I joined Auto Trader as a content designer two years ago. First thing I will say, is that no two days are the same. Auto Trader is a fast-paced company — constantly looking for innovative ways to make car-buying easier.
As one of the UK’s largest websites, my words are seen by millions of people — and with that, comes a high level of responsibility. Despite being a large company, we have a very flat structure. There’s no lengthy sign-off process to get something live. We move fast and learn fast.
Here’s just a snapshot of what I get up to in one day…
9:00 am — Plan the week
But first… coffee.
Armed with my morning coffee and notebook (yes, I still like the traditional pen and paper) I begin my Monday mornings by noting the meetings and workshops I’ll definitely be attending that week.
I say “definitely” because my diary is often full of invites. I think this is a good sign, because I don’t have to force my way into meetings (as I’ve heard can be a problem for content designers at other organisations). I have a seat at the table so to speak — the problem is, there are so many tables!
So, after I accept, tentatively accept and decline meetings, I scan my calendar for blocks of free time which I’ll block out as “focus time”. As someone that works on multiple projects, context-switching is challenging, so I try to block out time to focus on ONE thing. Easier said than done.
I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m interested in Intercom’s approach to content design — where content designers work on one product at a time. Right now, I feel I’m adding more value to the business by working on multiple things and connecting the dots between products. By working with multiple designers, I can see similarities between problems and can bring people together to solve it.
It also means that I can share my knowledge of content design principles more broadly as I believe one of the best ways to learn and upskill is to collaborate with others. That works both ways as I’ve definitely become a better product designer by working alongside so many of them here at Auto Trader.
9.30 am — Design team weekly kick-off
My first meeting is with the rest of my design team which is made up of product, visual and UI designers.
This is often the point where I find out if there are any content-related blockers where the designers need my help to move a project along. Now that I have a good idea of when my meetings and focus times are, I can schedule one-on-one time with the designers to work through the problem they’re trying to solve. We also use this time to have a good chat about what we got up to at the weekend.
9.45 am — Project work
I usually pick up from where I left off on Friday. Today, that means going through feedback we’ve had from our partners at comparethemarket.com to tweak copy on our insurance landing page. We’ve been working together with them to build a new proposition that makes it easier to get insurance quotes as you’re shopping for your next car.
I work directly in Figma (so thankful to the people that created this tool 🙏🏻) as this means I can get hands-on with the design and everyone has visibility; product owners, designers, marketers, directors — the lot. I tag stakeholders in comments that I need them to check and go through the prototype on my desktop and phone to see it in situ.
I also use the prototype links to do a remote user research study. We’re currently using Userzoom, so I’ll put a test live today and will have some user research videos to watch tomorrow.
We use a tool called Userzoom to do remote user research — a great way to get quick feedback on content!
11.00 am — Project stand-up
So, as well as my design team, I’m also part of a project team that sets our own OKRs for each quarter. This gives us accountability and ownership of the outcomes of our work.
This stand-up is where we go through how we’re tracking against our OKRs and our priorities for the week. We’ll go through our Jira Kanban board to discuss any blockers and prioritise our backlog.
Stand-ups when we’re in the office
1.00 pm — Lunch break
I take an hour for lunch every day. I think it’s important to get some time away from the screen. If I’m working from the office, I usually go out and walk around the market stalls or do a fitness class in one of the nearby gyms. The office has a great location — we’re spoilt by the choice of eateries!
I’ll also use this screen-free time to make my way through my reading list. My current read is ‘Writing is designing’ by Michael J. Metts and Andy Welfle — thoroughly recommend!
2.00 pm — Design system guidelines
One of my current pet projects is ensuring we have as many content guidelines as possible in our design system. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been asked to write an error message.
I was particularly inspired by Deliveroo’s approach to creating a content design system, so I’m chipping away at that on top of other projects. I’m working on this in collaboration with other designer and developers, so I’m not the only person flying the flag and advocating for content in the design system!
Working with developers to add more documentation to our design system — definitely a work in progress!
3.00 pm — Catch-up with Marketing
My role sits within the design team but I also work very closely with the marketing team to define product value propositions and messaging so our voice is consistent across the entire end-to-end experience. We’re working on some really exciting things that I can’t disclose just yet so watch this space!
3.30 pm — Focus time
The first block of focus time and today I’ll use it to optimise the new car landing page. I use a tool called Contentsquare to analyse engagement metrics then use Google Analytics to dig into any observations.
For example, I can see that the content about electric cars lower down the page has the highest engagement rate, so I’ll test moving this content further up the page with the hypothesis that making it easier for users to find will increase conversion.
I’ll also set up an A/B test to optimise conversion on the headline copy and update the hero image so it reflects our recently announced New Car Awards 2020 so the content remains fresh and relevant.
5.30 pm — Finish up
I usually finish up at 5.30 pm. Pre-COVID, I’d hop on the train home and chill out listening to some podcasts. My favourites are The Content Strategy Podcast by Kristina Halvorson, The Inside Intercom Podcast, and Happy Place by Fearne Cotton — a feel-good way to end the day.
Working from home the last three months, I realise I haven’t been keeping up with these podcasts as it was part of my commute routine. On the other hand, I’ve powered through my reading list and even re-read some of the books that were gathering dust on my bookshelf!
If you’re a bookworm like me and would like to learn a bit more about content design, here are the top 5 books I’ve found most helpful:
- Strategic Writing for UX by Torrey Podmajersky
- Nicely Said by Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee
- The Content Strategy Toolkit by Meghan Casey
- Why you need a content team and how to build one by Rachel McConnell
- Content design by Sarah Richards (no-brainer!)