Why you should run content crits and how they improve UX design

Why you should run content crits and how they improve UX design

Why you should run content crits and how they improve UX design

Why you should run content crits and how they improve UX design

Jane McFadyen

Content Designer

You might have already heard about content crits (short for critique). Today, I want to share a little more information about what they are, and importantly, what they are not. Oh, and this bit is key – how they can help improve user experience (UX) design. 

What is a content crit?

Let’s start with understanding what a content crit actually is. For starters, here’s my take: 

“It’s a collaborative process. You share content, get constructive feedback, consider alternatives and bounce ideas around with support and advice.” 

It’s worth saying here that content isn’t just about the words. You could be asked for feedback about structure, ordering of pages or screens, a user journey or even a tool to do a thing.

The format is usually a group sat around a screen displaying the content. The content owner gives a short introduction, with any context needed to kick things off. They also take any questions, so it’s helpful if someone else takes notes. 

The group takes a moment to look at the content and offer constructive feedback and suggestions. Often this turns into a bit of a discussion, and this is great! It’s where others’ knowledge and experience of UX can help improve your content. 

Sometimes a content owner might start off by focusing on something specific they want feedback or help with. It’s also a good way to encourage people to join in if it’s a bit quiet to start with. 

A content crit can be in person or online (especially helpful in these current times). I’ve used Skype and Slack but use whatever method works for you.  I know some teams who are using MIRO really effectively. The most important thing is that everyone involved can see your content and can give feedback. 

Mind your language 

A great tip from my colleague Lindsay is: 

A crit is not about you, or what you think, so mind your language, try to avoid saying 'I'.


This totally works. If you change how you speak, your feedback becomes less confrontational and less opinion-based, and easier to discuss: 

I think it would be better” change to “Have you thought about…
I wouldn't use that layout” try instead “Could the call to action be clearer…
I think that would cause a problem” use “Will users expect that...

It can be a nerve-racking experience putting content you’ve created in front of others for feedback. Make no mistake, it’s A BIG DEAL. Yes, you will be nervous the first time. But know this, we all share the same fears of judgement. 

At first, I found them intimidating and my imposter syndrome was through the roof. But my colleagues gave me the confidence to join in and collaborate – great stuff. 

There are some simple rules to follow for a content crit that help enhance the process and protect the content creators. 

Content crit rules 

I follow the content crit rules from Sarah Richard’s quite brilliant book ‘Content Design’. These ensure a content crit is a safe space for people to share without fear of judgement or unhelpful criticism. 

They also help you to focus on what’s needed, not what you think. Which also helps to keep personal views or bias out of the discussion. 

What a content crit is not 

If you’ve worked with content I bet you’ve done some kind of informal feedback. This is not the same as a content crit. For example, you might have: 

  • asked a colleague ‘to take a look’ 
  • got a sense check from a trusted friend 
  • had a chat with someone who produced something similar 

The reality is relying on these methods is problematic because they are limited. It often means feedback is;

  • rushed, in a spare 5 minutes
  • opinion-based, and open to unconscious bias
  • not an official part of the content creation process
  • treated as a ‘nice to have’

Hopefully, now you won’t confuse any of these methods for a content crit - it’s just feedback on the fly. 

How a crit can improve your UX design 

I know the real benefits a crit can bring to your content; valuable help, support form content colleagues and constructive collaboration. But it can also impact on the whole of the UX design process. 

I held a crit for a particularly tricky user journey for a re-design of a live service. I printed out all the content and popped it onto a wall to show the flow of screens. I felt I couldn’t get the flow right, it seemed overly complicated, and I worried I’d missed something obvious. 

My colleagues stood in front of my content and just took the time to look, think and ask questions. I felt reassured. Everyone agreed that it was really hard flow and understood the difficulty…phew. We then had a great discussion about the rationale for the content and the constraints while re-designing. 

My colleague picked up a section of content and moved it to the start of the journey – and BAM! My mind was officially blown. We then had a ‘what if’ discussion about moving the content and…it just worked! 

I went on to re-work the rest of the content and re-flow the whole user journey, changing the re-build of a live service. The UX was massively improved because of our content crit collaboration. 

Our new content performed well during user testing and analytics have shown no issues with changing the flow. The redesigned service is now live. 

And there’s more… 

Content crits improve UX design in other less obvious ways too. They’re a powerful community-building tool, as you have the opportunity to: 

  • give positive feedback, share knowledge and experience
  • connect with those working in different products, services or even locations
  • showcase the community
  • invite stakeholders to gain an understanding of content and UX design 

And the best bit, run regularly content crits help build a confident and consistent UX community. 

Did I mention that they can be FUN TOO?! There is nothing quite like a room full of your own UX tribe. It's empowering and reaffirming…and exciting! You leave with lots of great feedback that can help to validate your decisions or help improve your UX design.

Get started with content crits

It’s quite obvious that I’m a fangirl of content crits, but seriously, now you’ve read about them what’s not to like? I’d love to hear if you’ve been inspired to start running your own content crits. I really hope you go for it you won’t regret it.

You might have already heard about content crits (short for critique). Today, I want to share a little more information about what they are, and importantly, what they are not. Oh, and this bit is key – how they can help improve user experience (UX) design. 

What is a content crit?

Let’s start with understanding what a content crit actually is. For starters, here’s my take: 

“It’s a collaborative process. You share content, get constructive feedback, consider alternatives and bounce ideas around with support and advice.” 

It’s worth saying here that content isn’t just about the words. You could be asked for feedback about structure, ordering of pages or screens, a user journey or even a tool to do a thing.

The format is usually a group sat around a screen displaying the content. The content owner gives a short introduction, with any context needed to kick things off. They also take any questions, so it’s helpful if someone else takes notes. 

The group takes a moment to look at the content and offer constructive feedback and suggestions. Often this turns into a bit of a discussion, and this is great! It’s where others’ knowledge and experience of UX can help improve your content. 

Sometimes a content owner might start off by focusing on something specific they want feedback or help with. It’s also a good way to encourage people to join in if it’s a bit quiet to start with. 

A content crit can be in person or online (especially helpful in these current times). I’ve used Skype and Slack but use whatever method works for you.  I know some teams who are using MIRO really effectively. The most important thing is that everyone involved can see your content and can give feedback. 

Mind your language 

A great tip from my colleague Lindsay is: 

A crit is not about you, or what you think, so mind your language, try to avoid saying 'I'.


This totally works. If you change how you speak, your feedback becomes less confrontational and less opinion-based, and easier to discuss: 

I think it would be better” change to “Have you thought about…
I wouldn't use that layout” try instead “Could the call to action be clearer…
I think that would cause a problem” use “Will users expect that...

It can be a nerve-racking experience putting content you’ve created in front of others for feedback. Make no mistake, it’s A BIG DEAL. Yes, you will be nervous the first time. But know this, we all share the same fears of judgement. 

At first, I found them intimidating and my imposter syndrome was through the roof. But my colleagues gave me the confidence to join in and collaborate – great stuff. 

There are some simple rules to follow for a content crit that help enhance the process and protect the content creators. 

Content crit rules 

I follow the content crit rules from Sarah Richard’s quite brilliant book ‘Content Design’. These ensure a content crit is a safe space for people to share without fear of judgement or unhelpful criticism. 

They also help you to focus on what’s needed, not what you think. Which also helps to keep personal views or bias out of the discussion. 

What a content crit is not 

If you’ve worked with content I bet you’ve done some kind of informal feedback. This is not the same as a content crit. For example, you might have: 

  • asked a colleague ‘to take a look’ 
  • got a sense check from a trusted friend 
  • had a chat with someone who produced something similar 

The reality is relying on these methods is problematic because they are limited. It often means feedback is;

  • rushed, in a spare 5 minutes
  • opinion-based, and open to unconscious bias
  • not an official part of the content creation process
  • treated as a ‘nice to have’

Hopefully, now you won’t confuse any of these methods for a content crit - it’s just feedback on the fly. 

How a crit can improve your UX design 

I know the real benefits a crit can bring to your content; valuable help, support form content colleagues and constructive collaboration. But it can also impact on the whole of the UX design process. 

I held a crit for a particularly tricky user journey for a re-design of a live service. I printed out all the content and popped it onto a wall to show the flow of screens. I felt I couldn’t get the flow right, it seemed overly complicated, and I worried I’d missed something obvious. 

My colleagues stood in front of my content and just took the time to look, think and ask questions. I felt reassured. Everyone agreed that it was really hard flow and understood the difficulty…phew. We then had a great discussion about the rationale for the content and the constraints while re-designing. 

My colleague picked up a section of content and moved it to the start of the journey – and BAM! My mind was officially blown. We then had a ‘what if’ discussion about moving the content and…it just worked! 

I went on to re-work the rest of the content and re-flow the whole user journey, changing the re-build of a live service. The UX was massively improved because of our content crit collaboration. 

Our new content performed well during user testing and analytics have shown no issues with changing the flow. The redesigned service is now live. 

And there’s more… 

Content crits improve UX design in other less obvious ways too. They’re a powerful community-building tool, as you have the opportunity to: 

  • give positive feedback, share knowledge and experience
  • connect with those working in different products, services or even locations
  • showcase the community
  • invite stakeholders to gain an understanding of content and UX design 

And the best bit, run regularly content crits help build a confident and consistent UX community. 

Did I mention that they can be FUN TOO?! There is nothing quite like a room full of your own UX tribe. It's empowering and reaffirming…and exciting! You leave with lots of great feedback that can help to validate your decisions or help improve your UX design.

Get started with content crits

It’s quite obvious that I’m a fangirl of content crits, but seriously, now you’ve read about them what’s not to like? I’d love to hear if you’ve been inspired to start running your own content crits. I really hope you go for it you won’t regret it.

Webinar Recording

Lightning fast content design 101

Find what your users want from you without leaving your kitchen table.

March 9, 2017

6:52 am

Register now

Webinar Recording

Lightning fast content design 101

Find what your users want from you without leaving your kitchen table.

March 9, 2017

6:52 am

Watch now
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About the author

Jane McFadyen

Jane is a Content Designer for the public sector in the UK, with a single-minded focus on designing clear and helpful content. Passionate about accessibility and user centered design, she works with multi-disciplined teams to research, design, test and iterate.

Jane has more than 18 years experience wrangling content (and stakeholders). She's led digital transformation and training to enable people to become better content managers by understanding the value of good user experience.

When she’s not busy helping make better services for people, Jane can be found obsessing over Star Wars (with her boys) or content (on Twitter). You can follow Jane on Twitter.

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