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An Event Apart Conference, Seattle, Day Two

The second day of the #aeasea conference was as good as the first! I was particularly looking forward to seeing Karen McGrane speak as I just finished reading her book, Content Strategy for Mobile, and I like her brain a lot! There was a great mix of speakers today on some great topics including mobile, user research and personality through design. Also I won a cool prize today! It’s this really cute little stencil set to help create mobile wireframes! Lucky! See photo below :)

As with my last post I will jot down some of the highlights that really stood out for me from all the speakers from today.

Karen McGrane

  • Disruptive Innovation

– smart phones are not just an expensive and inaccessible ‘fancy phone’ or a passing trend as they were first seen, but instead a cheap computer that provided access to technology for people who previously didn’t have access.

  • The Mobile Only User is now a reality and they are not second-class citizens who deserve a “lesser” Internet experience just because they have a smaller screen size.
  • Mobile has erased the digital divide.
  • Good content transcends platform.
  • “Pogo-sticking”, bouncing in and out of content that doesn’t have enough context or isn’t explained well enough at its entry point (so users have to click in to find out exactly what it is and the click back out if its not what they were looking for and do it again with different content).
  • We don’t get to decide where and how users access our content; users do. And we can’t assume that mobile users want less or truncated content. Assuming this misses a huge chunk of the population.
  • Disruptive technologies eventually get good. Or they redefine what good actually means.

Erika Hall

  • Think about the real world. Inside your workplace your thinking and influence can be limited to the talent, knowledge and resources that are immediately around you. You need to consider real world experiences in which people use your products and services and cater to those, not your assumptions.
  • “Research is not a political tool”. Focus on gathering in-depth, useful insights, not shallow results that support the assumptions you already have. Let your research dictate your design choices.
  • Interviews capture true representations of user habits and needs and is essential to user research.
  • Good interviews: 1. Know your question. 2. Warm up, build rapport. 3. Shut up and listen. Make the interviewee totally comfortable and make their ideas and habits the only experience that matters.
  • Direct quotes from users are great for your pitch.
  • Create personas. Background, goals, attributes, needs.
  • Focus groups are a waste of time and not a true representation of real life, it’s research theatre. “…merely the source of ideas that need to be researched”.
  • “Your target customers have to love you and what you do more than they hate change”.
  • Check out Erika’s book Just Enough Research.

Mike Monteiro gave a fantastic talk about the relationships between designer and client and why it is the designers responsibility to let the client know what they need and want. Even though I’m not a designer and my “clients” are internal, I definitely took some important things away from his presentation and it inspired me to be more patient, understanding and proactive in engaging with the people I work with and the work that I do for them.

  • Stop waiting for an invitation to do your job.
  • You are the expert in what you (and your client) needs.
  • Find the right language to communicate with your client.

Aarron Walter works for Mailchimp and gave a great presentation about organisational personality and how you can let that show through in your design.

  • What is your voice?
  • “The most effective design has a narrative thread” – Kit Hinrichs
  • Small kindnesses to your users provide a memorable experience for them. It creates appreciation, rapport and trust.
  • What is the fingerprint on your website? The evidence of human presence. The personality.
  • Check out the GE website.
  • “When you design for everyone, for all customers, you design for no one”.
  • Check out Here I Am, Mailchimp Voice and Tone, and Photojojo websites.
  • Passion is contagious.

Jared Spool, Designing the experience

  • Design is about rending intent.
  • Imitation (less expensive, less risk, design not valued, viewed as a commodity) vs. innovation (more expensive, more risk, design heavily valued, viewed as competitive).
  • Innovation isn’t about inventing things, it’s about adding value to something that didn’t have value before.
  • Experience design: rending intent inside the gaps.
  • The best designers are amazing storytellers. Critiquing, sketching, communicating, presenting, facilitating.

After the conference I was lucky enough to meet with some content strategists from the Seattle area for coffee and took the opportunity to tell them a bit about the Library and the work that I do and hopefully get some inspiration for how to start planning for a content strategy at the Library. And that’s exactly what I got! It’s so lovely that so many people have been so receptive to meeting with me while I am out here and are all too happy to share their knowledge and their wealth of experience. I only hope that I can make the absolute most of the things that I have been learning and the privileged access I have to these great people. Thank you Jonathon, Vanessa and James. Here are some of the things I gained from our meet:

  • Create personas for the users of your website; map the needs of your users; plan objectives around each persona and understand what they are looking to get from using your content and services so that you can implement a plan to align your content to these objectives (and just as importantly, get rid of the content that doesn’t align).
  • Education is imperative for preparing content authors to create the best and most useful content. Lay foundations of understanding for your authors (language, basic technical understanding, etc).
  • Change management is key to content strategy.
  • It’s okay to have different types of content for different types of users, as long as that content is easy to find, and its clearly outlined.
  • Metrics are essential to dictating and supporting decisions, as well as being able to sell your decisions to others.
  • Get the support of champions across multiple areas in your organisation.
  • Structured workflows for content authoring are essential.
  • Taxonomy needs to come first, it will act as a great filter for what content to keep and what content to remove.

Thanks again to everyone who made today another great day full of learning and inspiration in Seattle!

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