I like to think that they tell a bit of a story about working in content in 2022. We’ve got resilience, changing the economy, aligned autonomy, simple writing, silos, and the evils of carousels. But ultimately, the most popular story of the year was about finding better ways of working with stakeholders, the boss-level problem of all content work.
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“We spend most of our time in meetings discussing individual sentences”
Dominic Warren shares tips for productive working relationships with stakeholders.
We’ve all been part of those painful meetings where a single piece of copy gets endlessly debated to no effect. Dominic has some great advice for building better relationships and avoiding those soul-destroying meetings.
“Managers aren’t therapists. But there’s still a lot leaders can do right now”
Sara Wachter-Boettcher on how managers can cultivate resilience by creating space for time and healing.
I don’t manage anyone these days, but this struck a chord with me. It seems like many of us are exhausted and beaten down by everything that’s happened over the last few years. This is an important, practical read on how to cultivate real resilience.
“How to make writing easier to read”
A site that demonstrates what clear writing looks like, by showing good and bad examples side by side.
At the flick of a toggle, you can move from the bad copy:
‘Writing text that can be understood by as many people as possible seems like an obvious best practice. But from news media to legal guidance to academic research, the way we write often creates barriers to who can read it. Plain language—a style of writing that uses simplified sentences, everyday vocabulary, and clear structure—aims to remove those barriers.’
to the good:
“Good writing is easy to read. But a lot of writing is hard to read. Some people can’t read hard writing. Plain language fixes this problem. It makes writing easy to read for more people.’
It’s also full of tips and clear explanations of what exactly makes the good version better. A great resource. I found this in the lovely ‘Why words matter’ newsletter by Nia Campbell and Adrian Ortega.
Adam Buxton interviews economist Mariana Mazzucato.
I recommended Mariana’s book Mission Economy a while back. This is a good listen and intro on her thinking about the failures of capitalism, and how greater cooperation between the public and private sectors could solve some of the big challenges of our age.
“How I make sure the content I design is user-focused”
Rob Mills shares a template to help you gather everything you need to design user-focused content.
This is a really practical tool to help you gather up all the information and data sources you need before you start writing. I also never knew about this feature on gov.uk that Rob highlights:
‘The URL is https://www.gov.uk/apply-renew-passport but if you add info to it, like this, https://www.gov.uk/info/apply-renew-passport you can see the user need, acceptance criteria and how the need is in proposition.’
This is ideal if you need some inspo for writing good user needs. I love the transparency of this — it would be great to see it on more sites.
“Strategy ≠ planning”
A video (fully subtitled) with Felix Oberholzer-Gee for HBR explaining the difference between strategy and planning.
This video captures a really important distinction. I’ve seen so many organisations with plenty of detailed plans for things they’re going to do, but no strategy to hold everything together and provide a cohesive direction. Which, unsurprisingly, leads to a big mess of mixed messages and divided efforts. I found this in Tom Prior’s Designers in Business newsletter.
“Escape the siloing trap”
Nicole Nardelli on how she avoids getting stuck in feedback loops between design and product teams.
A long, detailed case study with a good reading list too.
“Creating the optimal conditions for great content”
UK charity Shelter has added a content operations section to its digital framework.
I love it when organisations share their content strategies and frameworks. These guidelines cover governance, lifecycle, retiring content, and more. This is a nice example to use for inspiration if you’re working on your own.
“No one wants to see your f-ing carousel”
Joni Halabi on why you don’t need a carousel on your website.
Joni makes some great points about all the issues with carousels, but sums it up perfectly in a few sentences:
‘The only person who wants a carousel on your site is you. That’s it. It’s a self-serving vanity project so that you can showcase all of your babies at the same time without telling the world which one is your favorite.’
I also love that, right at the end, Joni shows us that carousels are a content hierarchy issue.
“Aligned autonomy is critical to agility”
Neil Perkin on what a 19th Century railroad org chart can teach us about balancing top-down direction with grass-roots autonomy.
If you work in a large organisation where responsibility for content is distributed across different teams, this is worth a read.