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Getting content right

Getting content right

We all know that great content is a core part of the website user experience. So why is it so hard to find content that isn’t dull, lifeless and uninteresting - blah, blah, blah?

Web content can be vibrant, interesting and fun. It can draw you in, fill your head and make you learn without having to think. And it’s not really hard to write. Three simple tricks can turn poor content into a great experience - remember that readers care more about themselves than you; write in real words with authentic voice; play show and tell.

This presentation will discuss these principles, with plenty of funny and not-so-funny examples. You’ll go away with practical steps to make your writing kick-ass. And you won’t even have to think.

Donna Spencer

June 16, 2008
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  1. Donna Spencer – Maadmob
    Getting content right

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  2. About me
    • Freelance information architect/interaction designer
     Websites, intranets
     Big business applications
     Lots of government, some big business
    • Teaching
     Mentoring
     Workshops at conferences and in‐house
     Card sorting book (available now!): Rosenfeld media
     Use discount code for 15% off: JBOYEDK09
     Web writing mini e‐book on the way
    • Events: UX Australia

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  3. About this talk
    • How to create great web content
    • You’ll leave with:
     3 simple‐sounding principles
     Examples to see the principles in practice
    • I’ll see if I can make you laugh
     The brain doesn’t know what made it feel good, just that it
    did
     So these principles will stick
    • Walk out of here and apply just one principle, and you’ll
    make your writing better
     (oh, btw, some of my slides have bullet points – after all, it’s
    a content talk)

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  4. We want our content to be…
    • Understood
    • Acted on
    • …without much effort (from the reader)
    • 3 key things about people
     We like to be at the centre, important, valued
     We are social
     We learn better via stories than by theory

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  5. Principle 1:
    You (the writer) are not important

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  6. Kathy Sierra said it best…
    http://headrush.typepad.com/

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  7. The idea…
    • Humans are mostly selfish
    • We don’t care how awesome you are
    • We don’t buy, hire or make decisions because you are
    great
    • We make decisions based on what will make us feel great
     Being noticed
     Being recognized for doing well
     Feeling like we have achieved something good
     Winning
    • (OK, not entirely. We do some things for others or for a
    greater good. But most of our day is about us!)

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  8. What to do about it
    • Figure out what will make the reader feel great
    • Write that
    • Simple?
    • Who: will read your content?
    • Why: would they read it?
    • What: do they need to know?
    • What: do they already know?
    • What: happens next?

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  9. A typical ‘why choose us’ page
    We are an interactive marketing and technology company.
    Since 1992 we have built world‐class, customer‐focused
    Web sites, intranets and extranets, supported by
    interactive marketing and advertising campaigns for many
    of the largest Australian companies.
    Our work involves rigorous usability testing, customer
    research, site analytics and technologies such as e‐
    commerce systems and content management tools. Our
    focus throughout is on using interactive technology in the
    most cost‐efficient way to create superior service
    experiences that deliver value to businesses and
    customers alike.

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  10. We are an interactive marketing and technology company.
    Since 1992 we have built world‐class, customer‐focused
    Web sites, intranets and extranets, supported by
    interactive marketing and advertising campaigns for many
    of the largest Australian companies.
    Our work involves rigorous usability testing, customer
    research, site analytics and technologies such as e‐
    commerce systems and content management tools. Our
    focus throughout is on using interactive technology in the
    most cost‐efficient way to create superior service
    experiences that deliver value to businesses and
    customers alike.

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  11. What might the reader want to know?
    • Can they actually do the work I need them to do
     Does the organisation have the skills and experience
     Will I get someone who has the skills and experience
    • Will they listen to me or push their own agenda
    • Will they treat me like I’m stupid
    • Will they finish the work when they say they will
    • Will they blow my budget
    • Will the work be great quality, or will I be re‐doing it again
    in 6 months
    • Will my boss think I’m useless
    • Will my peers think I’m useless

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  12. Rewrite it
    We are a small interactive agency who specialize in websites
    & related advertising campaigns. We have been in this
    business since 1992 (and our core team have been with us all
    that time). We’ve worked on all types of projects and likely
    have tackled a project like yours.
    We care about just two things ‐ that your website does
    exactly what your customers need it to, and that you are
    comfortable throughout the project. We research your
    customer’s needs, analyze usage statistics and always
    usability test.
    We work so closely with you that you’ll never wonder where
    we are or when we’ll deliver.

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  13. My ‘why choose me’
    • High quality, appropriate results
     I have extensive information architecture and interaction design skills; experience with
    a wide range of projects (intranets, websites, business systems and web applications)
    and experience with a wide range of industries (government, healthcare, e‐commerce,
    insurance).
     For you this means:
     you get the right outcome for your project ‐ you can be confident that I do have the right
    experience to produce a high‐quality output
     you don’t lose money while I learn how stuff works
     I can learn about your domain quickly, saving you money and project time
    • You get my experience
     I actually have all the skills I’m selling.
     I’m not combining a team’s skills to sell you my services, then offering you a consultant
    who has none of the skills. You get me, and you get my experience.
    • I’m flexible
     I don’t have fancy, fixed methodologies and step‐by‐step approaches that I must
    follow. I’ll work in a way that suits you ‐ after all, you are buying my skills, not a
    methodology.
    • I play nice with others
     I get along with almost everyone, work well in teams and get my hands dirty to do
    what needs to be done.

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  14. Principle 2: Use a real voice

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  15. Voice
    • People are social, and pay attention to other people
    • If your content sounds like a person is really talking,
    readers will listen
    • Voice gives your content personality

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  16. Getting content right
    Lots of voice…
    Hello Donna I'm Little MOO ‐ the bit of software that will be managing your
    order with us. I will shortly be sent to Big MOO, our print machine who will
    print it for you in the next few days. I'll let you know when it's done and on its
    way to you.
    Please note, as your order will be shipped via First Class/Airmail, it should be
    with you in around 10 working days, but it won't have a tracking number.
    Please note that different products are mailed separately so if your order
    contains a range of different products they will be packed separately and may
    not arrive together.
    Remember, I'm just a bit of software. So, if you have any questions regarding
    your order please first read our Frequently Asked Questions at:
    http://www.moo.com/help/ and if you're still not sure, contact customer
    services (who are real people) at: http://www.moo.com/service/
    Thanks, Little MOO

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  17. No voice…
    Getting content right

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  18. Make it a single voice

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  19. Getting content right

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  20. Getting content right

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  21. How to write with voice
    • First draft ‐ write how you speak
    • Imagine you are having a conversation
     Anticipate questions
     Answer them succinctly
    • Practice!
    • ‘Voicy’ writing doesn’t have to be cute, chatty or informal
    – it just needs to sound like a real human

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  22. Principle 3: Show and tell

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  23. Show and tell
    • Content is more than just words
    • People have different learning styles – write for them
    • ‘Show’ your ideas with
     Examples
     Case studies
     Stories
     Images, graphics

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  24. Getting content right

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  25. Getting content right

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  26. Just show it
    • I recently wrote a blog post about researching car sites:
    “You know what makes this all worse. I could just cope
    with having to dig into three different ‘family sites’. If they
    were consistently done, I could find the specifications part
    for each and flick between browser tabs. But no, each
    family site is structured differently.”

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  27. Getting content right

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  28. Work through an example

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  29. Getting content right

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  30. Pull it all together
    The C4 can be factory ordered with a Bluetooth hands‐free telephone
    system in which the address book is displayed on the vehicle’s
    multifunction screen.
    This hands‐free telephone system, based on Bluetooth wireless
    technology, is integrated with the passenger compartment.
    Bluetooth is a convenient and safe option for making personal in‐car calls
    from a mobile phone, since the driver can make calls without taking the
    phone out of his pocket. In this way, he can make phone calls from the car
    without taking his eyes off the road or releasing the wheel.
    To make a hands‐free call, the driver uses the ergonomic control function
    on the wheel, and the microphone built into the roof. Conversations are
    relayed over the C4’s audio system.
    The driver selects the name of a correspondent from the address book of
    his mobile phone, using the steering wheel controls. He can also use the
    ‘voice recognition’ function to initiate a call.

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  31. Step 1: Think about the reader
    • So, this page is about a ‘bluetooth’ feature that the car has
    • If a friend said to you ‘hey, I just bought a new car and it
    has bluetooth’, what would you want to know?

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  32. Step 1: Think about the reader
    • What is it?
     Allows you to make phone calls without touching your
    phone
    • How would I do that?
     There is a mic and speaker in the roof. You turn on the
    phone from the steering wheel, then can use your voice or
    the steering wheel controls to choose who to call. Then you
    can talk and listen too.
    • Do I pay more?
     Nope

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  33. P1: Write to the reader (call them you!)
    The C4 has a Bluetooth hands‐free telephone system in which the address
    book is displayed on the vehicle’s multifunction screen.
    This hands‐free telephone system, based on Bluetooth wireless
    technology, is integrated with the passenger compartment.
    Bluetooth is a convenient and safe option for making personal in‐car calls
    from a mobile phone, since you can make calls without taking the phone
    out of your pocket. In this way, you can make phone calls from the car
    without taking your eyes off the road or releasing the wheel.
    To make a hands‐free call, use the ergonomic control function on the
    wheel, and the microphone built into the roof. Conversations are relayed
    over the C4’s audio system.
    You can select the name of a correspondent from the address book of
    your mobile phone, using the steering wheel controls. You can also use
    the ‘voice recognition’ function to initiate a call.

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  34. P1: Answer their questions
    The C4 has a Bluetooth hands‐free telephone system. Bluetooth is a
    convenient and safe option for making personal in‐car calls from a mobile
    phone, since you can make calls without taking the phone out of your
    pocket. So you can make phone calls from the car without taking your
    eyes off the road or releasing the wheel.
    This hands‐free telephone system is integrated with the passenger
    compartment. It has an ergonomic control function on the wheel, and the
    microphone built into the roof. The address book is displayed on the
    vehicle’s multifunction screen and conversations are relayed over the C4’s
    audio system.
    To make a hands‐free call, you select the name of a correspondent from
    the address book of your mobile phone, using the steering wheel controls.
    You can also use the ‘voice recognition’ function to start a call.

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  35. P2: Give it voice
    One of the most popular features with C4 owners is the hands‐free
    telephone system. You can make phone calls without taking your eyes off
    the road or your hands off the wheel. It’s safe and it’s useful.
    This system uses bluetooth ‐ a wireless system that lets you make calls
    from a mobile phone without taking it out of your pocket. It is built into
    the passenger compartment, with ergonomic controls on the steering
    wheel, a microphone in the roof, the address book on the multifunction
    screen and the sound through the speakers.
    All you do is select the name from your phone’s address book, using the
    steering wheel controls or by turning it on and saying who you’d like to
    phone. It’s that easy.

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  36. Summing it up
    1. Really think about what your readers need to know
    2. Write like a person talking to another person
    3. Walk the talk – don’t just say it, show it

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  37. Questions & thanks
    My contact details:
    • http://maadmob.net/
    • +61 409‐778‐693
    [email protected]
    • Twitter etc: maadonna
    • Card sorting book:
     http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/cardsorting/

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