Web content people - who we are, what we do, who we're like

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Content strategist Max Johns spoke at UX New Zealand 2013, which got him thinking about how content strategists and user experience (UX) professionals have a lot in common: Our fields attract people from all sorts of backgrounds, and require curious minds and a huge amount of empathy for our audience.

This presentation, from February 2014's Auckland Content Strategy Meetup, shows how content people are a very varied group of people with a wide range of skills...just like UX people. Traditionally one area dealt with the "consumable" internet and one with the "interactive" internet, but that division has disappeared.

These days, UX and content strategy overlap more than they don't. The next step is to adopt each other's processes and learn each other's languages.

Published in: Career, Technology, Design
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  • Thanks @peter. In the talk that went along with these slides I discussed how I believe that one of the reasons UX and CS grew up separately was the apparent divide between interaction pages and consumption pages. There are fewer places where such a stark divide actually exists now, though, which is yet another reason to bring the two disciplines closer.
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  • Great presentation, though I believe UX goes beyond the limitations of 'interaction' opportunities only. The full scope of a user's experience is and should be considered within the frame of UX (just as it should be Content Strategy).
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  • When people ask me what I do, I’ve just said “content guy” for years.I’m pretty sure my LinkedIn profile says “content guy”. We call this a content strategy meetup, and that’s cool, but content strategy isn’t exactly never got around to walling itself off from a heap of other content jobs, sooo…Content People. Forget job titles – they’re different for everyone.You can tell a content person by the type of things they can help with. [CLICK]
  • So, what do content people do? What problems can we solve?[CLICK] Unsatisfied audiences - people coming to your site and not getting what they want. Or people not turning up in the first place.[CLICK] When work is happening, but good stuff isn't coming out the other end. A lot of organisations get in their own way, and we’ve all seen the crappy content that can happen as a result.- [CLICK] When there are too many things happening. The SEO and marketing world keeps screaming for more content, and there are dozens of channels that all need something to feed on, and everyone at work wants to say something new...you need a content strategist. Or three.[CLICK] Or sometimes your problems aren't even that clear. Sometimes you just know that something's not right, or that something's missing. Quite often a content person can help bring some order to that chaos, too.These problems run down from fairly well-defined to pretty much just dread. But they’re all things that a content person can help with.
  • We all know that everything’s always changing: everything from the way people access the internet (the things they stare at) to search algorithms (the machines that people rely on to get content to stare at)When you make content, you represent an entire organisation. And you need to know that organisation well. When you make content, you are serving and hopefully growing and engaging an audience. So you need to know that audience well.When you represent an organisation to an audience, you need to know what that organisation’s doing. What’s the strategy?We have digital skills. We all have different but overlapping skills. No-one can do every digital job, or play every role. Making content means having a strong set of skills, but you can choose what goes in that set.These are the things that make us good at helping when an organisation is stuck, or lost, or confused. It’s not exactly a list of qualifications or experience though. A lot of these traits are more innate, and come out no matter what job you’re doing.
  • In 2011, Richard Ingram (who is one of the people behind London’s content strategy meetup, and is therefore just like us), surveyed hundreds of content people. He asked: Where did you all come from?Then he mapped the answers.
  • This shows you some of the detail. Education, jobs ten years ago, jobs five years ago, and now.
  • Six broad divisions:TechnicalMarketingEditorialManagerialCuratorialDesign.There is no defining characteristic.But this wide range of backgrounds is one of our main strengths. We need to be able to understand our organisations, and our audiences, and the digital stuff that we make as broadly as we can, so a bunch of varied backgrounds is exactly what we need.
  • A final way to think about what makes a person a content person: What do you make?The things we make fall into three buckets:[CLICK]1. Actual content – stuff that people see.2. Ways of working – content production tools and methods3. And we make stuff that our clients and bosses like – measureable outcomes.= So that, in four questions, is a very quick look at what I think makes content people the people that we are.It’s a bit broad. Not like devs or designers or managers who seem to have more definition to their roles. I used to think that made us different.But then I realised we’re a lot like another set of digital folks.
  • Let’s go back to the things that content people can solve.Disappointed audiences, bad processes, lack of focus, and the overwhelming sense that the internet is scary and impossible.These are also the things that USER EXPERIENCE EXPERTS solve.
  • Question twoThe things that make good UX people good are the same things that make good content people good.
  • Question 3, about backgrounds and experience.That line, “there is no defining characteristic of content strategy careers”?I stole it. But I didn’t steal it from Richard Ingram.
  • This year Jakob Neilson and Susan Farrell surveyed thousands of UX professionals.They asked what education and career paths people had taken to end up working in digital user experience.Do you know what they found?[CLICK]There is no defining characteristic of user experience careers.And just like with content people, the diversity is more definitely a strength, because the range of things they work on, and make better, is huge.
  • And thinking about what UX people make, those same three categories on the left remain.1. Stuff that ends up onscreen – but they think about that stuff a bit differently. Maybe more holistically. We do details where UX does patterns.2. Ways to work, but again, with a different skew3. And measurable results, which I don’t think differ at all.==So after revisiting those four questions, the similarities stand more than the differences.It’s interesting that the two fields have so much in common, and are so broad, but have developed different identities.
  • Here’s why I think the two fields have traditionally been a bit separate(Not that they aren’t moving closer together – one of the things that got me thinking about this was the number of content people presenting at UX New Zealand)I think it’s down to another divide.What do you do with the internet?
  • One thing you do is you stare at a screen and you consume information.This is political news, but it could also be YouTube, or BuzzFeed, or an amazing GIF.Consumption of information for an audience means an organisation publishing information.That’s clearly a job for… [CLICK] … content people.
  • But if you’re not a passive consumer online, that’s because you’re interacting instead.Here’s a credit card repayment calculator from Sorted.org.nz. This could also be a Minecraft screenshot.Point is, when people are clicking and typing and tapping and receiving feedback and seeing things change in response to what they’re doing, changes are you’re going to call in a [CLICK] UX expert.
  • But what about this?You go to Facebook to consume pictures of cats, obviously.But I posted that cat picture, which is an interaction…and what’s commenting, or chatting?In reality, the consume/interact barrier doesn’t exist…except when we try to divide UX people and content people up.
  • Am I saying we have two jobs?[CLICK] More that we need to make sure we’re not sticking to an old job description.[CLICK] We need to be doing work that satisfies users, INCLUDING content consumption but not limited to it.[CLIICK] We need to make sure that the user experience treats users as an audience – bring UX thinking into the passive end of the consumption-interaction continuum.[CLICK] We need to make friends with all the UX people we can. We’re already a broad group, so it should be what we’re good at.==This is why being a content person is awesome and exciting.
  • Web content people - who we are, what we do, who we're like

    1. 1. Content people Who we are, what we do, and who we’re like Auckland content strategy meetup February 2014 Max Johns @MxDEJ | contentistheweb.com
    2. 2. Hi. We’re all content people. We’re meeting up about it and everything But what does that actually mean, “content people”? Let’s start with the problems that we can solve.
    3. 3. When do you need a content person? When your audience isn’t getting what they need When your processes are bad for quality When you’re trying to do too much, and need focus When it’s all just a bit crazy
    4. 4. What makes content people good at solving that stuff? A massive appetite for learning new stuff A lot of happy and productive working relationships Thorough knowledge of what your audience wants A strong understanding of your organisation’s purpose A strong set of digital skills
    5. 5. Where do content people come from? Richard Ingram: Content strategy’s well-trodden paths richardingram.co.uk/2011/09/ content-strategys-well-trodden-paths/
    6. 6. There is no defining characteristic of content strategy careers richardingram.co.uk/2011/09/ content-strategys-well-trodden-paths/
    7. 7. Last question: What do content people make? Stuff you can see Processes Results Editorial guidelines Publishing calendars Sign-off procedures Words Pictures Videos Visits Clicks Conversions Satisfaction
    8. 8. When do you need a content person? When your audience isn’t getting what they need When your processes are bad for quality When you’re trying to do too much, and need focus When it’s all too much
    9. 9. What makes content people good at solving that stuff? A massive appetite for learning new stuff A lot of happy and productive working relationships Thorough knowledge of what your audience wants A strong understanding of your organisation’s purpose A strong set of digital skills
    10. 10. There is no defining characteristic of content strategy careers richardingram.co.uk/2011/09/ content-strategys-well-trodden-paths/
    11. 11. “There is no defining characteristic of user experience careers” - Susan Farrell and Jakob Nielson nngroup.com/articles/ux-career-advice/
    12. 12. Last question: What do content people make? Stuff you can see Processes Results Researchguidelines Editorial guidelines Publishing calendars Personas Prototyping methods Sign-off procedures Words Pages Pictures Designs Interfaces Videos Visits Clicks Conversions Satisfaction
    13. 13. How did these two fields develop separately, if they’re so similar? Content people
    14. 14. “Consumption” activities Content people
    15. 15. “Interaction” activities
    16. 16. But most stuff we do online actually both: “Read/write”
    17. 17. So, wait, we’re NOT just content people? Content consumption is a part of the user experience. Your work affects the whole thing. Be responsible for an experience, not just for stuff you can see. Think about “audience experience” And next time you meet a UX person, invent a cool secret handshake for us.
    18. 18. That’s it. Questions? Or shall we just go to the pub? Auckland content strategy meetup February 2014 Max Johns @MxDEJ | contentistheweb.com

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