In July 2021 I made the switch to UX writing after 15 years in content marketing. UX writing is the practice of crafting the text that guides users through a product. UX writers (in most organizations) sit on the design team. They collaborate with product designers, product managers, and user researchers.
For me, the road from marketing to design was a winding one. I had been doing UX writing as a marketer for years — but I hadn’t realized that it was an actual design discipline. I knew that one of my favorite parts of my job was helping product designers with writing and content. So I started exploring a possible career change to UX design. Learning about UX design led me to learning about UX writing — and ultimately to my career change.
Here’s what I learned from my experience. If you’re wondering if a switch from marketing to UX is right for you, I hope these tips will help you with your decision!
A career in UX might be for you if…
There are a few reasons why I was so interested in working on a design team. If these descriptors sound like you, a career in UX writing, UX design, or UX research may be a good move for you too.
- You love helping people. UX design is a human-centered discipline. We build solutions with the user’s success in mind. The goal is to help the user reach their goals — which, in turn, helps the business reach its goals.
- You enjoy problem-solving. Each project is a new challenge — a new puzzle to solve. On some days, you might feel like you’ll never figure out the best way forward. But you will. And when you do, you’ll feel amazing!
- You get excited about customer feedback. I’ve always loved usability testing. It’s fun to see users attempt to interact with or understand your work. It’s humbling when they don’t get something you thought was obvious — and a celebration when they do.
- You’re a natural collaborator. UX roles are highly collaborative. You’re likely to work with other designers, product managers, user researchers, data scientists, engineers, and marketers. You’ll be participating in and facilitating brainstorming sessions, sharing and giving feedback in critiques, and spending a lot of time working collaboratively.
Tips for making the switch from marketing to UX
Considering your own switch from marketing to UX writing or UX design? Here are a few tips that helped me on my journey.
Start learning more about UX
One of the best ways to determine if a career change into UX design is right for you is to start learning about it. Pick up a book, take a short online course, or watch a video. If it continues to intrigue you, it’s a good sign! A good place to start is Codecademy’s new Intro to UI and UX Design course. In the course, you’ll learn the key concepts of UI and UX design and the general process of a product development lifecycle, as well as how to create wireframes and prototypes for a mobile and web app in Figma. (Plus, it’s free!)
There’s also Codecademy’s Learn User Research: Generative course which covers the methods UX Designers and Researchers use to learn about their users needs and pain points, and Learn Design Thinking: Ideation which shows you how to use that information to improve your designs. And you’ll also learn how to use Miro — another popular UX tool.
I started by reading Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. This book gives a nice overview of web usability. It was also the book that helped me understand why I was drawn to design over marketing. In design, the primary focus is the user experience. In marketing (at most companies), the primary focus is on driving revenue, conversions, and other business outcomes. Neither of these foci is “better” than the other; Krug’s writing just helped me realize that I’m more motivated by the goals of design work.
I went on to learn more about design thinking — the user-centered approach to problem-solving employed by UX designers.
Each new thing I learned and each new book I read sent me further down the UX rabbit hole. I wanted to learn everything. I had never been this excited about anything marketing-related, which is another way I knew it was the right career path for me.
If you’re interested in exploring a career in UX writing, specifically, here are a few books I love that should help you decide if UX writing is right for you:
- Strategic Writing for UX by Torrey Podmajersky
- Writing Is Designing by Michael J. Metts & Andy Welfle
- Microcopy: The Complete Guide by Kinneret Yifrah
Find opportunities to work with designers
Once you’ve established that you’re interested in a career in UX, see if you can find ways to get experience working with designers. You don’t need to fully make the transition to start doing the work.
When I decided I was interested in UX design, I had a conversation with my manager. I let him know that I thought I might be interested in a career change. After my conversation with my manager, I worked with the VP of Design to find ways to collaborate with our design team more.
I had already been helping out with writing needs here and there. So I started joining design syncs to do more of that and working more closely with designers on projects that involved more in-product messaging and content. Through this work, I got a better sense of the process and my interest continued to grow.
Before I spoke with my manager, I was nervous at first that it might seem like I wanted to quit. If you have similar concerns, remember that part of a manager’s job is helping you find opportunities for professional growth. Many managers are excited to be able to play a role in helping you achieve your professional goals — even if it means that you may end up leaving their team in the future. (That said, you’ll need to suss out how comfortable you feel broaching this with your manager and if you want to make the career shift at your current company, or if you want to start fresh elsewhere.)
Intrigued but not sure you want to make the switch? I’ll also add that another benefit to learning about UX as a marketer is that taking a more user-centered approach can help with the efficacy of your marketing efforts. So learning more about UX design is a win-win for you and for the marketing team you’re working on.
Frame your marketing work through the lens of design thinking
When you do get to the point where you are applying for design roles, it will be important to be able to talk about your past work in the context of design thinking. When you can, try to start utilizing the framework in your marketing work.
When you’re getting started on a project, you’ll need to know what goal you’re trying to drive for the business, of course. But also make sure you think about what problem you’re solving for the customer as well. Facilitate brainstorming sessions to come up with ideas. And, if you’re able, run A/B tests or usability tests.
When I made the transition from marketing to UX writing, I moved from the marketing team at Codecademy to the design team. While I hadn’t officially had the title of “UX writer” before, I was able to share a portfolio of work that I’d done at my previous company. Some of that work was with designers. Some of it simply showcased a user-centered approach to messaging, incorporating testing and iteration. If you start thinking about your work in this way, you can start building your portfolio as well.
Set a time-based goal for your career change
Last but not least, if you’re serious about a career change, set a time-based goal for yourself. If you’re anything like me, setting a goal (and telling other people about it) will help keep you accountable.
When I decided to change careers, I was 37. Someone suggested that I write up a five-year plan for my transition to design. But five years sounded like a lot, so I set a goal to make the switch by my 40th birthday. In the end, I joined the design team at Codecademy with six months to spare. Mission accomplished!
Deciding to make a career change can definitely be daunting. But it’s also exciting! Finding work that you’re passionate about is the best. Since I’ve joined the Codecademy design team as a UX writer, I am more in love with the work I do than I’ve ever been before. I wish the same for you in your journey!
Ready to get started? Try the courses below: