robertogreco + contentstrategy   11

18F Design Presents — Language: Your Most Important and Least Valued Asset - YouTube
"Have you ever felt like differences in language were holding your project back? Perhaps you have tried to standardize language across parts of your team only to find you have opened a huge can of worms?

The experiences we make for our users are made of language choices. We also depend on language to collaborate with the people we work with. Yet language is most often only tended to when you talk about things like content and copy.

Controlling your vocabulary is one of the murkiest messes you can take on, but it also might be one of the most impactful ways you could impact your organization’s ability to reach its goals.

In this online event, we ask information architect Abby Covert to share some strategies and tactics that could help us to pay closer attention to language choices we make."

[via: https://twitter.com/nicoleslaw/status/893280169439264769 ]
language  content  design  18f  contentstrategy  2017  informationarchitecture  abbycovert  information  webdev  webdesign  communication  vocabulary  misinformation  clarity  welcome  hospitality  audience  sfsh  mentalmodels  context  culturallyresponsivedesign  tone  nouns  verbs  wordchoice  duplicity  controlledvocabulary 
august 2017 by robertogreco
One voice, many hands — Several People Are Typing — The Official Slack Blog
"First, you need to know what voice you’re using. There’s a difference between creating a voice from scratch and building on one that already exists — and we’ll get to the difference between a constructed or a nourished brand voice in a later piece — but once you know your voice, you have to break it down again in order to work out how to scale it.

Starting with the what

When we first started approaching this problem at Slack, we tried to do it from a logistical, logical, mechanical point of view. We started making lists of words and phrases that sound like things we’d say.

Or, more often, lists of things we’d never say. It’s always easier to identify what you don’t want your voice to sound like than what you do. “We should never sound like this,” you say, reading a densely packed jargon-filled piece of marketing copy from a long-defunct service. “We mustn’t ever use this word. Or this phrase. Or… here: I’ll just make a list.”

Thing is, while it’s easy to identify the negative traits, it creates a gaping void for anyone who isn’t inside the mind of the holder of that voice. Anyone who comes to write for you steps off the huge cliff of “not like this” into an empty space. What DO you sound like, then?

A great first step, as used in many style guides (and guides to styling style guides) is the “this but not that” list.

From our style guide, for example:
We are:
Confident (never cocky)
Witty (but not silly)
Informal (but never too informal)
Intelligent (and always treat our users as intelligent, too)
Friendly (but not ingratiating)
Helpful (never overbearing)
Clear, concise and human.

We are characterful
But we never let character overwhelm content. What we have to say is infinitely more important than being admired for the way in which we say it. If people can’t see the substance for the style, we’ve gone wrong.

But having that basic sense of the personality of the company, or the brand, doesn’t mean that people can necessarily step into and out of it when they need to write something.

If people are still relying on checking the lists of things they sound like against things they shouldn’t, they tend to get bound up and overthink. The words are all there, but the feeling behind them is lacking. They’re trying to sound a certain way, but it doesn’t feel clear how or why they’re wanting to sound that way.

Never mind the what — start with the why

Our training in writing at Slack has shifted over time, then, from using the solid ‘examples and end results’ to encouraging people to tap into the feelings behind them.

We’re working on getting people to think of writing — of using the “Slack voice” — as merely using their own voice, but using shared characteristics or values to approach whatever it is they’re about to write. And how do you get into that brain? We use a few of our company values to help focus on how it is we sound. Simple: just ask a few questions, and consider a few things.

Empathy

Whatever someone is about to write, we encourage people to think about the person they’re writing it for. To give them a face, and a name. If it helps to think of someone you know, do that. If it helps to think of an appropriate emoji face that sums it up, why not? Ask yourself:

• What is the reader feeling? Where have we found them?
• Are they angry? Confused? Curious? Excited?
• How often might they see this bit of writing? How would it read after the 20th time?
• How do I want them to feel at the end? How can I help get them there?

Courtesy

Being courteous is about being respectful, but not over-polite. Adding 12 extra pleases and thanks, or a paragraph telling people what you’re about to say in the next paragraph is less courteous than simply telling people what they need to know and then getting out of their way.

• How does this help the person I’m talking to?
• What’s the very essence of what they need to take from this? How quickly can they get to it?
• Do I need to speak at all? Is this something a person will work out by themselves?

Think about what you need to say in advance. Work through all the questions people may have, and answer them. Then delete anything that is extraneous or confusing information.

Craftsmanship

The stuff you put out into the world speaks volumes to people about every other part of whatever you make. You’re representing all your colleagues, your team, all the people that don’t get seen, whatever you type. So being precise about the quality of the work will speak volumes about all the work that people can’t see.

• Can this be tighter? Can I lose the first paragraph?
• Who can give me a second opinion, or a second pair of eyes?
• When I read it out loud, does it make me stumble? Can I rewrite it so that it doesn’t?

Playfulness

At Slack, playfulness is not about the number of emoji you can use, or whimsy or … whatever. It’s about being in a playful stance: being in the spirit of the game, having an open mind, looking at the world sideways or surpassing expectations.

• What does this usually sound like?
• What different angle can I look at this from? How can I approach this differently?
• What word or phrase can I throw in there that will make someone smile?
• What do I need to do to meet expectations? What can I do to surpass them?
• How can I use this opportunity to make someone’s day a little more pleasant?

We tend think of our voice, in addition to being an external representation of the people behind it, as part of the product. And because of that, we aren’t necessarily making rules about what to say or what not to say. We’re trying to find the right traits to tap into, trying to open up the space so people can sound like themselves — because, if they work here, sounding like themselves is sounding like Slack — but come at it from a position of shared characteristics. It’s less about mechanics — more about a sensibility. Of course, even if you’re working from inside out like this, you still need rules (and more of that anon). But working this way means we can be a little more flexible, a little more able to stretch and grow, and be, in general, a little more liberal with our words.

Because we’re hippies.

Not really. It’s because, so far, it actually seems to be (mainly) working."
sfsh  content  contentstrategy  voice  slack  writing  howto  tutorials  organizations  webdev  communication  webdesign 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Sara Wachter-Boettcher | Personal Histories
"1. Ask only for what I need.
There are lots of reasons companies want data about their customers or users, but a good many of them come down to marketing: How can I gather information that helps me more effectively sell you things?

There’s a difference between nice-to-have and mission-critical information. And too often, we force users to provide things we really don’t need—things they might not even have, or don’t want to tell us.

We talk a lot about being user-centered in the way we design and write. But how often do we assess—truly assess—how much we need from a person for them to use our products or services? How often do we prioritize our dreams of better user data, more accurate profiles, more “personalization”?

2. Work on their clock, not mine.
It wasn’t a problem that the German government asked about my family members—I’m proving my nationality, after all. But it came as a surprise; it threw me somewhere I hadn’t intended to go right then, and it took me a couple minutes to regain my bearings and move on.

Paper doesn’t mind the wait, but websites often do: they make it impossible to start a form and then save it for later. They time out. They’re impatient as all hell.

I suspect it’s because our industry has long prioritized speed: the one-click purchase. The real-time update. The instant download. And speed is helpful quite often—who doesn’t want a page to load as fast as possible?

But speed doesn’t mean the same thing as ease.

Margot Bloomstein has spoken recently about slowing our content roll—about slowing down the pace of our content to help users have a more memorable and successful experience.

What if we looked at ways to optimize interactions not just for speed, but also for flexibility—for a user to be able to complete steps on their own terms? When might it help someone to be able to pause, to save their progress, to skip a question and come back to it at the end?

What would a more forgiving interface look like?

3. Allow for complexity.
I didn’t need to explain my might-have-been older brother’s backstory to the German government. But in my doctor’s form, that complexity mattered to me—and a simple binary wasn’t nearly enough space for me to feel comfortable.

As interface-makers, what might seem simple to us could be anything but to our users. What can we do to allow for that complexity? Which what-ifs have we considered? What spaces do they create?

Take gender. I have qualms about many of Facebook’s practices, but they’ve done this well. Rather than a binary answer, you can now customize your gender however you’d like.

[image]

Facebook's gender selector showing Male, Female, and Custom options
You can also choose how you want to be addressed—as he, she, or they.

[image]

Facebook's pronoun selector showing they as the selected pronoun
We could call users who identify as something other than “male” or “female” an edge case—Why muck up our tidy little form fields and slow down the process to make space for them?

Or we could call them human.

4. Communicate what happens next.
One of my favorite details in Facebook’s gender settings is that little alert message that pops up before you confirm a setting change:
Your preferred pronoun is Public and can be seen by anyone.

I don’t care who knows what my preferred pronoun is. But I’m not a trans teen trying to negotiate the complex public-private spaces of the internet. I’m not afraid of my parents’ or peers’ reactions. I’m lucky.

Whether it’s an immediate announcement to a user’s social circle that they’ve changed their status or a note in their file about sexual assault that every doctor will ask about forever, users deserve to know what happens when they enter information—where it goes, who will see it, and how it will be used.

5. Above all, be kind.
When you approach your site design with a crisis-driven persona, you WILL see things differently.

Eric Meyer

Most of us aren’t living the worst-case scenario most of the time. But everyone is living. And that’s often hard enough.

How would our words change if we were writing for someone in crisis? Would our language soften? Would we ask for less? Would we find simpler words to use, cut those fluffy paragraphs, get to the point sooner? Would we make it easier to contact a human?

Who else might that help?

Humility. Intention. Empathy. Clarity. These concepts are easy enough to understand, but they take work to get right. As writers and strategists and designers, that’s our job. It’s up to us to think through those what-ifs and recognize that, at every single moment—both by what we say and what we do not say—we are making communication choices that affect the way our users feel, the tenor of the conversation we’re having, the answers we’ll get back, and the ways we can use that information.

Most of the choices aren’t inherently wrong or right. The problem is when our intentions are fuzzy, our choices unacknowledged, their implications never examined."
design  interface  inclusion  accessibility  humility  difference  intention  empathy  clarity  communication  purpose  kindness  ux  contentstrategy  gender  content  2015  sarawachter-boettcher  privacy  complexity  binary  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Imperfectionist | Sara Wachter-Boettcher | Content Strategy Consulting
"Eventually I forced myself to write a blog post. Then another. And somehow people responded to the things I had been so petrified to write about: How to make content work for mobile, deal with the messy people problems behind most companies’ publishing workflows, and break down decades of document-centric thinking.

I still didn’t have the answers, though. I’d simply become an imperfectionist."
sarawachter-boettcher  impostorsyndrome  impostors  2013  writing  contentstrategy  expertise  workinginpublic  blogging  imperfectionists  imperfection  vulnerability  flaws  honesty  work  howwework 
june 2013 by robertogreco
A Tiny Message Strategy Framework | Swell Content
"My favorite part of content work is getting the message right. I love hearing the stories behind people’s ideas and helping them move forward. And doing this work means I get to ask tons of questions like a certain caterpillar.

I think communication is ridiculously powerful. If you can articulate who you are and what you want, you’re more than halfway there. So here are some of the tools I use for message strategy and branding. These are tools, not checkboxes. The hard part goes on inside the noggin.

I’d love to hear what you think. Enjoy."

[Tools are here: https://gist.github.com/2155621 ]

[Related: http://thingsthatarebrown.com/blog/2010/06/making-things-hard/ ]
frameworks  writing  webdev  onlinetoolkit  tools  branding  contentstrategy  content  tcsnmy  communication  nicolejones  2012  nicolefenton  webdesign  from delicious
december 2012 by robertogreco
Webstock '12: Erin Kissane - Little Big Systems on Vimeo
"It's really easy to understand the lure of small, artisanal projects that we can polish to a satin finish: they offer a sense of craftsmanship, a human scale for our work, and the chance to get something really *right*. But larger projects and bigger systems can often feel soulless and unsatisfying, even when we're excited by the causes and ideas behind them. So is there a way to work on an ambitious scale without losing the purpose and handcraftedness that makes more intimate gigs so much fun? (Hint: yes.)

Via the craft of content strategy and its intertwinglements with design and code, this talk follows the connections between making small-scale, handcrafted artifacts and designing big, juicy systems (editorial and otherwise) that encourage both liveliness and excellence."
publishing  apprenticeships  masters  craftsman'stime  time  slow  small  scale  handcrafted  artifacts  systems  systemsthinking  apatternlanguage  christopheralexander  design  contentstrategy  content  2012  webstock  webstock12  erinkissane  humanscale  craft  craftsmanship  from delicious
march 2012 by robertogreco
Deploy / from a working library
"What if you could revise a work after publishing it, and release it again, making clear the relationship between the first version and the new one. What if you could publish iteratively, bit by bit, at each step gathering feedback from your readers and refining the text. Would our writing be better?

Iteration in public is a principle of nearly all good product design; you release a version, then see how people use it, then revise and release again.…

Writing has (so far) not generally benefited from this kind of process; but now that the text has been fully liberated from the tyranny of the printing press, we are presented with an opportunity: to deploy texts, instead of merely publishing them…

where fixity enabled us to become better readers, can iteration make us better writers? If a text is never finished, does it demand our contribution?…

Perhaps it is time for the margins to swell to the same size as the text."
publishing  marginalia  readingexperience  reading  unfinished  editing  fixity  elizabetheinstein  change  permanence  impermanence  stability  metadata  revision  print  productdesign  design  deployment  contentstrategy  content  digitalpublishing  digitial  process  writing  2012  unbook  iteration  mandybrown  aworkinglibrary  from delicious
february 2012 by robertogreco
Real Editors Ship (Ftrain.com)
"The web is just too big, & Google really only can handle a small part of it...Google is not really a media company as much as a medium company...The Semantic Web is basically the edited web, for some very nerdy take on editing...there's an insane glut of historical data, texts, and so forth, billions of human, historical, textual objects to come online from the millennia before the web. Plus a gaggle of history bloggers trying to contextualize it (the history bloggers are the best bloggers out there). Dealing with the glut will require all manner of editing, writing, commissioning, contextualizing, and searching..."
editors  editing  publishing  opendata  data  culture  media  google  semanticweb  shipping  contentstrategy  content  management  web  writing  journalism  business  information  2010  ftrain  paulford 
july 2010 by robertogreco
The future of designed content « Snarkmarket
"Okay—the point of this artic­u­la­tion is not to con­vince Gawker Media to hire a bunch of design­ers. Rather, it’s get you to imag­ine what blogs like those would look like if they both­ered with bespoke design every day. I think it’s a super-interesting vision.
design  internet  culture  magazines  webdev  gawker  publishing  content  webdesign  interactiondesign  journalism  future  web  contentstrategy  snarkmarket  robinsloan  io9  lifehacker  pictory  rss  bespoke  googlereader  collective  prediction 
january 2010 by robertogreco

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