The Base of UX Knowledge

Last week I met up with a UX designer who is fairly new to the field. She has an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and reads everything she can find on UX, IA, content strategy, user research, and design in general, which is a sign to me that she’ll be going great places.

She confessed to me that she’s often overwhelmed by the amount there is to learn. “I often feel that I’m barely sticking my toe in to this huge lake of knowledge” she said, and I confessed (to her chagrin) that after 6 years in the field, I often feel the same way.

To be honest, I don’t think that feeling ever goes away. There’s too much new research, too many new books, too much being produced and discovered every day. Instead, I think we learn to sift through the information and categorize it into one of two areas: base knowledge, and trends. Continue Reading


A Few Good Words

Polonius: What do you read, my lord?

Hamlet: Words, words, words.

I’ve been thinking lately about words. I read, write, and edit at work, and when I leave I read for enjoyment. We as a culture are inundated by words – words on signs, words on social media, words on TV, words on packages and games and food. As a result, few people take the time to read all of these words; instead, they skim.

Alphabet_soupAs a content strategist, I’ve known for a long time that people skim, and I’ve worked with designers across countless user flows to ensure we’re not relying too heavily on instructional text. Usability tests show again and again that instructional text is ignored. As such, I know that help text is not a replacement for intuitive design. I have learned a lot about usability and user interfaces and making flows usable in spite of or independent of what words we use.

This week I was reminded that words can also improve usability. Continue Reading


Thank Goodness for Budget Constraints

…said nobody ever.

Except me. I said it today, and I meant it.

I’m a big proponent of the “two out of three” mentality behind projects. It’s always just seemed like common sense – I can stay up all night working and make something excellent, but I need to be paid well. I can deliver something quickly and rushed, but it won’t be high quality. I can create something excellent for a low (or average) cost, as long as I can schedule it at my leisure.

I’ve also found this to be the case when working with large teams. With more money, we can bring in additional developers and code faster, etc. etc. But every so often, working with a small team, on a large project, on a tight deadline, clients who say “let us throw more money at the project” becomes deadly. Continue Reading


Bubble tea and Brand Awareness

bubbleteaIf you’re wondering whether brand awareness matters, just remember: last week I was feeling nostalgic for college, and so I bought some bubble tea.

My first experience with bubble tea is forever ingrained in my memory, intertwined with my first experience on my own, at college, living in Boston. The first day of classes, as I wandered through campus, I saw the sign: bubble tea. Here was a sign for an exotic, never-before-heard-of beverage, the likes of which I would never have found in the small town where I was raised. It sounded elegant and worldly. It was everything I had dreamed college would be. I immediately bought one (with my brand new debit card), and watched as they put tapioca pearls (!) into a smoothie glass and added something viscous yet light. I raised the straw to my lips, took my first sip, and hated it. I don’t think I managed to finish half of it before throwing the rest away – altogether unsurprising, since I didn’t particularly like tea, juice, or tapioca. Since then my tastes have changed, I’ve come to love tea and enjoy (some) juices, but tapioca and bubble tea have never made the cut. Continue Reading


Live from CSA: Influencing the Influencers: Building a Contributor Network from the Ground Up

Influencing the Influencers: Building a Contributor Network from the Ground Up, by Kim Higdon

logoThe problem: They had great assets, but no stories behind them.

They had food photos, activity photos, lots of proof that people have a good time in AZ (which they were selling).

They evaluated what they had:

  • A huge community of Arizona advocates
  • An understanding of the gaps – what content they didn’t have
  • Knowledge that stories (the missing content) existed, but that they didn’t know how to get it

The solution they came up with was to create a platform that users could use to share these stories. Continue Reading


Live from CSA: Next Level of Collaboration: The Future of Content & Web Design

Next Level of Collaboration: The Future of Content & Web Design, by Rebekah Cancino

logoWork used to be simple. It was tangible and had clear edges. (quote from @kerry_anne) – but now everything has changed.

No matter where a customer is experiencing content, it’s all part of the brand experience.

More and more of our experiences are online, which means more content we need to create, and thus more complexity.

“Meeting the demands of our multi-device web is less a problem of technique and more one of communication.” Mark Llobrera

Rebekah asked: why do we still get stuck, even with extremely talented people? She found patterns that make collaboration and co-design possible. Continue Reading


Live from CSA: How to Convince Your Boss to Invest in Content Marketing

How to Convince Your Boss to Invest in Content Marketing, by Arnie Kuenn

logoArnie’s team does content marketing workshops, and frequently hears students afterwards asking “I can’t get our management  to see the potential in this.”

  • The problem: using words like “blogging” or “social media” or “content marketing” or “inbound marketing” doesn’t work.
  • The solution: use words like “learning” or “helping” or “listening”

Buyers are searching info that helps them to make an informed decision. The business that provide that information win.

The question to ask upper management “when prospects visit our website, do we want to help solve their problems better than anyone else in our industry?”

Content marketing searches are skyrocketing. And yet, most people don’t know what content marketing is – which means we need to explain it to upper management.

“Content marketing is the art of providing relevant, useful content to your customers without selling to them” – this is the definition Vertical Measures came up with. Continue Reading


Live from CSA: Separation Anxiety: Taking Messenger from a Feature to a Standalone App

Taking Messenger from a Feature to a Standalone App, by Marissa Phillips

logoThe Facebook Messenger app has been around for awhile, but no one bothered using it, because it was the same as what already existed on Facebook.


They focused on being “textceptional” – as close to texting as possible.

To start, the mobile designers began by working within the constraints of the actual phones, so that Messenger would feel like texting. Then they wanted to set up a system so that people who were on messenger would appear quickly, so that the user would know who was likely to receive messages. Continue Reading


Live from CSA: Your Complete A-Z Guide to Personal Branding

Your Complete A-Z Guide to Personal Branding, by Barry Feldman

logoThe benefits of a powerful personal brand:

  • A steady stream of clients
  • More prestige

“Think of your blog a self-directed professional development” Ann Handley”

“To best understand social media you need to become a part of the communities”Neal Schaffer

“Never forget about your personal brand. It’s inherently connected to the business brand you work for.” Chad Pollitt

The rest of the presentation is also available as an infographic.


Live from CSA: Closing the Gap on the Adaptive Content Challenge

CSA: Closing the Gap on the Adaptive Content Challenge, by Don Day

logoWhy so much emphasis on adaptive content?

  • Content should be easy to find!
  • Content should be reusable – it’s not a tea bag.
  • Content should be timeless.

There are a lot of factors determining what content is presented:

  • The technical, cultural (think jokes that don’t translate), or religious preferences
  • The reading level of the audience
  • What users have looked at before – to personalize what we give them next and ensure they’ll like it
  • How long users will have to consume their information (bites, not meals)

Continue Reading