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


Not Mobile First, Not Not Mobile

When Jason Levin and I published our article, Mobile First Is Just Not Good Enough: Meet Journey-Driven Design, the responses were largely negative. They ranged from “this is obvious – why publish it?” to “mobile first is very important! Why are you denigrating it?” We didn’t respond to most of these comments, though in my mind I often wondered if the commenters had actually read the article.

If you haven’t read the article, here’s the TL;DR: for teams with limited budget and time, mobile first seems to turn into mobile only. While mobile is an important experience, there are still many actions that people prefer to take on their desktops, so we need to make sure to consider the context of an experience for any design.

But it’s worth addressing the detractors’ concerns. Continue Reading


A “Likable” Brand

It’s been almost two years since Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Girls Write Now Awards Speech, and yet in the current political climate it’s getting some much-needed press. Today, I’m sharing it both because I think it’s a valuable lesson, and because I want to drive home an important point: the difference between a person and a brand.

Forget about likability

Here’s a transcript of part of Adichie’s speech:  Continue Reading


The Hidden Dangers of Tree Testing

Tree testing and its related research activity, the card sort, are often the first research lines of defense for content strategists. We love seeing what people who might use a site or app think about terminology, hierarchy, and categorization. But sadly, I’ve been in many a research phase where we looked at the results and said “wait – was that a problem because we used the wrong words?” or “Did they put those together because of how we phrased them or what they associate with that term?” or even “You thought that card meant that? I always use that term for this… what were our participants using it to mean?”

This is the hidden danger in card sorting: confusing the search for terminology with the search for organization. Continue Reading