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Creepy PuppyMonkeyBaby and the Importance of User Testing

puppymonkeybabyIf you missed the Super Bowl last night, no need to fear spoilers here. I don’t know who won or lost, and I don’t remember any particularly impressive football moments (I do enjoy the occasional intense almost-lost touchdown or crazy avoid-all-tackles run). But I did watch the commercials, and there’s one commercial every user experience professional should watch.

Yes, puppies are adorable. Monkeys are hilarious. And babies are sweet. But much like yogurt and shampoo, motorcycles and colognelifesavers and soda, or cheetos and lip gloss, they don’t compliment one another well.

The next time your clients say “is user testing really necessary?” Just show them this video. The answer is yes. Yes, test. Test, for the love of all that is holy. Test, and help us prevent future puppymonkeybabies.

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When Not to Trust Customer Feedback

I’m never happier than when clients offer to put us in touch with their Customer Service team. If we’re going to help improve the UX, we need to hear where people struggle, why they contact customer service, and frankly, what they’re complaining about. I also love when clients say “we’re hearing that people have problems, and we want to fix those problems.” It’s difficult to hear feedback without getting defensive, and those who are capable of it are far more likely to build an incredible user experience.

But there’s some customer feedback that’s not worth listening to. Continue Reading

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Who is “The Doctor?”

three doctorsWhen David Tennant first replaced Christopher Eccleston as Doctor Who, I was heartbroken. Luckily, the show’s other main character, Rose, mirrored my fears and sense of loss, and as she fell in love with Tennant’s version of the Doctor, so did I.

Then, just a few short years later, David Tennant was replaced by Matt Smith, and again my heart broke. I rebelled against this new Doctor, and gave up the show. Recently I returned, intrigued by what I’d heard about the newest iteration of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi. I rewatched the first 5 seasons, and pushed straight through all 3 of Matt Smith’s seasons, catching up to Capaldi’s entrance. And I realized something: each regeneration of the Doctor is a sub-brand, and Doctor Who is the umbrella brand. Continue Reading

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Women in Business in the News

There’s been a lot in the new lately around women in the workforce. Here are a few articles I’ve found that summarize where we stand today in the quest for workforce equality. I think we’re at a plateau, with “Having It All” becoming a buzz word (buzz phrase?), and yet the solutions are still to come.

  • Liz Prueitt is a baker, an entrepreneur, and a mother. She was interviewed about the struggles and benefits in her life, and what it means to “have it all.” Working Mom: Liz Prueitt
  • Ayanna Pressley is an At-Large member of Boston’s city council, Beth Monaghan is the CEO of InkHouse PR, and Jesse Mermell is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Business Leadership. They wrote a guest post on the League of Women in Government about the policies we need to have in place for equality in the workforce. Guest Blogger: Ayanna Pressley on Redefining “Having it All”
  • NYMag wrote about a new study showing the health and stress impacts on women who work and have a home life. The Quest to ‘Have it All’ is Making Women Feel Sick
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Whose Job is the Editorial Calendar?

While many content strategists work predominantly with product or service-design teams, equally as many work in marketing. For those in marketing, the line between marketer and strategist gets heavily blurred. As always, while the job title matters little, figuring out where to focus your time and energy matters a lot.

One of the easiest things to lose sight of is the editorial calendar.

Whose job is it?

Does the head of marketing need to own it, to keep everyone else aligned? Does the content strategist own it, as they’re responsible for strategic planning? Does the blog team own it, since blog posts are more structured and scheduled than social media or other marketing areas?

Here are some questions to consider: Continue Reading

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Books 2015

Once again, I’m sharing a list of everything I read this year. Books are rated on a totally subjective scale of 1-5 stars. In short, here’s what each rating means:

  • * I couldn’t finish reading it, I hated it so much
  • ** I finished the book, but I wish I had the hours back I spent on it
  • *** It was about as expected, glad I read it but I wouldn’t recommend it
  • **** I really enjoyed reading the book, and would definitely recommend it to others
  • **** I MUST OWN THIS NOW! I want to reread it over and over and over

Obviously this means that very few books score 1 or 5 stars. This year the winners were Words of Radiance (unsurprising, since Sanderson is my favorite fantasy author), Sophie’s Choice, and In the Unlikely Event – a new book by Judy Blume. There were also a few rereads of favorite books from childhood (Walk Two Moons and Starring Sally J Freedman as Herself) which also scored five stars. No one star reviews this year, and overall just a fun year of reading. On to 2016!

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark****
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger***
Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson*****
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie****
Wild Girls, by Mary Steward Atwell**
The Confessions of Nat Turner, by William Styron***
Breasts, a natural and unnatural history, by Florence Williams**
W is for Wasted, by Sue Grafton***
I Know this Much is True, by Wally Lamb****
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Brice, by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden***
The Ten Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer**
Anathem, by Neal Stephenson***
Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson***
The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen**
High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby****
The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon**
Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron*****
The Dante Club, by Matthew Pearl***
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, by Michael Chabon***
Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan****
Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner****
Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman****
Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert****
Choose Your Own Autobiography, by Neil Patrick Harris***
Starring Sally J Freedman as Herself, by Judy Bloom*****
Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech*****
Child of the Owl, by Lawrence Yep****
Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson****
Firefight, by Brandon Sanderson ****
The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides***
Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe****
The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen*****
The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kid****
The Dive at Clausen’s Peer, by Ann Packer***
Loitering without Intent, by Muriel Spark***
Invasion of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen*****
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed***
Paper Towns, by John Green****
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte****
The Optimist’s Daughter, by Eudora Welty***
In the Unlikely Event, by Judy Bloom*****
Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson**
Bel Canto, by Ann Pratchett***
Nickle and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich****
Daisy Miller, by Henry James***

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Content Strategy 2015 Highlights

It’s been a big year for the field of content strategy. New ideas and trends come every year, but in 2015 we saw a few key ideas gain traction, and the content strategy community helped those ideas evolve into true calls to action.

 

  1. Wicked Ambiguity

    In May, Jonathan Colman waxed poetic on the fear we experience and the love we share when tackling the world’s biggest problems. He managed to combine scientific exploration, creative solutions, information architecture, and Doctor Who, resulting in a mirror shining on our field, and an inspirational challenge to all who dream, all who dare… all content strategists.
    Check out Wicked Ambiguity on Jonathan’s blog.

  2. Everybody Hurts: Content for Kindness

    Edge cases drive us batty. They don’t quite fit the mold, and there’s always some reason they matter. This September, Sara Wachter Boettcher reminded us why they matter: because they are us. We are all, at one time or another, an edge case, and when an experience doesn’t account for our needs it can be frustrating in the best cases, and traumatic at worst. Everybody Hurts is a talk that should remind us how to design for people, and why to design for kindness.
    Check out Everybody Hurts on Sara’s blog.

     

  3. Content Strategy for Everything

    Content Strategy for the Web is now 6 years old. While (obviously) content strategy for the web is still needed, the world has changed. Experiences aren’t divided into those for the web and those for the “real world,” and our strategies need to reflect that. Kristina Halvorson’s presentation, Content Strategy for Everything, brings our field happily into the future. It’s a lesson well-taught for well established ocntent strategists just as much as for those new to the field.
    Check out Content Strategy for Everything on Slideshare.

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Adding Clarity, not Confusion

A recent project has been keeping me very busy, as we redesign a site with numerous content problems, including a large amount of jargon-heavy copy. Our next step is to prioritize the many pages that need rewrites. We’ll know we’ve been successful if users are able to understand information without calling the help line.

And now we’re faced with a conundrum.

In the case of a complex jargon-filled site, just updating copy to be clear can make a world of difference. In that case, creating a personality-filled voice can either make the copy even better, or just add confusion.

Here are 5 tips for creating a jargon-free, confusion-free voice: Continue Reading

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Best Practices when Writing for the Web

“When there’s no time or budget to work with a content strategist, research the target audience, and define a specific company voice, there are still some basic rules writers and designers can follow to make sure that web copy is clear, concise, and compelling.” Best Practices When Writing for the Web

After years of frustration working with lorem ipsum, designers who create links that say “Click Here,” and even some junior copywriters who never learned what Headers are for, I’ve created a list of best practices when writing for the web.

Are you a designer, who occasionally puts in placeholder copy?

Are you a content strategist, who’s tired of correcting the same things over and over?

Are you an agency copywriter, who wants your clients to be self sufficient and write their own first-round copy?

Check out these simple best practices, to use when you’re writing for the web.