Tips for Writing in Agile from a Copywriter
Agile process was made for developers. Born out of software engineering and responsive to client needs throughout a site build — it makes total sense to everyone. Except for right-brained, creative, easily distracted people like me.
At first, anyway.
I’m a copywriter. While I am all for agile process, it’s taken time, trial, more trial and error for me to understand how to work in this process. And while I’m still perfecting how I write within an agile process, I’m on the same page as this guy — the process itself really is more efficient.
And while it’s definitely a smart process for ad groups to adopt right now, I still think seeing an agency team flawlessly execute this process is about as rare as winning the lottery. It happens to some very lucky people, but you still have a greater chance of being killed by a vending machine.
Bottom line, agile process is challenging for content creators like myself. Breaking things out in small iterations might work for developers or strategists, but I breathe page chronology. People still read English from left to right.
Working in an agile project, here is the biggest challenge: You can’t write copy for different parts of a project and still convey a consistent brand voice through the entire space. Whether it’s a webpage or a print ad, voice and messaging must stay consistent from top to bottom.
But that’s what agile asks us to do — to write copy for story points instead of pages. And when you write copy in small story-point-sized chunks, you risk creating subtle breaks in readability that can distract site visitors, causing them to disengage.
And that’s been our challenge with my most recent agile projects. How can copy creation work in parallel to development, UX and design? It’s been a continual process that we’re not finished with yet, but here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Give content its own epic. Agile process is broken down into subtasks based on what different people want to do. Okay, okay, I mean “stories” that fit into a big-picture “epic.” A story is like, “As a shopper, I want to be able to find specs for product X on the specific product page.” This fits into a greater overarching epic. Instead of writing small amounts of copy for a specific story, like writing a single paragraph on specs, I can write copy for an entire product page and still stay aligned with the process.
2. Write to the wireframes. There’s always the ‘chicken or the egg’ debate with which comes first, writing or design. And while the lazy part of me loves to be given a comp or ad to write for — it’s like being given a coloring book page and told to color in the lines — that’s not always the best way to create truly innovative pages that serve customer needs. So if design isn’t ready, write to wires. Work closely with your UX-er or designer to figure out field length, work with a content strategist if needed to discuss content prioritization, then take a stab at writing for the page in conjunction with the design process.
3. Collaborate closely. I love the daily stand-ups on agile projects. Even though sometimes the only thing I have to contribute to these meetings is a bad joke, it’s wonderful to be in touch with what’s going on with my teammates. This is a great chance to discover issues or sit down with team members after the stand-up to hash things out when needed. Get together, work together, get things done.
4. Keep your documents filed for each page. For any size project, identify a shared file-space for your team. It can be in a project folder on a server, shared through a file sharing service or through a solid organization tool like Gather Content. (*I’m just starting to use Gather and am still learning, but it’s pretty spectacular.) Wherever you share your work, keep your copy decks updated and organized every day. With agile team members working simultaneously, rigid organization of content is the easiest way to make sure copy is accessible to the whole team, whenever people need it.
Have your own thoughts about how to work as a copywriter on an agile process project? Wonderful! Leave a comment here and let us know what you think. We’re always excited to learn more helpful hints.