writing in a notebook

If you're a designer, you probably know the InVision blog and some of the author’s names should sound familiar. Why? Because the blog’s content come from designers like you.

InVision will occasionally publish a post on current events, trends or product news, but the majority of the content comes from an active community of designers, practitioners and InVision customers.

Clair Byrd (@theclairbyrd), InVision’s Head of Content, recently shared the inner workings of the company’s contributed content program in a presentation at the San Mateo B2B Bloggers Meetup

Background: InVision Blog

InVision provides “intuitive tools for prototyping, task management and version control.” Its platform aims to help companies “unlock the power of design-driven product development.”  

The InVision blog publishes seven to 12 pieces of contributed content a week, out of the many submissions from the design community. In October 2014, the company inverted its model and launched its contributed content program, proactively recruiting designers to publish content on the blog.

Byrd would look at new users to the InVision product and personally email them. She’d offer them the opportunity to feature their projects and design expertise, which would be complemented by InVision’s branded content, along with email distribution, social media sharing and paid advertising.

By doing everything she could to enable contributors, Byrd was able to ramp up to three contributed articles per week, which grew to five weekly articles within the first 30 days of the program.

A Support Process for Contributors

For Byrd, it was essential to provide a support structure that gave contributors everything they needed to succeed. According to Byrd, “We kick off every contributor relationship with a 15 minute call about expectations: what we will publish, what we won't and how to go about getting it done. This gets everyone on the same page early on.”

Byrd has a team of writers and editors to assist contributors. They’ll offer collaborative editing sessions, in which the contributor’s piece is edited in real-time with an InVision team member. “Contributors see and feel our editorial process and become better writers as a result,” said Byrd.

InVision Blog

InVision analyzed metrics on its blog and determined that content with well-illustrated visuals sustained higher engagement rates (e.g., time on page) compared to non-illustrated content. So what happens if contributors submit sub-par visuals with their post? “We'll replace them. Or help them choose new visuals. InVision's content program is 100 percent about contributor enablement,” noted Byrd.

A solid support structure for contributors helps InVision with higher quality content on its blog, as well as a higher number of repeat contributors. According to Byrd, “Contributors see the commitment and level of service we provide in the contributor relationship and that encourages repeat contribution.” 

Fostering the Collective Knowledge of the Design Community

InVision’s contributed content model creates massive economies of scale. As traction with the blog grows, it encourages more designers to contribute posts. Before long, you’re a media company in your own right. 

Beyond scale, the contributed content model taps into the collective knowledge of the community. And that results in greater depth of expertise and breadth of topics and content. According to Byrd, “I've always been inspired by the collective knowledge of the world. Our contributed content program is based on the notion that quality education can be crowdsourced and the best marketing for your products or services is dictated by your target market.”

Byrd believes that everyone has something novel or interesting to share. Along those lines, recent contributed posts had these titles:

  • Becoming a Designer Who Codes: The Making of a Unicorn
  • Don’t Design What Users Want
  • How to Become a Great UX Designer Without a Degree

“We need more media, brands and platforms for people to share the things they love or work within. If we can push the content marketing industry in that direction, then I believe the standard of content quality and education through it will increase unilaterally,” said Byrd.

Community-Driven Content and Editorial Calendar

As content marketers for a brand, we think we know what our audience wants, but can we really be so sure? One way to gain certainty: let audience members create content for their peers. 

“I believe strongly that your potential customer is your greatest source of truth regarding what is truly important and trending in your target markets, leading to higher engagement, massive brand trust and an easier sell,” said Byrd.

Byrd goes so far as to enable her community to determine the editorial calendar. I asked her what happens if she receives 10 consecutive submissions on the topic of UX. She responded, “We let it happen. If we are getting 15 pieces on UX and none on design collaboration, I can intuit that the market is currently more interested in the UX topic than design collaboration.”

Byrd continued, “Allowing our content to be led by popular opinion and current market sentiments encourages virality and stickiness by its very nature.” Byrd considers the InVision blog a platform for what designers want to talk and hear about, rather than what a brand wants to talk about.

Along those lines, she enables contributors to link to other websites, including those featuring their work. She even allows contributors to link to competitor sites, or for competitors to have a byline on her blog.

The Plan Forward for InVision

The InVision blog was recently featured on Forbes in a list of 25 Digital Design Blogs to Follow. From its beginnings in 2014 of a few posts per week, it’s grown to become a leading destination for all things design. 

What’s the path forward from here?

According to Byrd, “Service to the design community is number one for us, and I think if we keep this first in mind, we can and will continue to reach a broader, more international and deeper community of designers.”

Title image "Writing" (CC BY 2.0) by  pedrosimoes7