Here is another in my series on SXSW events. I am pleased to be attending SXSW for the first time. I am grateful for Adobe Acrobat for enabling me to attend. I will be attending their all day Creative Camp Event on March 12, as well as some other Adobe sponsored sessions. As I do with other events I will be posting my notes from most of the sessions I attend. This is the session on Copy Matters: Content Strategy for the Interface led by Amy Thibodeau, Content Strategist Facebook, Andy Chung, Designer Facebook, Dan Zambonini, Partner & Dir Contentini, and Tiffani Jones Brown, Content Strategist Facebook. Here is the session description.
“When it comes to space-constrained interface content (from the web down to the smallest smartphone app), every word has to communicate something important and create value. The problem? Typical content strategy techniques are hard to apply to interface copy, which means language is often slapped together at the last minute by developers. How can we adapt content strategy tools and tactics to an interface context? This panel will explore workable strategies for creating content that persuades, assists and informs in a few words or less.”
Amy started: The first question is what is a Content Strategist for Facebook since there is no content. But actually there is a lot of content about how to use Facebook. Content in an interface is critical. Tiffani Jones Brown said that everyone is a content strategist as we all make content. The topic is the interface. It is the often thought of as the interactive part. But the content on the non-interactive part is also important. An interface content strategist is about the buttons and other stuff you use. The non-interface content strategist is more about curation, workflows, content audits. This split is a problematic view. You cannot make a division about the interface. People are using everything. The idea that only some content needs a system is wrong. It all fits within a design system.
Jason Fried said – “Good Content is good design.” Amy agrees with this quote. It is all interrelated. What can we do? We need to adapt our mindsets first and drop our dual mental models and look at how do they fit together. Adapt as you go.
Dan Zambonini, Partner & Dir Contentini went next. He started designing web sites for other people and then did his own which was more fun. The key thing is finding a good problem and then be adaptable. Small startups is a focus for her now and this is very different than a large company like Facebook. You need to test your basic assumptions first. Interview people.
Andy Chung, Designer at Facebook went next. Andy just joined Facebook and was at Mozilla when asked to be on the panel. There are strong ties with content and design. At Mozilla they worked with content strategists. On issue was distilling down complex issues into simple statements. He studied type design in school.
Keith Robertson went next. He started at Boeing on content development and did a variety of things. They would write, set up pages, did instructional design, etc. Since then he has seen more siloed organizations. He loved the Boeing situation. Now the lines are getting blurred again. Content strategy is about design. There are interrelated.
Now they moved to a round table discussion. First question: How does design work effect content? Keith said sometimes they had to pick words based on pixel size. Also when working on help desk content he has to work within a constrained space. Content strategy is process driven. There is workflow and audits. Who is the audience? What problems are you trying to solve for? At one firm they have a set guidelines on product persona that governs what you use when you do any content around a product and this is useful. But everything is not content.
While they are content strategists, they do have to deliver content. A good strategy is taking out half the original content. Content strategy goes beyond that and looking at all the context to simplify it. Another question is what advice would you give to the individual? If you have to do content on your own, make sure every word has to serve a purpose. But this takes times to understand. One exercise makes sure each content piece is very tight. See how they fit together. Dan said to test everything.
Audience questions: How do you get stakeholders interested in content strategy and get buy in? Content strategists spend more time talking to each other. Amy said the standard answer is to show what you do. Be visual. Do not tell. Content strategy is only two years old at Facebook. One small content change upped conversion rates dramatically. Compile evidence. Or look for other people who have had successes and document them, Also find like minded workers and build a community for support.
Another question is about word limits from someone who works for long-winded lawyers. Try putting most important part first and use a lot of bullets. Some guidelines: use headlines less than four words, buttons with only one to three words to describe them, and create sentences with 10 – 25 words. I should add that I believe Google drops the rest of the title after 90 characters. I see that this session had a two word title for this session and then a subtitle.
Facebook has ten content strategists responsible for different areas. The group is only two and half years old. They work closely with the business managers of the units they are responsible for, as well as the research team and the designers. They get involved in user testing. They are constantly iterating.