Interaction Design
  • Information Architecture
  • Visual Design
  • User Research
  • Information Design
  • Design Process Management
  • Copywriting
  • Editing and Curation

Then there are what we call the ‘enterprise skills’:

  • Domain Knowledge
  • Business Knowledge
  • ROI
  • Technology
  • Marketing
  • Social Networks
  • Use Cases
  • Ethnography
  • Analytics
  • Agile Methods

Beyond that, there are a collection of soft skills:

  • Storytelling
  • Sketching
  • Critiquing
  • Presenting
  • Facilitating

And these likely aren’t the complete set for many teams. It’s just the starting list that covers that vast majority of teams we’ve studied. (If you’re not sure what these are, I’ve described each of the core and enterprise skills when I talked about our team assessment process and the soft skills in my article, Five Indispensable Skills for UX Mastery.)

These are the skills that a great UX team needs to succeed. When teams are missing some of these skills, the chances they’ll produce a great UX is diminished.

When Content Strategy burst onto the scene a few years back, we asked ourselves if this was a new skill (or set of skills) that we had to add to our list? After careful study, we decided we didn’t need to.

That’s because what makes up today’s idea of content strategy is covered in this list already. Teams excelling at content strategy are applying these skills to make it happen with copywriting, editing & curation, marketing, domain knowledge, business knowledge, information architecture, and others.

Yet, we felt content strategy was something different than what we’d seen before. That’s why we labeled it a special collection.

People who practice these skills while focused on content strategy will gain experience and knowledge that comes from the attention to those objectives. This is experience and knowledge that will separate them from people who haven’t focused on content strategy, yet practiced the same skills.

The same is true for service design and for what people are now calling lean UX. These are also special collections, aimed at specific objectives. The underlying skills are the same, but the focus makes it special.

I think there’s plenty of room for special collections. It’s a natural outgrowth of our field maturing. There will be specific conferences, books, and other skill-growing materials that emerge to support people diving into these specialties.

It all makes sense and fits into the model we have of what it means to create great experiences. Personally, I’m excited about it.

8 Responses to “Do UX teams require new skills for Content Strategy, Service Design, or Lean UX?”

  1. Peter Boersma Says:

    You know I love overviews of UX like this, and I have used this one in presentations and training sessions. Thanks for sharing it (again).

    And I know how hard is is to categorize things but still, my questions to you are:
    – How long before “enterprise skills” become a “special collection”?
    – Why are “social networks” an “enterprise skill”?
    – Isn’t “Ethnography” an advanced version of the core “User Research” skill, and “Editing & Curating” an advanced variant of “Copywriting”?

    I look forward to see how you map “special collections” on the overview in future presentations.

    P.S.: the design process freak in me loves the fact that “Design Process Management” is listed under core skills!

  2. Dave Linabury Says:

    Peter, I don’t want to speak for Jared, but my take on social networks being an enterprise skill is that social media knowledge workers operate in an arena that UX doesn’t face as often: the creation of corporate guidance policies and codes of conduct. We also write up governance definitions as frequently as the Content Strategists are required to.

    There is also a greater percentage of time spent with legal departments (think how often Social Media Planners like myself have to deal with privacy issues, write up POVs on what this corporate takeover will mean to the company Facebook page, etc.).

    Social media knowledge workers are often under the gun for proving ROI more than any other group, particularly in in marketing departments, which I find astonishing. You never hear anyone ask for the ROI of billboards or flyers, but you sure as Hell better prove the ROI of that FourSquare checkin!


  3. Tim’s Weekly Digital Marketing Digest: curation date July 8, 2011 | aldissandmore - a technology and digital meme curation blog from Tim Aldiss Says:

    […] killing’, ‘depressing’ and ‘horrifyingly accurate’. Today, I’m taking not-incompatibl…Do UX teams require new skills for Content Strategy, Service Design, or Lean UX?Content Strategy, Service Design, and Lean UX. These are what I call special collections of skills. […]

  4. Nick Gould Says:

    Jared – I’m not sure I’m getting it. Are you saying that Content Strategy (for example) is essentially a subset of UX generally?

  5. Peter Boersma Says:

    @Dave: ROI was on Jared’s list, but I think “legal” and “corporate policies” — both the “dealing with” and “creation of” — are valid additions to the list of “enterprise skills”.

    But I don’t think that only the people responsible for an enterprise’s Social Network efforts have to deal with these issues. Plenty of designers need to run their designs past “legal”, and many ideas are pushed aside by the “we don’t/can’t do that here” bulldozers.

    As I suggested, I think “enterprise skills” will become a special collection of its own, and “Marketing” and “Social Networks” might end up together in a new collection, or “Social Networks” might end up with a yet-to-be-determined set of skills under an “Engagement” special collection, or something else completely, depending on the particular business the enterprise is in, and the role Social Networks play in its business model.

  6. Jacob Says:

    I just wanted to add, it’s always hard to understand and appreciate why all of these different categories and subcategories are so important until you have experience of them yourself, or at least direct interaction with people from those fields.

    As teams are becoming more cross-functional, hopefully they will start to appreciate all these different roles have to offer.

    Thanks for the post.

  7. Stavros Garzonis Says:

    Fully aware of the dread and owe to be arguing with gods I have been quoting all the time, I respectfully submit 2 comments/questions:

    1. Has accessibility been reduced to a set of guidelines that a developer applies? How about individuals with a range of conditions (e.g. Asperger syndrome) other than vision/hearing problems? Should accessibility (or perhaps “Inclusive Design”?) have a place in this list?

    2. Isn’t usability evaluation (analytical or empirical) an essential core skill too? I agree that critiquing (the ability to give constructive feedback without being offensive) is a soft skill, but isn’t “user centered design *and* evaluation” still the heart of UX?

    Thanks for the post (and all the fish!)

  8. Steve Baty Says:


    I’d argue for the inclusion of Systems design – an understanding of feedback loops, integration, and transitions – as an enterprise skill, and also an essential component of Service Design. SD is generally cross/multi-channel in nature (as a starting point, with single-channel being the exception), and an ability to design the system as a whole is critical.


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