“Does that task fall under marketing or UX?” used to be a common question asked in our office. Soon, however, choosing between either marketers or UX designers to take charge of responsibilities that we could see heavily impacted the work of both seemed pointless, even problematic. In response, our team started to use the phrase “Marketing User Experience,” or MUX to talk about areas where both marketers and UX designers agreed that close collaboration produced the best possible results. This also took the form of a collaborative MUX channel in our company’s Slack workspace.
For us, it also has an impact far beyond just marketing and UX departments. Our MUX approach is only one example of how our application helps interdisciplinary teams come together to do their best work. While using our own taskboards to examine people’s workflows, we were able to identify and focus on what areas were most beneficial for UX and marketing to join forces on. Also, Since Workstreams.ai is at its heart a task management tool that inspires cross-departmental collaboration, we thought it wise to show a concrete example of how we practice what we preach.
Our basic case for MUX
Although the skillsets of Marketers and UX designers are not the same, many of their overarching goals very much are. Both must deliver engaging digital experiences to create value for their products and for their organizations. Both rely on user data from target audiences to inform their decisions. Both are also responsible for adapting a company’s brand to various portals, platforms, and formats while keeping their message unmistakably sharp. Last of all, both seek ways to anticipate and influence a user’s perception of a product. This overlap in responsibility became quite clear to us the more that we used our own task management tool. It showed just how much common ground marketing and UX was treading whenever we edited aspects of our website, launched features, or were working on value propositions.
Blurring brand and product
At companies of all sizes where both marketing and UX departments are established, it’s fairly common to look at them as two distinct Worlds with distinct responsibilities. Marketers build and leverage a brand to increase sales, and UX designers are concerned with the form and function of a product in order to increase usage. What would they ever need to collaborate on?
What organizations see
The problem in the world of SaaS, however, is that from the customer’s point of view, it has all increasingly become one giant digital experience. The line between marketing objectives and user experience objectives is getting more blurred because there is no longer a solid line that marks where the brand ends and the product begins.
What users see
Our experience on the ground, or more accurately on the internet, reflects this. What should a company do when websites designed by a UX team can be radically improved based on data from the latest visitor traffic that’s often in the hands of marketing teams? How can a UX designer ensure a seamless experience if a product’s design system bears no aesthetic resemblance to the campaigns that surround a particular product? What if marketing materials describe features differently than in-app content does? How can marketing content be relevant if user researchers aren’t delivering reports on product performance, or what features customers are currently enjoying? The list goes on and on.
When we adopted the term MUX, we also agreed that Marketers and UXers need not collaborate on everything, but that building bridges in a few key ways would help improve both our brand and our product. This so far has proven to be true. It also required us to commit to the following six practices:
1: Regularly exchange data and feedback
We want our brand and our product to be coherent, not only in how they appear but in how they make their value proposition. This can’t be done without the right data. To that end, insights gathered during user research and testing are always summarized by our UX team and shared with our marketing team, who in turn translate it to more effective campaign themes, slogans, SEO updates, and targeted ads. Declaring this kind of cross-departmental collaboration as a source of strength is something that we also regularly assert in our brand materials.
Marketing also keeps UX up to date on how our website is performing, as well as to what degree a feature may be performing better due to a new campaign or due to a design change. In both cases, our UX and marketing teams are always encouraged to make use of the same analytics tools and discuss their different interpretations of the same data together when they can.
2: Involve marketing in wireframing
Some designers, particularly more web-centric ones, see the wireframe as sacred territory. We don’t. Though our UX team does create the final design for any webpage, UX always starts with a simple wireframe that is first created by our marketing team. In aid of this, principles such as gestalt psychology are also readily passed on by our designers to our marketers to help them better frame their thinking about the placement of content.
This is especially true when it comes to building out a user interface. Because marketing is aware of the amount of content that needs to be included, as well as roughly the amount of space it takes up (seen as they wrote the content) it makes sense that the first wireframe would begin with them. Once the content is done and roughly laid out on the page, the UX team can make the necessary UI enhancements and refine it from there.
3: Involve UX in content creation
Though we just mentioned that marketing writes our branded content, that’s actually not the end of the story. As we’ve said, SaaS startups like us need to produce digital experiences that are seamless — from ads, to onboarding, to support, to user flows of the product itself. In order to prevent confusion and decision fatigue from users, everything from color schemes to common terminology for features must keep a certain consistency.
To achieve this, UX and marketing need to agree on a common narrative, and our teams regularly create and review content together, whether part of our ads or our app. A great version of this is how we incorporate data-driven use cases and UX-driven user personas into the content of our marketing and tutorial videos.
4: Create shared visual guidelines
Our UX team has been able to take a lot of the practices used in creating a design system and apply them to our visual brand more broadly. It’s fairly easy to create visual content that either entertains or informs. Making content that does both is much harder. This is why we have created a design library not just for our UI components, but also for the illustrations we use in our marketing, our presentations, and in certain empty states of our application.
Keeping our visual language consistent makes both our product and our brand clearer and more compelling. New campaigns for different features also prove an ideal testing bed for refining the themes, colors, and complexity of our visual brand, which also positively impacts the look and feel of our interface.
5: Create shared editorial guidelines
We take care to ensure that our online content and our branded content has a similar writing voice. Though our marketing language most often, of course, must be a little more brash than our instructional content, where we pursue more brevity, keeping our tone and our word choice within a certain range has contributed a lot to improving our user retention.
Starting early on defining editorial boundaries has been very helpful for us, as we have to align our writing style to fit campaigns, websites, our conversational bot, our interface, our in-app announcements, our onboarding, and our online support content. Keeping a common writing style consistent across all of these mediums wouldn’t be possible unless our UX and our marketing people were consistently talking with one another.
6. Get Marketing and UX talking to stakeholders
Skilled UXers and marketers can collaborate to create a powerful design language — that we definitely know. Interestingly enough, we are also discovering the positive impact that this kind of collaboration can have on producing higher-quality like pitch decks, company presentations, and quarterly reports. In our eyes, our mission is only as effective as our message and our ability to adapt it to different contexts and audiences. Whenever we can, we include our design and our marketing team in on framing our value proposition — not only for users and potential customers but also for investors and other stakeholders. This is how we get our ideas across in the right way to the right audience while keeping our overall message sharp and consistent.
In the end, however it’s done, both our MUX approach and our task management tool is built around the idea that the best results come when people from across departments can breach their barriers and hash out their ideas together, not separately.