I’m Giving Thanks for these 5 Content Resources

5 Content Resources to be thankful for

The weather is getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and it’s once again time to give thanks for all things, large and small, that enhance our lives. As a content strategist and copywriter, I am always thinking about how to make content more useful and engaging. That’s why I’m thankful for the following 5 sites that provide guidance, tips, and tools as well as thought leadership I find myself referencing again and again.

  1. UX Magazine explores every facet of user experience. Articles about the psychological impact of transactions and human interaction live comfortably next to technical documentation tips and a review of social engagement flaws. You may not read every article, but if you’re working in UX you’re sure to find something interesting and informative here.
  2. Readability Score is a fantastic resource for testing content to ensure you’re providing a level of reading clarity, ease of comprehension, and depth that aligns with your readers. Different audiences have different readability needs. This site helps you quickly assess content by both difficulty and grade level according to the Flesch-Kincaid scale and other measurements.
  3. Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty, the founder and managing director of “Quick and Dirty Tips,” is my go-to source for plain language clarification when I have a question on word use or grammar. She clearly believes that learning should be fun and provides her tips and education in short, easy-to-follow posts chock full of humorous anecdotes, real examples, and clever memory tips.
  4. The Moz Blog is a collection of optimization focused blogs and tools to help writers ensure their content is findable, an important consideration for any type of content that lives in the digital universe. Practical tools, like the Title Tag Preview tool, help authors and content managers improve the effectiveness of on- and off-page content.
  5. A List Apart is one of my frequently referenced bookmarks because of the depth and breadth of information on design for a multi-device world. Looking to understand the most important considerations for Responsive Web Design? Check out the latest blog from Ethan Marcotte. Want to get inspired for your next Content Workshop? Make sure you read Karen McGrane’s post on “Rolling Out Responsive.”

If you like this list, check out my coworker Olivia Saldano’s favorite design resources.

What websites and resources are you most thankful for in your work? Please share them in the comments below; I’m always interested in finding new favorites and useful resources.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Content, Creative, Design, News

Outta sight! The next Google Glass looks nothing like glasses

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Remember Google Glass? That head-mounted computer resembling a pair of glassless eyeglasses?

You are forgiven if you have forgotten. Google’s first attempt at ubiquitous computing sure had cachet when it went to market in the spring of 2014 and was dubbed the natural next step in digital-first design. That cachet disappeared less than a year later, and Glass did soon after, as Google insisted those first publicly available headsets were just prototypes.

Exactly when the next Glass prototype will become available is not known, but several tech journals that had been skimming through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s public records found that Google was granted a patent this week for single-lens eye wear described as an electronic device affixed with a form-fitting “band” that clings to one side of the wearer’s scalp.

The display portion is suspended in front of the wearer’s left eye and, according to the patent’s illustrations, looks more like a prism than a conventional lens.

Google Glass dropped out of the consumer market in January amid promises it would be reincarnated soon, though only for enterprise use. The project upgrade turned up at Google under the name Aura in September two months after a Google job posting called for manufacturing engineers in its Glass division.

Italian eyewear maker Luxottica is also involved, company CEO Massimo Vian told the Wall Street Journal in April.

“What you saw was Version 1,” Vian said. “We’re now working on Version 2, which is now in preparation,” he said.

5 Design Resources To Be Thankful For


It’s that time a year again, the time where we focus on all that we are thankful for in our lives. That may be our family and friends, or more simple things like a good night’s sleep. This year, I’m especially thankful for the following 5 design resources, in no particular order because I’m equally thankful for all:

  1. Webdesigner News curates all the latest and most important design news for you. I subscribe to their daily emails, so that I can stay on top of what is going on in the industry, anything from news to case studies, inspiration, you name it and its there.
  2. Webdesigner Depot is the place to find articles on the latest tools, deals and new tools. They also do a monthly article called What’s New For Designers, which I find really helpful to see what new resources and cool tools are out there.
  3. showcases the best design videos and allows you to filter through by either category or by length. It’s great for inspiration and learning about a certain topic.
  4. UI Patterns has a library of UI patterns backed by explanations and user votes as to if they liked that item or not. It has come in handy when I find myself getting stuck trying to solve a problem.
  5. UI Movement is a great way to get daily or weekly design inspiration to your email. It includes the actual interaction of interfaces, which helps spark big ideas.

I would love to hear what resources others find helpful and maybe we can introduce each other to something new.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Posted in Design, Education, Trends

The 5th P of marketing – people

5th P of Marketing

Part 2 of 2

We are rapidly moving into the holiday shopping season and retailers are in for a rubber meets the road experience. The tried and true sales gimmicks they’ve relied on in season’s past may not work so well this November and December. Consumers have become accustomed to receiving free shipping, price matching and other price-related perks. And while some of those tactics work in the short term, as author Denise Lee Yohn has found, “Competing on price produces less of an advantage now.” Competing on price, product, placement and promotion is the classic marketing template for how organizations compete (i.e., the 4Ps of Marketing). It still has value today, but it’s no longer solely relevant to attracting and retaining consumers. I believe there is an additional “P” of marketing products and services that matters more in the marketplace of today, and that is people (aka, customers, consumers). So how will retailers compete to gain consumers’ wallets this season?

I am putting my money on those retailers who will compete on delivering a superior customer experience, and who invest in delighting their customer.

I agree with Yohn when she says, “They [meaning retailers] know that people make shopping decisions not only on product, price, offers, convenience, or even service, but rather…the way they make people feel.” Successful retailing is about getting into the hearts and minds of customers and prospective customers. Read the rest of this post »

User Experience Debt: How and Why? (Part 1)

shutterstock_289434728_350As a user experience designer, I used to think that the worst designed websites were the best candidates for improvement. Symptoms of user experience debt may sound familiar to you – confusing navigation, excess clicks, accessibility violations, and painful load times. I applied to jobs thinking the larger the UX debt, the greater the opportunity. Perversely, however, the opposite is true.

Why? Because a good site already has the resources – money, labor, and knowledge capital – to improve. A bad site doesn’t.

We may be seduced to believe otherwise when so many elements of web design are free. Responsive frameworks like Bootstrap? Free. jQuery libraries? Free. Stock photography? Free. So it should cost little to transform a bad website into a fully responsive, whizzy experience.

Unfortunately UX debt can’t always be paid with free templates, or extra people or refactored code. This is because UX debt represents more than a lack of resources. It represents the existence of exacerbating conditions. Some examples:

Lack of executive support. Rightly or wrongly, organization leaders may prioritize other activities (e.g., developing new functions) over user experience. You can’t improve UX simply by hiring more designers. The decision-makers in your organization are still there!

Hero mentality. Some designers want recognition as creative geniuses, and tackle every project with visual brainstorming. However, standard UX processes today – including research, usability testing, analytics and multivariate testing – are all about user data and iteration. Brainstorming is an activity, not a strategy. Your designers may be actively generating UX debt by focusing on artistry instead of usability.

Overdesign. Often a design doesn’t lack resources. On the contrary, it may suffer from excess people and ideas. A common scenario is a new feature that could potentially work like X or Y. Stakeholders disagree, then compromise by making X and Y a user setting. The final settings menu has 67 items that’s impossible to navigate. Bigger is not always better. Good design has boundaries. You can actually incur UX debt through addition, not subtraction. Read the rest of this post »

Platform ambassador: The new title in media management

Platform ambassador graphic

Take a guess: How many virtual communities exist online, right now?

The answer is complex. If you count only those sites with 100 million members or more, the list is about a dozen names long. If you count those considered “major” and “active” at the same time, the list has about 400 members.

But if you try counting every community, right down to the tiny sites serving only a few devotees or the sites with barely any attention paid to them, expect to spend days, maybe even weeks just counting.

Now, apparently, major media companies are assigning someone to do exactly that. The latest trend in media administration incorporates a role called “platform ambassador,” or something similar. Simply put, these ambassadors determine which new or existing social platforms are worth bringing aboard as partners.

Their choices are crucial: Media outlets realize (or most do, anyway) that they need to go where potential audiences are, instead of expecting audiences to come find them – an expectation the oldest outlets embraced for 80 years. For example, Facebook and Twitter together garner 1.8 billion users among their active accounts, and of those users more than half get their news directly through the two platforms instead of through traditional media outlets. Read the rest of this post »

You’re smart if you can ‘dummy’ it down.

Dummy it down 1It may seem odd that I would discuss an article from academia (A new movement strives for simplicity), but hear me out. Most of us are moderately or highly literate on our respective areas of expertise. But guess what? Our colleagues and clients may not be at the same level of know-how. I could make the case that as the holder of an MBA, with a concentration in IT, that I should easily understand my colleagues’ technical lingo. Sad to say, I’m often nodding my head, “Yeah, I get that,” when my brain is saying, “Huh?”

So let’s have a come clean moment. At times and in certain contexts, we are all illiterate in some situations. At a recent UxPA conference, I heard this phenomenon referred to as “situational illiteracy.”  For instance, reading my healthcare provider’s full policies on what’s covered and what’s not typically sends me to the phone to hash it out with someone who understands what the jargon means. This is unfortunate and frustrating. It simply doesn’t have to be this way and the fix isn’t complicated: just use plain language. I know that it can be challenging to drop the jargon, and to distill complex ideas down to simple sentences. But we can do it! Read the rest of this post »

The dangers of listening to customers too closely

Part 1 of 2

How do you excite the imagination of your team to devise new ways of solving design problems, to create new ideas and better user experiences? Where do you start? Design firms, and those invested in design thinking and innovation, start by asking customers what they want. I’ll be the first to admit that I relish talking to customers, getting inside their heads to the point where I can “see” their needs and aspirations (i.e., empathy). But user research can be problematic if it’s not handled right. When firms expect customers to know what they want, and have accurate insight into how to solve their own problems, they are in for a surprise because customers are often unable to express what they want if they are even good at identifying it. Without a doubt, customers know what rubs them the wrong way and what brings them delight. However, customers are mostly clueless about how to come up with solutions to fix their issues. In some cases, lead users (e.g., die-hard, I’m never leaving this brand, customers) are able to express what they want due to their extensive and intimate experience with a brand, but that’s not typical.

Rev-up your firm's imagination, ask customers about outcomes.

Rev-up your firm’s imagination, ask customers about outcomes.

How do we resolve this challenge? If you want to release, say a blockbuster app, “Stop asking customers what they want. Start asking what they want your products to do for them,” advises Anthony W. Ulwick, CEO of Strategyn, a consulting firm based in San Francisco, and frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review. As a researcher, it’s tempting to give serious consideration to the solutions that customers suggest, but it’s imperative to distinguish between outcomes and solutions. Why? Read the rest of this post »

A left hook from your client doesn’t have to derail your meeting

Client meetings can be derailed by surprises

I was in a kick-off meeting on a new project that took an unexpected turn.

My team was sitting at a very large conference table − six of us if I recall correctly − overlooking the river and expansive cityscape. I was enjoying my decaf soy latte while we made small talk with our client; by the way, small talk is a recommended approach to breaking the ice with a new client, actually with any team members. In one recent study I recently discovered that using small talk with groups reduces social distance, that feeling we have of emotional disconnection with our colleagues, mainly when we don’t often see them. Also, small talk encourages social sensitivity and cohesion. So back to where I was. In the room with us were 9 stakeholder-clients, and joining via video conferencing was the remainder of our client’s leadership team, including the executive sponsor. We had a lot of people in this kick-off meeting but I didn’t think much of it; we were starting on a large-scale effort. So to get things started, our Lead introduced the project, scope and schedule. He turned it over to me and I began outlining our research activities and outputs within the design process.

And then out of nowhere…

Without warning the client’s domain lead “Ansel” raised objections. She had doubts about the validity of our approach. Actually, I knew she thought the approach was inappropriate and it really concerned her. I’m pretty good about intuiting these things (i.e., felt emotions). She asked, “How is this approach really valid when…?” I sensed a growing tension in the room as our conversation flow took a detour. You could have heard a pin drop and (oh yeah) all eyes were on me! Read the rest of this post »

Posted in News

Your Digital Afterlife

our_digital_afterlife_featured_imageFor centuries, humans have been obsessed with solving the problem that is mortality, even dreaming up mythical creatures like vampires and zombies that are based on the idea of living forever. The once elusive immortality is very much a reality in today’s world except in a digital form. What are you leaving behind from your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other type of online account when you are gone? We now have a digital afterlife that very few people think about, but as unfortunate as the topic is, we have to determine what we want to do with it.

What happens to your online accounts after you die? What are your options? You cannot delete accounts when you have already passed away, so what can you do then? The social media giant, Facebook, has come up with a solution for it’s over 100 million active users. It now offers the option of memorializing an account. In order to memorialize someone’s account, the profile must be reported directly to Facebook. This setting then makes it impossible for any one else to log into that deceased person’s account. In addition, Facebook allows beneficiaries to be appointed through your account settings. Google has also made strides in creating Inactive Account Manager where users can set a trustee who will have the ability to obtain your data or content if the account hasn’t been active in awhile.

Read the rest of this post »