Live from ConfabEDU: The accessible user experience

The accessible user experience, by Robin Smail

Robin’s a Penn State UX designer. What is UX, and why should you care?

  • User experience encompasses everything people touch.
  • Usability is how well they can get what they need.
  • Accessibility is the inclusive practice of removing barriers to prevent interactions

There are many many definitions of accessibility though, which can be overwhelming. When admins here “accessible” they sometimes hear that as “costly litigation.” But we are all designing for people with low visibility, hearing issues, etc etc.

We don’t get to choose who our users are or what device they use. They choose that. Continue Reading


Live from LavaCon: Feed the Goldfish in 19 Minutes and 52 Seconds

Feed the Goldfish in 19 Minutes and 52 Seconds, by Stefan Gentz, AdobeSystems

In 2000 Microsoft conducted a study to measure attention span. They found people in a transient situation have a 12 second attention span (as of 2000).

What is decreasing our attention spans?

  • Media consumption (we do a lot)
  • Social media usage (we’re used to seeing a ton of short content)
  • Technology adoption rate (moves so fast!)
  • Multi-screening behavior (we switch between screens)

More and more people have ADHD. Is this also due to shorter attention spans?

What does all this mean from marketing and technical communications?

We’re moving from big drops to little drips. We need to engage people. We need to involve them, personalize and tailor to them.


Live from LavaCon: It’s Amazing What You Can Learn When You Actually Listen to Customers

It’s Amazing What You Can Learn When You Actually Listen to Customers, by Jon Ann Lindsey, Google

Jon Ann works in consumer help centers. She’s trying to get a handle on the quality of translated content, so she had experts review customer service emails and help articles across 11 countries, and the findings were surprising: they thought they knew their customers, but they got a lot of insights.

Good intentions are not sufficient to solve our (content) problems -Mary Parker Follett (with help from Jon Ann Lindsey)

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Live from LavaCon: Personalization of Content and the Power of Metrics

Live from LavaCon: Oded Ilan, Iridize

A lot of people in history made a lot of money telling people what was in the future. Soothsayers. Professor X can read minds. How do they all do it? In sci fi/fantasy they’re not real. But in real life people learn from past people and make you happy by telling you a story that’s similar to that and seems like it’s about you.

We have science and machines and AI now… it’s like a new religion. We just want to know someone’s taking care of us.

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Live from LavaCon: From Yellow Pads to Virtual Reality: The Evolving Role of Content Strategists

From Yellow Pads to Virtual Reality: The Evolving Role of Content Strategists, by Andrea Zeller, Facebook

Andrea’s agenda:

Starting by talking about Content Strategy at Facebook, then getting into the evolution of content strategy, and then how she writes for Virtual Reality.

The day her 3 year old son asked Siri where to find his red cape she realized her kid was talking to computers while she was trying to figure out what words to put into a chatbot.

Content strategists at Facebook “make Facebook more human.” The strategy part is where we consider more than just “what do we write” but also “who are we speaking to” and “why do they need this information” and “where are they in space.” It doesn’t matter what device or platform you’re writing for – you’re always trying to make it simple, straightforward, and human. Continue Reading


Live from LavaCon: Professionalization of Content Experience Specialists

Professionalization of Content Experience Specialists, by Aaron Roe Fulkerson, MindTouch

Exciting times for content strategists.

  • Focus on customer first
  • Think about metrics
  • Focus on crossing silos

You are a content experience manager.

Five principles to customer experience

  1. Self-service is undeniably the preferred channel
    • for support
    • for purchase
  2. Companies that don’t directly engage with their customers are going the way of the dodo
    • Survival of business is directly related to your ability to scale the needs of your customers
    • Most businesses that have been successful to this point have done that by having 3rd parties for sales, etc
  3. 90% of business revenue is from current customers – so customer support is crucial
    • Content is critically important to onboarding
    • Subscription-based business models are the way of the future
  4. New channels demand new content
    • Why are you using PDFs when your users are on mobile?!?!
    • If voice-activated searches are high with your users, make sure your content is accessible to search
  5. AI and Automation will replace customer support jobs
    • IBM says that by 2020 85% of customer support work will be automated
    • We need to create content to support that

To be a content experience metric you need to be holistic in your thinking. Customers don’t care why or how you do it – they just want a smooth, easy, good experience. Put their needs first.


Mental Health Design Guidelines

There are over 500 apps available to consumers that promise everything from relieving symptoms of depression to “curing” bipolar disorder. They are minimally regulated, and while some are fantastic, many others inadvertently hurt the very people they are trying to help.

Although designers want to help, many don’t have the basic information they need to successfully create an application for people with mental health disorders.

Enter Mad*Pow: my colleague Jen Smerdel and I have been conducting research into the intersection of mental health and UX design. As a first step in sharing our research, we’ve created an infographic to help design for mental health.

Use it. Share it. Spread the word.



Me Too. And You. And Her. And Him.

Every woman and some of the men I know has been posting to Facebook with “me too” – an acknowledgment of the sheer scae of harassment in our culture.

What strikes me is the discussions that come out of the posts. The harassment that we consider “acceptable” vs “unacceptable.” The harassment that started as friendly, and crossed a line because one of the people involved had never before been told no, and didn’t think he needed to ask. The harassment that comes in the form of “just a joke” – which might be a joke if one of the people involved didn’t have to be on the alert that jokes can lead to assault.

Now what?

Many allies are responding “I believe you.” That’s good, but I want more.

Many of the victimized are frustrated, saying “I shouldn’t need to tell you ‘me too.’” Of course they’re right, but since we’ve started this, what can we do now?

While I don’t agree with all of them, here’s a list of 20 things to consider.

Mostly, I think we can be compassionate, and actionable. Vet politicians based on their views toward women and women’s rights. Seek out women when you interview for jobs (yes, it’s a bit of Affirmative Action to avoid the cycle of fewer women in these roles because there are fewer role models and fewer mentors). Don’t let this be a trend, a meme, a just-today.



SEO Experts and Content Strategists: Stop Fighting!

I’m sick of fighting with SEO experts. Not because I dislike them, or because I think they’re wrong or they’re stupid. I’m sick of fighting because I know they’re right.

Every SEO expert I’ve ever met has known more about what Google will respond to than I do. They know more about how to get people to the site, and more about how to get Google Quick Answers, and more about how to make sure our content is what appears when people are searching for topics related to us.

So why are we fighting? Continue Reading