Will Alexa Make Us Rude?

AlexaLast night my husband made dinner at a friend’s house. At our house, he often has 3-4 timers running on his phone as he cooks. At our friend’s home, there was Alexa.

As I sat making conversation, I overheard him say “Alexa, please set a timer for 4 minutes.” and I felt a rush of pride for how polite he was. Then I felt ridiculous.

Why should it bother me that other people tell Alexa to set a timer and don’t say please or thank you? Why should anyone care if you thank an algorithm? Continue Reading


Making the Complex… Still Complex

We often talk about making the complex simple. For years, I thought that the biggest challenge in working on a large scale project was to simplify complexity for our clients. But lately, I’ve recognized a flaw in that way of thinking.

Simplify, simplify

I have a lot of great recommendations for how to simplify complex information. For example…

  • Start with a synopsis
  • Pull out the top 5 areas to focus on
  • Provide details at the end of a presentation, in written form, for those who are interested
  • Color code wherever possible

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to reduce 1000+ (and 10,000+) page sites to a few bullet points or a handful of slides. I create excel sheets, word docs, PDFs, and PPTs to share findings and recommendations that address multiple problems with a variety of audiences across dozens of internal teams… and I try to keep it simple enough that we can discuss it in an hour or less.

I thought that was the goal. But now I’m not so sure. Continue Reading


Content Strategy Gratitude

I’m grateful for many things, personal and professional. I’ve worked hard to build my career, and been exceptionally lucky to see that pay off. This year, I’m particularly grateful for:

  1. My amazing team of content strategists at Mad*Pow! Dana, Allison, and our newest addition Rick are brilliant strategists, fun to work with, and inspiring to collaborate with.
  2. The Content Strategy Facebook group. This is a caring, inquisitive, fascinating group of people who share relevant articles and get interesting conversations going. I love being part of it.
  3. Our favorite tools: GatherContent, and Mindjet. We’ve started using GatherContent exclusively for tracking workflows during content creation, and I couldn’t be happier. Mindjet is our go-to tool for sitemaps and IA creation, and I highly recommend it.
  4. My Mad*Pow coworkers. Our content strategy team is only as great as the people we work alongside, and luckily we work alongside some spectacular teammates.

What are you grateful for this year?


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


How to Workshop Domain Mapping

“Future-friendly content design starts from sharing a common language with the users we are designing for and the wider team we design with. The space and context we are designing for has inherent terms, relationships, and rules. Our role as UX researchers and designers is to tease out these mental models and resolve them into an overall picture of a subject domain.” – Carrie Hane and Mike Atherton, Designing Future Friendly Content

I recently began work on a project in an area completely foreign to me: construction. Although I’ve owned my own tool kit since my 17th birthday (thanks Mom and Dad!) and I’ve successfully hung paintings in my house, I’m not what you’d call an expert.

Content strategists aren’t expected to be experts in every industry we might ever work in. But the question remains: how do you learn enough to do your job well? Continue Reading


How to Start A Content Audit

You’ve just been handed an excel doc with 22,000 lines in it. “Here you go! Go do your content audit!” Your breath comes faster, and sweat breaks out on your forehead. How can you make this enormous mess of data anything useful?!

Take a deep breath. It’s going to be ok. Here are a few steps to start off a content audit and keep it manageable.

Reminder: What’s the Goal of a Content Audit?

The term “content audit” is a catch-all term used by content strategists and others to describe any sort of inventory or analysis of a large amount of information. A content audit is useful for many things during a site or app redesign: Continue Reading



We live in a global world. I hear it over and over, but what does that mean? Specifically, for content creators: what does it mean to live in a global world?

Among other things, it means that your target audience may look, sound, and even think differently than it used to. And I don’t just mean they need your website translated into another language.

Take for example, a hospital in Massachusetts. They used to cater to a predominantly white, English-speaking population. Now they have a fairly large Hispanic population. What does this mean they need to change?

  • Level One: translate the website to Spanish
  • Level Two: consider the needs of the population beyond language. Do they understand healthcare in the same way? Do they need different resources, different images, or different explanations?
  • Level Three: think about the culture. Do they look for the same health-related things that the old population did? Are they looking for things the hospital is capable of providing, such as a separate portal or more in-person opportunities for communication rather than phone?
  • Level Four: go to the bigger picture. What might they need from a higher level, beyond what the hospital can control? (i.e. is the US health system’s requirements supporting them) Continue Reading

Huis Clos: Furnished in the Style of the Second Empire

Second EmpireThey say not to judge a book by its cover, but when I walked into a hotel in Brussels and saw it decorated “in the style of the French Second Empire,” I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Scene description of Huis Clos (No Exit, in English): a plain room furnished in the style of the French ‘Second Empire’.

One note (and potential – minor – spoiler, for those who haven’t read No Exit). No Exit takes place in Hell. The implication is that Hell, at least for some people, is decorated in the style of Louis XIV’s elegant and overly elaborate red velvet brocades and gold and gilded chandeliers. So when I see that style, I immediately laugh to myself, “welcome to Hell.” Continue Reading


Content Testing: Pros and Cons

Sara Zailskas Walsh recently made a solid case for content testing. Here’s a blurb from her Medium article that summarizes the benefits:

How Does Content Testing Help Design?

Here are three big benefits:

  1. It helps designers establish the framework for our conversations with customers.
  2. It helps designers understand the words we need to use so customers understand us.
  3. It helps designers understand the information and emotion their designs need to convey in customer moments.”

I highly recommend reading her whole article, as she makes a lot of good points, including:

  • Content needs to be tested
  • Content creators rarely get all their questions asked during usability testing
  • In content-first design, designers need to know what the content creators are trying to convey

I’d like to suggest some additional methods for testing content. Continue Reading