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Trends vs. Experiences

An aspiring content strategist recently asked me how to know which trends to pay attention to. I wasn’t sure what to tell her, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and here are some of the ways I think we can tell flash-in-the-pan trends from best practices.

  1. First, and most importantly, ask: does it improve the experience in a core way? For example, personalization started as a trend, but the basic premise of personalizing information for someone will dramatically improve their experience. Flat design, on the other hand, is attractive but in some cases less accessible, and thus less likely to stick around. Continue Reading
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Small Destructions Everywhere

I’ve talked before about my favorite talk of all time, Mike Montiero’s How Designers Destroyed the World, which starts with a terrifying and impactful story. The story boils down to this: a young woman in college joined the LGBTQ choir. Her choir leader added her to the group’s Facebook page, and Facebook automatically shared her joining the group on her Newsfeed. However, the young woman had not come out to her family yet, and her extremely religious community at home sent her hate mail.

The moral of the story is that we, as designers, need to consider not only the best case scenarios, but also the worst case, the edge cases, the stress cases, etc.

When Montiero first gave this talk, audiences were wowed. The idea that we, as designers, might cause harm rather than good was frightening and unexpected. However, I fear that in the years since then we’ve begun to see stories like this as “other,” the sort of nightmare that happens to someone else – not to us. Continue Reading

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Time and Place

“I passed on Slack. I didn’t get it. I still don’t get it! What is it, is it email, is it a chat room?” -Monica, Silicon Valley

A few months ago, my coeditors at UX Booth began using Slack. Like Monica (thanks Silicon Valley!) I didn’t get it. It annoyed me – popped up at inconvenient times, and generally got in the way of me accomplishing other work. When my team at Mad*Pow started discussing the possibility of switching from our chat client to Slack, I was vehemently opposed. I couldn’t believe we would be so stupid! I HATED Slack.

I was overruled, and to my shock, Slack has been a fantastic communication tool for the Mad*Pow team. Yet the UX Booth team Slack channel continues to interrupt and generally annoy me. Continue Reading

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Don’t Let Perfect be the Enemy of Excellent

I have a secret to share. A deep, dark one that I’ve kept hidden for a long, long time. It’s a secret that many people will judge me for. They may lose respect for me, or think I’m lazy. This is my secret: I don’t like seeing projects through.

I first noticed it when I overheard someone explaining the pros and cons of working for an agency. One of the cons was that you never see your projects continue to grow and develop through the years. And I thought “that doesn’t bother me. In fact, I like being able to walk away while the project still looks perfect. Lucky me!” Then I began to pick up on a sense of pity for content strategists in-house, who have the “boring” work of upkeep, long after the initial audits and strategy sessions have ended. Soon I began to suspect, but it was still years before I acknowledged the truth.

I love being able to hand off a project in the “ideal” stage.

But now I have a problem.

Continue Reading

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Recommended reading: Contagious

Very few books get a 5 star rating from me. 5 stars, to me, means this book was so fantastic that I want to own it, so that I can reread it again and again. The few books that do get this rating tend to be classics (e.g. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Little Women, War and Peace), or really well written sci fi/fantasy (e.g. Words of Radiance, Queen of the Tearling). I’m not sure I’ve ever before read a “work” book that I rated 5 stars, but here I am, about to buy Contagious, because I can’t let another minute go by without having this book to reference.

If you’re a content creator, content strategist, content marketer, or in any other way touch content, you need to read Contagious, by Jonah Berger. It won’t teach you marketing, or how to sell to people, or how to make products contagious. It will teach you about people: what connects us, and what we tend to respond when it comes to content.

Contagious is broken up into 6 sections, each focusing on a different commonality across viral content. It’s well written, engaging, and provides concrete examples that I’ll be referencing for years to come.

Trust me. Read Contagious. You won’t regret it.

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Live from Confab: Content strategy for personalization

Content strategy for personalization: Five steps toward building thoughtful targeted experiences, by Colin Eagan

confab logoWhat is targeting, and why do I care?

Targeting is personalized content/layout for a person. It’s adaptive to a unique user trait, and it can be based on zip code, browsing history, etc.

Targeted = customized, based on data. Continue Reading

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Live from Confab: Measure and optimize

Measure and optimize: Using web analytics to evaluate and hone your content strategy, by Jeff Klag

confab logoJeff works at John Deere. Until a few months ago, their website’s success was business-centric, based on traditional success markers such as equipment sales, and maintenance.

Now, with content strategy, they want content to effortlessly guide the user to complete their intended task. That changes everything. They created a core strategy statement, identified the top goals (customer tasks), and made their secondary goals ones to support the sales journey.

In this talk, we’ll:

  • Learn how quantified task rates validate your content strategy
  • See how task reporting can fuel content optimization
  • Leverage Jeff’s approach in our work Continue Reading
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Live from Confab: Customer service design

Customer service design: Content strategy in the spaces between, by Mike Atherton

confab logoAs a child of the ’80s, Mike (in England) sent away to the US for comic books. It would take at least 6 weeks to get the comics, but the store sent a postcard to let him know the comics were on their way.

That’s experience design, customer service, and content strategy. Crossing the streams of UX, IA, and CS.

Today, we have way more channels of communications, and we can get things shipped way faster.

Similarly, the hotel here provides an experience that goes from Confab site -> the hotel’s web booking -> email reminder -> walking into the hotel door -> checking in at the kiosk -> going to your room -> seeing a personalized welcome message on the TV.

This is service design. Continue Reading

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Live from Confab: How great SEO fuels great content strategy

How great SEO fuels great content strategy, by Alex Volk

confab logoComes from SEO background, and has recently brought content strategy into his team and his work. This talk isn’t going to be the basics of SEO. He’s going to talk about how SEO can identify user needs for content strategy.

Growth mindset means moving from defensively explaining to everyone that you know things, to looking for opportunities to learn and improve. Continue Reading

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Live from Confab: Toward humane tech

Toward humane tech, by Anil Dash

confab logoAnil’s been working on the web for 20 years. He helped build Movable Type, one of the first CMSs, and got connected to a community of idealistic creators. “We dreamed of connecting people.” And the internet has connected people in many ways.

15 years ago, the people working on the web were underdogs. But now, we won! Collectively, we’ve changed the world.

But what did we (individually) make? What were our choices? Continue Reading