All posts in Writing

UI Writing: A New Look for News Feed

Facebook changed the look of News Feed in March of 2014 to improve consistency across mobile and web. As the UI writer for News Feed, I was tasked with writing a message to explain this change. It would appear at the top of News Feed the first time people signed in.

Like most UI writing, this message was deceptively complex. Understandably, people don’t always like changes. We wanted to make it clear that:

  • This change was based on people’s feedback
  • It improved a few simple and specific things (photo size and design consistency)
  • Its goal was to make Facebook easier to use

There were many other constraints (length, word choice, clarity, imagery) typical to the UI writing experience (about which I’ve written before) but overall the message successfully (and positively) communicated the change, which is always the goal.


The Rise of the Content Strategist

Note: My article was originally published on the University of Washington’s Flip the Media blog on 4/1/2012

Content strategy jobs are hot—Flip the Media’s Peter Luyckx called it last year. Type “Content Strategist” into a job search engine and you’ll see plenty of results. Reflecting that trend, my own title was recently changed from Editor to Strategist.

Five years ago, Content Strategists were rarer than unicorns. I’d know– I’ve been in content since 1997 and only recently started seeing the title come up. What’s happened in the content industry that’s driving this change?

Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web, first published in 2009, has been a big influence, as Peter notes in his post. In her book, Halvorson defines content strategy as “the practice of planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.” How does this differ, though, from what professional content writers, editors and managers have been doing all along?

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Design skills: Required in your next writing job?

Note: My article was originally published on the University of Washington’s Flip the Media blog on 5/1/2012.

Have you seen “design skills” asked for in a marketing or content writing job description recently? I have— the most recent two writing jobs I’ve held listed graphic design skills a prerequisite. The visual web has arrived: look no further than Pinterest, Tumblr, or the rise of cell phone photography for evidence. With tools like iPhones and Instagram, most of us can take good pictures without photography skills, but what about other kinds of visual art?

As the web has evolved from text to images and video, many jobs in the communications field now expect candidates to bring visual design skills to positions that were once mostly about writing. Experience with interface design, storyboarding, wireframing, prototyping, infographics, and even cartooning are all in demand, as they are now part of the content creation process in the visual web era. What’s a non-artist to do?

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Content strategy: Strategy vs. tactics

Note: My article was originally published on the University of Washington’s Flip the Media blog on 7/12/2012.

Content strategy experts Val Swisher, Scott Abel,  and and Kristina Halvorson  recently hosted a webinar about success factors in content strategy projects. It centered on an important theme: objectives vs. tactics. We’re often focused on the latter which can be to the detriment of customer needs and business goals. Here are four themes from the presentation that will help you set the right priorities in your next content project:

1) Avoid the buckshot approach

Most of us center our workday around tasks. In communications, this usually means producing information. Blog posts. Web pages. Status reports. Videos. Diagrams. Presentations. We define our accomplishments around the quantity and perhaps the performance of these items, and call this content strategy. But this isn’t strategy – its tactics. “A bunch of things all in a row is taking a buckshot approach if it isnt tied to business objectives,” says Kristina Halvorson.

What are the business objectives of your daily communications tasks?

2) Content strategists aren’t content developers

Many organizations confuse the roles of content strategist and content developer. Kristina Halvorson describes content strategists as people who “oversee the success of content initiatives.” This involves creating a roadmap of content initiatives (tasks and deliverables) that clearly serve business objectives, and ensuring the success of those initiatives via the use of success measures like analytics and scorecards. This is a management role, and differs fundamentally from writing page copy and shooting video.

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