I’m a T-shaped UX design professional. I have always focused on content. But my digital experience also includes plenty of information architecture, research, design, development, and usability work.
Here’s how my hours of UX experience break down:
The numbers in this table are based on a comprehensive review of the content, UX, and other web hours I’ve put in over the past 20 years. If you’d like to see the spreadsheet with the source data for this table, drop me a note.
UX and content strategy skills
Here’s a text version of the skills in each column in the T chart and the number of hours of experience I have in each area (I actually counted more hours than listed here, but I rounded down to account for skill depreciation over time):
Content strategy (10,000+ hours)
- content strategy (discovery interviews and workshops, stakeholder alignment, strategy formulation, success metrics, etc.)
- UX writing (UI copy, microcopy, web copywriting, help documentation, technical documentation, editing, etc.)
- content design (messaging architecture, content formats, content metadata, etc.)
- content audit (content inventory, audit, gap analysis, etc.)
- content operations (editorial planning, workflow design, CMS selection and configuration, content migrations, etc.)
- governance policies (style guides, voice and tone guides, operating manuals, etc.)
- content ecosystem mapping (domain mapping, user flows, channel mapping, etc.)
- marketing content (content marketing, SEO, marketing copywriting, email, social media, etc.)
Research (2,500 hours)
- user interviews
- customer interviews
- persona development
- journey mapping
- “customer carewords” research
- keyword research
- competitive research
- data analytics
Information architecture (2,000 hours)
- domain modeling
- website information architecture
- website navigation
- relational database design
Interaction design (1,500 hours)
Visual design (2,000 hours)
- user interface design
- data visualization
- slide deck design
- design style guides
Technical (2,500 hours)
- HTML and CSS
- WordPress, Drupal, and other CMSs
- custom CMS design and development
- agile methodologies
- SQL queries
- database migrations
- development management
Usability (1,500 hours)
- content testing
- product testing
- usability testing
The T-shaped professional
I first learned about the T-shaped-professional concept in 2014, at either an IxDA or Puget Sound SIGCHI event – I can’t recall, maybe this one? I do recall that the event happened shortly after Jared Spool had delivered his “It’s a Great Time To Be a UX Designer” talk in Seattle. In that talk, Jared set out an impressive array of skills that UX folks used. I loved that almost immediately after Jared had shared his jam-packed slides that someone had provided a framework into which you could plug those UX skills.
I’ve thought about accounting for my skills like this ever since. It’s been fun and edifying to finally do this project.
In addition to my digital design work, I also have several thousand hours of volunteer event-management experience. I couldn’t find a place for this in the T model, but I think it’s relevant.
I love crafting real-life user experiences. I approach event planning like a UX designer, always focused on my users and hyper-conscious of their experience.
I’ve been a core organizer on several event teams:
- Content Strategy Seattle meetup co-organizer, 2018-present
- WordCamp Seattle 2017 team co-lead
- WordCamp Seattle 2016 sponsor wrangler and exhibitor experience
- Ignite Seattle co-organizer and slide wrangler, 2015-19
- World Rhythm Festival co-organizer, 2001-03
I’ve also been a team lead for big events like TEDxRainier (2011 and 2012) and Seeds of Compassion (2008). I’m a regular volunteer for a number of local arts events, including 12+ years for the Moisture Festival, the world’s largest comedy/variety event. Each Sunday I curate and publish a list of Seattle community events.
As much as I love digital work, real-life human gatherings will always be in my mix.
Again, I couldn’t find a place for this in the T model, but I wanted to account for these.
Some people call these “soft” skills. I’m not a fan of that label. To me, these are fundamental skills. They’re the tools that make possible the execution and adoption of the great work we do.
Stepping down from my soapbox, I’ll just note that I’m pretty good at:
- public speaking
- business presentations
- meeting facilitation
- workshop facilitation
- curriculum design
- interviewing, research, and reporting (my original training was as a journalist)
- P&L responsibility
- program management
- product management
- project management
- editorial management
- marketing management
- event management
- design management