The best of Ten Things in 2021

Ten Things is my newsletter. Every other Monday morning I share ten eclectic links designed to spark ideas and make connections. These are the top ten Things of the year, according to clicks from readers. You can also browse a full list of every Thing I shared this year in this spreadsheet.

Content warning: the 7th item on the list refers to violence against women.

1. ‘Work is a false idol’

An NYT opinion piece on the ‘lying flat’ trend and why people are becoming disillusioned with work and capitalism.

This one is a bit of a cheat; it was the only thing in that particular email because I was taking a day to, um, lie flat. I think this story captures the exhaustion a lot of people are feeling at this weird point in history we’re living through.

Work is a false idol, Cassady Rosenblum, The New York Times

2. ‘Enter 10 words that are as different from each other as possible’

An interesting brain-teaser to test your creativity and vocab, and waste a few minutes. You have to try and think of ten words that are as different from one another as possible.

My score was 81.41, higher than 69.51% of participants. I was pretty proud of this until you all emailed me your scores … everyone beat me!

Divergent Association Task

3. ‘A briefing template’

My briefing template.

This won’t magically create a great brief all on its own. But it might provide some useful prompts to help you think about your brief more deeply, or make it more well-rounded.

4. A list of tips on how to make work suck less

The brilliant Rachel McConnell shares her tops tips on what to do when things at work are tough.

This is such a practical list with a wealth of ideas for how to turn around difficult, demotivating situations at work.

Turning Things Around When Everything Sucks at Work, Rachel McConnell, The Startup

5. “It’s sheer arrogance to think that our forms, buttons, and modals can evoke grand emotions in the hearts of our users”

Ryan Bigge explains why he hopes ‘delight’ is dead in UX writing.

This is a funny and persuasive take on why trying to cram ‘delight’ into functional copy might be a bad route to go down. It’s packed with good examples of cringey cutesy copy too.

The Pandemic Ruined Customer Delight And That’s Okay, Ryan Bigge, Medium

6. “Content design is complicated. It’s nuanced. And it’s often quite time-consuming”

Erica Jorgensen, Senior UX Content Designer at Microsoft, explains 11 things she considers as part of the content design process.

This list does a great job of showing just how complex content design is, and why the process can’t be rushed. Lots of great ideas begging to be stolen and incorporated into your workflow.

11 key content design considerations, Erica Jorgensen, UX Writers Collective

7. ‘Talk to your boys’

A now-deleted clip from an old show by comedian Daniel Sloss, which I shared at the time of Sarah Everard’s murder and the protests about misogyny in the UK.

In it, Sloss shares his regret at not spotting signs of misogyny in one of his friends in time. It’s a perfect illustration of why men need to act. Because even if you’re not one of those men, you might know one. That’s hard to confront, but it’s true.

You can read about it here:

There are monsters among us and they look like us’: Daniel Sloss applauded as routine calling out men for not preventing attacks on women resurfaces, Mel Evans, The Metro

8. “The ‘would you like to? / I would like to’ test”

Jonathan Richards, Interactive Editor of the Guardian explains the grammar of interactivity and the ‘WYLTIWLT’ test.

This is a great primer in the grammar of UX writing, and button copy in particular. I particularly liked the idea of the “would you like to? / I would like to” test, or “WYLTIWLT” which can help you work out if your button copy is likely to work or not.

The Grammar of Interactivity, Jonathan Richards, UX Booth

9. “Why such fierce aversion to the passive voice?”

A defence of the passive voice in UX writing by Aaron S. Raizen.

Is the passive voice as terrible as we’ve been led to believe? Maybe not, according to this smart article, which explores where the blanket ban on passive voice came from, and why it’s sometimes okay to use it in UX writing.

What Every UX Writer Needs to Know About Passive Voice, Aaron S. Raizen, UX Planet

10. “How much does a website cost?”

Agency SIDE, which specialises in no-code projects for social impact, has started sharing the cost of its projects.

I get asked/see people asking for approximate costs to build a website all the time. This is a really helpful, transparent resource if you’re trying to set a budget.

SIDE projects

Like this? Get more, straight to your inbox.

Sign up and get new blog posts emailed to you. Plus, get the 10 Things newsletter: articles, opinions, tools and more curated to spark ideas and make connections for anyone who’s interested in content with purpose. No more than four emails a month. Unsubscribe whenever you like.

Get toolkit updates and discounts