Nick Finck on Content Strategy, User Research, and the Customer Experience

Editor’s Note: Well known user experience professional Nick Finck recently took some time to complete a written interview with TechWhirl as he gears up to speak at LavaCon 2013. Nick, who serves as Director of User Experience at projekt202, will deliver a keynote on “Developing a Content Strategy and Applying User Research to Improve the Customer Experience.”

nick-finck-lavaconNick Finck believes in the importance of creating a content strategy, designing with actual content, and harnessing user research as key elements in how content strategy fits into the user experience. He is a user experience professional who has worked in the web industry for over a decade. He specializes in information architecture, interaction design, usability and user research for web and mobile, creating web and mobile experiences for Fortune 500 companies including Adobe, Intel, REI, Boeing, Google, and He lives and plays in Seattle, Washington, where he’s the Director of User Experience at projekt202, the world leader in applying strategic design research to spark innovation.

How do you define strategy and how does it differ from tactics?

Strategy is essentially the big picture planning of things, whereas tactics are the execution of plans. Content Strategy, however, is the practice of planning the content creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content. It is a critical discipline within the field of user experience.

This planning varies quite a bit from copywriting and copyediting, which are more or less tactics for implementing a content strategy overall. In short, tactics will help you get something done, but with a strategy, you define a plan and vision about where you are going.

Designing without actual content is like speeding through downtown blindfolded and guessing where the turns are. Someone is going to get hurt.

We don’t see user research, one of your specialties, referenced very often in relation to content strategy. How does user research fit into a broader scope?

User research, like content strategy, is a discipline in the field of user experience. User research has many different facets from qualitative, generative research to quantitative, analytical research. Generative research is an approach to uncover user needs and motivations, which is the basis of defining a strategy. Analytical research, such as usability studies, tell you what tactics are working or not.

In our process at projekt202, we use these various user research approaches to drive our innovation process and create an experience strategy that will work for our clients and their customers. Without the integration of user research we wouldn’t have the in-depth insight into who our customers are and how to create experiences that they love. At best, we would be flying blind with assumptions our strategists and designers would be forced to make. It is important to use research to understand the customer’s needs, expectations, emotions, and ambitions and create a strategy to enable our client’s products, services, and applications to fulfill them.

What are your thoughts on how user experience differs from customer experience? What are processes or skills sets that they have in common?

User experience and customer experience are very similar fields but have a very distinct and different approach and perspective. User experience is about an individual’s perceptions on using a product, system, or service. Customer experience is really the sum of experiences a customer has with a supplier throughout their relationship. The tools for working within these fields are quite different as well, but we’re seeing more shared tools as things evolve in both fields.

LavaCon general _ webWhat will attendees learn in your LavaCon 2013 session, “How Content Strategy Fits Into the User Experience?”

In my session, I will explore the topic of content strategy and its role in the overall user experience. This is a high-level talk on seeing the bigger picture of what it means to ensure your customers have a good experience and what is necessary to achieve that, be it for websites, mobile apps, in-store, in-car, or in the living room. I will explain how to integrate content strategy into your existing digital design practice and beyond.


Do you have any tips for convincing management that content strategy and user experience are important?

With content strategy, you are planning and addressing a component of the user experience. Without a proper content strategy and consideration for the user experience, your customers will likely be drowning in the information tsunami.

In a world of Big Data, the future is not about finding information, it’s about making sense of it.

Where can people learn more about you? What are the best ways to connect with you?

The best way to reach me is by sending me a message on twitter at @nickf or via my personal site, Most of my past presentation decks can be found linked there as well as my personal blog.

Shameless plug question: What else do you have happening that you’d like our readers to know about?

In addition to presenting at LavaCon in Portland on October 22nd, you can find me speaking about the field of user experience at Infopresse UX in Montreal, Big Design Conference near Dallas, and at the AIGA annual conference in Jacksonville.

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