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Future-proofing authors: The new rules of writing for the web

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Presentation from Confab London, March 2013.

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Future-proofing authors: The new rules of writing for the web

  1. 1. Future-proofing authors: Thenew rules of writing for theweb. Confab London 2013
  2. 2. First a little story that startsback in 2001…
  3. 3. Thankfully, the web haschanged a lot since then…
  4. 4. We are flexible and mobile
  5. 5. Looking beyond the desktop• Customers are consuming content differently.• We are designing sites that work regardless of screen size.• 1 in 3 of us would rather give up television than be deprived of our smart phone. (Our Mobile Plant: US, Google/Ipsos OTX, May 2012.)
  6. 6. Structured content is in
  7. 7. Flexibility demands structure• To make flexible websites we need content that’s structured.• Structured content requires thought, consideration and long-term planning.• People care about metadata again.
  8. 8. WYSIWYG is under siege
  9. 9. Breaking away from traditional ideas about‘publishing’• We can’t control how our content is going to be used.• Our authors need to start writing for the chunk, not the page.• Moving away from the reliance on the preview button.
  10. 10. The rise of the CMS has meant the demise of editorial control
  11. 11. “In most situations, the decentralized publishing model has been disastrous. The people trained tended to be relatively junior staff, for whom publishing to the website was just one more responsibility. The result was lots and lots of poor quality content that was never updated or reviewed.” Gerry McGovern.
  12. 12. The changing web team• Writing has devolved out to the business areas.• Some web teams have retained a content specialist, but many have not.• A focus on operations rather than strategy means it is hard to make things different.
  13. 13. Meanwhile, content has turned into a production line
  14. 14. Content is everywhere• Publishing content is easy and isn’t restricted to the ‘website’ (think social media, knowledge bases, help desk info, libraries, call centre scripts, databases).• Everyone is talking about content marketing.• Customers expect to find the information they want, or they go elsewhere.
  15. 15. Head exploding yet? © (used with permission)
  16. 16. But wait! What about ourauthors? You know, thepeople writing the content.
  17. 17. Content is easy, people are
  18. 18. Managing and training teams of authorsacross an organisation is hard work• Range of abilities and interest, means there is no one-size-fits all approach.• Internal politics and silos take the focus away from long-term strategy.• Competing interests, budgets and skills. - Trent Walton on collaboration.
  19. 19. Future-proofing ourauthors. 5 new rules forwriting for the web.
  20. 20. Rule 1: Everyone is an author Look beyond your CMS publishers
  21. 21. Train the front line• Get all publishers on board, not just the people with access to the CMS.• Everyone should be looking for ways to do content better.• Focus on front line staff – how do they use content and more importantly, how do your customers use content?
  22. 22. Rule 2: Someone needs to be in chargeThe rise of the content czar
  23. 23. “Not having a content czar means that teams run the high risk of reactive and ad hoc operations, with little focus on where to prioritize efforts.” Erin Scime, Razorfish.
  24. 24. Creating order from chaos• Give someone editorial control.• This person needs to be constantly looking for ways to improve the connection between content.• It also means you can focus on teaching authors what they need to know to do their job well – not every single thing about content management.
  25. 25. Rule 3: Content still has a soul Authors are your new brand ambassadors
  26. 26. Make your authors great brand ambassadors• Clear tone and voice direction with examples.• Metadata that helps with storytelling.• Robot-ready content can still have a personality.
  27. 27. © Tourism Queensland
  28. 28. Rule 4: Mind your verbs Separating content from action
  29. 29. Watch out for tying content to action that’sspecific to one type of context• Use with care: hover, resize, hold, rotate, stretch, press, pan, scroll, swipe, zoom, select, drag, drop, surf, tap, click.• Also think about: below, beside, above, to the left, to the right.
  30. 30. Rule 5: Create style at a micro levelKeeping consistency across ‘chunks’
  31. 31. Attention to detail counts• Breaking content into chunks makes little inconsistencies more obvious.• Applies to micro copy, calls to action, links, social media.• Be clear on use of case, capitals, linking and tone.
  32. 32. Also, use what’s in the pantry Some old rules are as important as ever
  33. 33. “There is no “how to write for mobile.” There’s only good writing. Period.” Karen McGrane, Content strategy for mobile
  34. 34. Some things will never go out of fashion• Planning, content briefs and copy decks (the perfect places to start applying structure).• Get the point across quickly (the inverted pyramid still applies in this character- restricted world).• Links and headlines are important (the ultimate decision makers).
  35. 35. A quick recapThe new rules:1. Everyone is an author.2. Someone needs to be in charge.3. Content still has a soul.4. Mind your verbs.5. Create style at a micro level.
  36. 36. Continue the conversationSally
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    Jun. 10, 2013
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    Apr. 16, 2013
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    Apr. 7, 2013
  • chris.schmechel

    Apr. 6, 2013

Presentation from Confab London, March 2013.


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