Every year I track the books I read, and rate each on a personally subjective scale:
- * 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
Looking for past years? Here’s 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012. This year, the best books I read were Contagious, by Jonah Berger, A Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, and Travels with Charlie, by John Steinbeck. My favorite by far was A Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve read Atwood’s The Blind Assassin (twice) and couldn’t stand it, but now I can’t wait to read more by her.
Without further ado, this year’s book list: Continue Reading
Every winter I’m surprised to see who comes out in defense of “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Holidays.” This year, a Facebook meme helpfully summarized how many people feel.
But words have meaning. Merry Christmas means enjoy celebrating one specific holiday, much like saying Happy Birthday, or Happy New Year, or Happy Hannukah. I wouldn’t wish you a Happy Birthday on a random Tuesday – it just wouldn’t make sense.
From a communication perspective, the difference between Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays isn’t about political correctness. It’s about common sense! If you’re not sure what holiday someone might celebrate, go for a blanket “Happy Holidays.” If you know they celebrate Christmas, go for Merry Christmas. And if it’s their birthday, then wish them a Happy Birthday.
Happy Holidays, Content Strategy Style!
Last year, the team at Gather Content gave a wonderful holiday present to the content strategy community: an advent calendar, with a new, 5 minute video each day from a content strategist offering advice.
This year they’ve continued the tradition, and I’m excited to share my contribution.
Day #10: Using journey mapping to create a successful content strategy
If you’re a content strategist, you have likely heard a lot about the importance of being part of designing and customizing content management systems. But if you’re a developer, you may not have the same perspective.
On a recent project, I witnessed this firsthand. While I made a point of creating content templates, identifying content types, and designing governance practices with an eventual CMS customization in mind, the (external) development team was not prepared for the same level of collaboration. They looked at my deliverables as options, and when my ideas didn’t fit, rather than open a discussion they unilaterally made decisions. Unfortunately, the result was a CMS that didn’t fit the content needs or the editorial team’s abilities.
At this year’s CS Forum in Melbourne, Rachel Lovinger gave a brilliant talk about 10 (well, 8) things she has learned in 10 years as a content strategist. It inspired me to consider what we know as content strategists, as compared to what our users (particularly the editorials teams) know.
Rachel stressed the importance of author experience, explaining how necessary structured content is, in order to have easily findable, and thus usable content. She went over the basics of structured content, reminding us that it needs to:
- Be stored separately from any display infrmation
- Have content types identified
- Be stored in discrete, manageable chunks
All of this is very important to us, as content strategists. But I suddenly remembered a client who told me how frustrated she was to work with Oracle, where she needed to build “links” and “assets” that could then be pulled into “sections” that could then be pulled into “pages.”
Our authors don’t care if their content is structured. Continue Reading
I was biking with a friend over the summer, on a back road with no traffic. We took advantage of the empty road, biking side by side in the lane – according to Massachusetts state law, on roads without a bike lane we are able to take up the full lane, but we wouldn’t typically do that at a busier time of day, out of safety concerns.
As we came back towards a more populated area, we stopped at a stop light. Suddenly, as a car approached us from behind, there was a loud, angry HONK. We both jumped, and quickly moved to the side, feeling that mix of shame and defensiveness that comes from being honked at. But as the driver passed, she waved to us in a friendly way. Her honk had only meant to let us know she was there, not intending to reprimand us for being in the road. Continue Reading
One of the best questions to get to know a fellow UX-er is “what was your major?” The answers are often unexpected, and tell you more about the person you’re speaking with, as well as more about the field of UX.
My answer, of course, is theater. For most people, this sounds like the exception to the rule. But there is no content strategy major. Not even a major that “most” content strategists studied in college.
Everyone finds their own way to UX. My story is just one example, one possible journey. Continue Reading
“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”
― Mark Twain
Every so often we hear this fear, or this realization: there are no new stories. It’s true, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place for storytelling. The next time a client (or your team) is worrying about what new “original” content they can provide for their customers, point them this way. Continue Reading
Have you heard the tale of the content strategy bear? I first heard of him from Kristina Halvorson, and this is the story she told.
Videos, infographics, articles, Facebook posts… we have so many ways to share information at this point. I firmly believe that the medium, channel, and content type should be determined by the user’s needs or behaviors. For example, emails are likely to be more successful than video when the user is likely to be in an office. This is more informative than making decisions based on stakeholder interests. With that in mind, I’ve written before about the value of steering clear of “let’s make videos” and instead thinking “let’s explain how to build a treehouse” and then choosing the best method for conveying that information.
Similarly, when focusing on UI, there are numerous interactions we can choose from. Our job as user experience practitioners and content strategists is to find, test, and finesse the best content medium or interaction to convey the information.
But sometimes there’s more than one two best way to convey something. What do you do then? Continue Reading