The human touch (Confab 2013 recap)
A trip report
In late March, 270 content professionals from 27 countries gathered in London for the very first European edition of Confab, the leading content strategy conference organized by US agency BrainTraffic. Bas Evers (@everbass), content strategist at Informaat, attended. He captures some of the talks and explains what he took away from the event.
There are over 2,000 device types available that people can use to access the internet. More enter the market every day. Organizations are struggling to keep up with this pace. The possibilities for reaching your customers online, and the other way around, are expanding rapidly. But the real challenges do not lie in technology alone.
The human touch
I heard a clear message throughout Confab. Although the contexts in which content is consumed are becoming more and more complex, the bottom-line hasn’t changed: we design and create content for people. The key to aligning business and consumer goals is to treat both your customers and your colleagues humanely.
Humans have unique qualities that separate us from animals. It is precisely these qualities that are vital in content strategy (and user-centered design in general). I want to highlight three:
- We can think
- We are visually oriented
- We are emotional beings
Think before creating
In the digital age, it is essential for organizations to think carefully before acting. Ask the tough (and paradoxically easy) questions first: why are we doing this and for whom? Web writing expert Ginny Redish (@GinnyRedish) said it most firmly. “If an organization can’t explain the purpose of a piece of content, it doesn’t belong on their website.”
Think before measuring
Erin Kissane (@Kissane), author of the excellent book “The elements of content strategy“, warned organizations against a blind focus on data. Before trying to measure everything, ask the question what you want to find out. And we should be very critical of any data. Not everything can be measured (yet).
Show, don’t tell
Discussions around the return on investment of content strategy can be tough. UX consultant Leisa Reichelt (@Leisa) argued that the best way to convince a decision maker of a user-centered design project is to show it to them. Managers – like all people – love visuals. Leisa always creates clickable HTML prototypes which include realistic content.
Strategic User Experience (ConfabUK 2013) from leisa reichelt
How does that make you feel?
The best digital experiences take into account what people feel when they use the service. Email marketing platform MailChimp’s content lead Kate Kiefer Lee (@KateKiefer) explained how she matches the tone of each piece of content with the emotion that the message brings about with her customer.
Consider the disabled robot
There was only one talk at Confab that focused more on machine than man. Wiep Hamstra (@Wiepstra) advised to move away from the cliché of disabled people when explaining the importance of accessibility to organizations. The robot that frequently visits your websites (Google) is blind and deaf.
See the blind person
An accessibility consultant once gave a presentation at Informaat. She brought a blind man who showed us how he browses the web. And we could listen to the software reading to him out loud the contents of websites we had created. Even though the Google argument is convincing, I will never forget the impression this man made. I suppose that’s human, too: nothing beats experiencing something first-hand.
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