June 1, 2023
While giving the pitch of “why content design is great,” can be helpful, Ariel van Spronsen, offered guidance for a more structured way...
April 25, 2023
We all know content is vital, but how often do we actually measure it? Read on for a recap of our April Meetup!
March 27, 2023
Design systems are collections of guidelines, principles, components, and assets that are used to create and maintain consistent...
March 6, 2023
Knowledge management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge that resides within an organization. To capt
January 3, 2023
2022 was a breakthrough year for Content Strategy Seattle.
October 24, 2022
On the evening of Sunday, October 9th, we welcomed 60-ish Button speakers, attendees, and local Seattle content folks to the Wunderman...
June 15, 2022
Learn more about how and why we created this website, and how you can help make it great!
April 25, 2023
We all know content is vital, but how often do we actually measure it? Erica Jorgensen gave us a ton of great ideas and tools for exactly that during our April CSS meetup. Read on for a recap!
Content research is a way to test content and terminology to ensure that user needs are met and content aligns with the organization's brand strategy, key performance indicators (KPIs), and overall goals. There are qualitative and quantitative ways to research content, and within those two categories, there are various types of testing that can be done to gather data.
Get Your House in Order
Before you embark on research activities though, Erica suggests getting your content house in order. Get a good sense of what content you are working with. Review for plain language use and check for bias.
As Erica said, “Plain language is communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it” (more info about plain language linked at the end of this post). Biases like confirmation bias, stakeholder bias, and recency bias can affect our writing. Check out the great conversation about these types of bias we had with David Dylan Thomas, author of Design for Cognitive Bias: Using Mental Shortcuts for Good Instead of Evil, back in January.
The Scrappy Way
User research can be done using tools and organized efforts, but if you don’t have the resources for formal user testing, Erica suggested several ways to take the “scrappy” approach. One key source is to talk to your customer experience team. The information they can provide could include customer service calls, chatbot analysis, customer surveys and interviews, and industry reports. Understanding what customers are missing is a sure way to make direct improvements to your product.
Finding the cost of how much it costs for one customer service call can be a good way to quantify for your supervisors how you are actually fixing the customer experience. Erica spoke about an example from her book where her co-worker found that customers were confused about their monthly bill breakdown. The way to fix this was to add in more details which did create a longer area of content, but this content was key for customers who were confused about why their bill was that price.
Using an Online Platform
The second way to start with content research is to use an online platform such as UserZoom or UserTesting. With these tools, you can use online platforms to interview current customers or potential customers. Be sure to ask a quantitative question and then follow up with a qualitative question.
Use the feedback to see what aligns with your company brand guidelines. This type of analysis, where you ask people what type of content they prefer, is called a preference test. You can also do a naming test to see which names are preferred. Some research questions are audience-specific. Other research questions you could be asking are for clarity/comprehension, actionability, completeness/gap analysis, hedonic/emotional response, and competitive analysis.
When thinking about DEI and analyzing your users, be sure to know the regions your tests are reaching. For example, UserTesting does not support certain countries. This is a limitation in your research you will need to identify at the beginning of research so that the information is taken knowing this limitation.
If you’re going to do content research, you’re going to need to be ready to make changes. Sometimes there are big changes, but it can make the company better. Presenting this information to a CEO or stakeholder team can seem daunting, but remind yourself–and them–that this is a thoughtful and methodical way to evaluate content. When presenting this to stakeholders, be sure to include company key performance indicators (KPIs) and loop in other UX, marketing, PR, and social media teams. Using the RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) framework is a great way to keep the right folks looped in.
Finding time and keeping sane
Finding time to conduct this research might seem hard, but a suggestion Erica had was to divide and conquer with the team you have. Another way is creating a backlog of test ideas so that you always have something to be researching. If you have office hours, consider reallocating that time to content research and see if that helps you solve some of these content problems.
Perhaps one of our favorite takeaways from this talk is a piece of counsel Erica offered: Always be kind. Understand that when you are looking at content, someone else worked hard on that content and showing respect for that will smooth your way.
About Erica Jorgensen
Erica Jorgensen is a staff content designer at Chewy.com and the author of Strategic Content Design: Tools and Research Techniques for Better UX, published in April 2023 by Rosenfeld Media.
The $300 Million Button — UX Articles by UIE
Plain Language Guide - Australia
March 27, 2023
Design systems are collections of guidelines, principles, components, and assets that are used to create and maintain consistent and cohesive visual and functional design across a product or organization. Done well, they present a comprehensive and holistic approach to design that considers all aspects of the user experience, including visual design, interaction design, accessibility, and usability.
A design system typically includes components such as typography, color palettes, iconography, buttons, form elements, and other UI elements, as well as guidelines for how they should be used and combined. It may also include documentation on design principles, user research, design patterns, and development best practices.
Design systems are used to streamline design and development workflows, improve consistency and quality across products, and facilitate collaboration between designers and developers. They are particularly valuable for large organizations or teams working on multiple products, as they help ensure that design is cohesive and scalable across all projects.
To bring a new lens to this topic, the March Meetup of Content Strategy Seattle featured Margot Bloomstein and Greg Storey. Unlike our typical events where a speaker presents a prepared presentation, this meetup was designed to be more of a fireside chat and conversation about governance and design systems.
This graphic from Margot and Greg’s slides illustrates what a design system is and how it creates an all-encompassing system that scales to all aspects of a brand’s digital experience. While there will always be differences between companies, working with your clients or stakeholders to understand what their users need is a key component of a design system being effective. Content strategists are good at understanding the overall idea of governance but sometimes proving that to a client can be tricky.
About Our Speakers
Both Margo and Greg bring years of strategic leadership experience to bear on the topic of design system governance. Margot founded the consultancy Appropriate, Inc. in 2000 and Greg is Design Principal at Airbag Industries and Strategic Advisor to Luro App. In addition to these independent and in-house experiences, they recently formed the Loupe Collective. Along with two other industry professionals, they are a collective of experts in content strategy that come together to collaborate to further the field in a cohesive way. With years of experience between the members of the collective, they have seen projects succeed, fail, and have found ways to recover to create success again.
Governance and Design Systems
In August 2022, Michael Haggerty-Villa led a panel for the Meetup about design systems and since then this topic has continued to grow.
Margot and Greg brought the topic of governance to the conversation, discussing how, as with any set of processes and guidelines, design systems require governance to ensure that they remain consistent and can be managed collaboratively.. Governance sounds expensive but in the long run putting a focusing effort on the design system could save clients a lot of money. Putting an emphasis on design systems could potentially avoid accessibility lawsuits and other legal issues. Another way governance could potentially save money in the long run is through employee retention because the employees feel they are a part of the design process and this could result in a more positive work environment.
Design System Initiative Rollout
A typical experience with an initial design system rollout experience is that you build the design system and launch it and then it fails. Margot and Greg think that failure does not need to happen. One reason systems fail so often is because they didn’t start with governance and adoption. Another reason is success is not defined and therefore can’t be measured. Companies can prepare for a successful design system by starting with co-creation with shared ownership within the company, collaborating on buy-in from product owners, and defining what “done” looks like and how it will be measured. Being a contractor coming into companies and telling them what to do in the style guide, for example, could potentially fail. Margot mentioned she sat down with a client company and listened to what they are already doing and helped them realize why she suggested the design system.
With this collaborative system design there is greater compliance within the company. Every design system needs a system model that can be considered a living document. Making sure there is a process to add new additions and edit processes so that the users of the system are contributors and creators. Getting feedback and getting people to the table during these conversations about the system strategy creates a way to get on the same page with cross-organizational teams. When the expectations and standards are laid out clearly for teams, they know how to engage. A content strategist can play the role of a mediator, helping to develop a common language in a collaborative way with a team.
Watch the video of this lively, informative conversation.
March 6, 2023
Knowledge management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge that resides within an organization. To capture this tacit knowledge and organize it effectively, there must be a framework in place. Employees want their voices heard and showing that people come first can cultivate a positive environment within the organization. This also helps mitigate the issue of employees leaving the company with important information in their heads.
Everyone has had the experience of beginning a job in a new company and receiving initial training, but thereafter needing to tap on a more experienced employee’s shoulder to pick their brain about a certain task. With remote work and hybrid models becoming the norm, this could look like a ping, an email, or a message on Slack. Even with text-based searchable communications, though, it can often be difficult to track down specific conversations.
Our February Content Strategy Seattle Meetup talk was presented by Mike Doane. Mike is a professor at the University of Washington and a consultant in information architecture, content strategy, and taxonomy. Mike spoke on a recent project that sheds new light on how to create a a searchable knowledge management system that captures the information that is often communicated in emails and other messages, helping new employees get up to speed on ongoing projects.
Email can be one of the largest repositories of tacit information, but as was pointed out in the event chat, company retention policies can hinder the long-term storage of that information. One attendee mentioned that their company deletes emails after 90 days. Mike’s framework would remedy this issue by creating an intentional “brain drain.”
The framework doesn’t rely on any fancy new software that might be over the company’s budget, and instead works with software they may already have such as Microsoft Office and Zoom. In a recent example of this “brain drain” framework being utilized, a team conducted interviews with current employees via Zoom. The employees being interviewed were given time to review the questions beforehand so they felt comfortable with their answers. The team then used Zoom’s transcript function to export a VTT file. From this file, using a simple word processor, they organized the information and removed any of the errors in spelling and grammar to create a document that could be easily searched in a database. With new features of AI coming out, there will probably soon be a way to ask an internal AI for the answers stored in the knowledge management system using the information from these interviews.
Now when another employee has a question about a topic, they can either search and hear the person explaining the topic in real time on the Zoom interview or they can read the transcript. This can also be seen as a reverse funnel: Instead of trying to get information from someone during an exit interview, this can be done at employee intake and throughout employment so when they do their exit interview it's more of a recap.
A key concept in this type of knowledge management is thinking of the people first and the technology second. When working with information and highly technical groups that’s not always the case, but if you value an employee's knowledge from the start, listen to their ideas, and find a way to organize them, employees’ sense of value will increase. After interviews are done a few times, they also come to be seen as a common practice for sharing knowledge. Employees get better at communicating their knowledge, and the system becomes more useful over time.
Mike’s talk was informative and innovative. As we head into a new year with new goals, let’s continue to think of new ways to put people first in technology.
Tacit Knowledge: What is Tacit Knowledge? Definition, Differences and Examples (thecloudtutorial.com)
Knowledge Portals & PoolParty: Knowledge Portals and Why TheyMatter | PoolParty
Knowledge Management: Knowledge management strategy |Deloitte Insights
January 3, 2023
2022 was a breakthrough year for Content Strategy Seattle. In addition to our packed calendar of events, this is the year that we launched our new branding (thanks to volunteer designer Megan Biggs), launched this website (thanks to volunteer Webflow guru Amy White), and even developed a line of CSS merchandise!
Our 2022 speaker lineup spanned a wide range of topics and garnered a large, widespread audience (one of the benefits of being virtual is being able to bring in speakers and attendees from all over the country and around the world).
2022 also marked our first in-person event in over two years, when we hosted a Button conference pre-party in October, preceded by a fireside chat with Kristina Halvorson in September.
One major theme of the year reflected a theme in our industry—the increasing awareness of the connection between content and design, including a two-part panel discussion led by Michael Haggerty Villa on content in design systems (our July and August events) and a discussion about how content strategists can leverage object-oriented UX, led by Sophia Prater (September). Scott Kubie (June) and Sarah Johnson (April) gave us practical, useful tools for keeping content front and center in our designs and content ecosystems.
Natalie Marie Dunbar (October) and Corey Vilhauer (March) focused on the practice and role of content strategists, from building a practice to being the glue that holds web projects together. Bram Wessel (May) spoke about our role as content strategists in combatting misinformation.
Amy Grace Wells (November) and Lauren Etheridge and Carrie Hane (February) reminded us of the importance of the human element in our content work, with talks on supporting neurodiversity and accessibility and unlocking empathy.
And we bookended the year with topics on the cutting edge of our practice--Rebecca Evanhoe (January) spoke about conversation design and the intersection with content strategy and Andrea Zeller (December) introduced us to the challenges and opportunities of writing for virtual reality experiences.
Our goal: to move beyond being just a Meetup and build out a community that supports and uplifts its members, whether that’s through learning and connecting through our events, opportunities to speak, sharing of resources, or finding a job through our Slack #jobs channel. There’s so much more we hope to do in the coming year—we hope you’ll stay tuned and get involved. In addition to attending our events, we would love to have guest writers for this blog, suggestions for resources in our Topics area, and of course, speakers. If you’re interested in any of those opportunities, contact us.
October 24, 2022
Content Strategy Seattle’s last in-person Meetup event was in January 2020. When everything changed in those early months of 2020, we pivoted to doing virtual events and have kept going strong–even growing!
Nonetheless, we’d missed the experience of being in the same place, at the same time, enjoying conversations with other content folks. That’s why we were thrilled when the Button conference came to town and the organizers asked if we would be interested in doing a pre-conference event.
On the evening of Sunday, October 9th, we welcomed 60-ish Button speakers, attendees, and local Seattle content folks to the Wunderman Thompson office with tacos, beverages, and good cheer. We had talk previews from several of the Button speakers. Eight guests went home with some of the best books in the field, courtesy of their authors. So many happy reunions and new connections were made.
It was a warm, exciting, fabulous time and we’re so grateful to everyone who came and made it the event we’d dreamed of. Speaking of gratitude, some well-deserved shout-outs:
We look forward to seeing you at our next meetup, and maybe at Button 2023 in Portland, OR!