Content strategy

Content Strategist: Master of Contingencies

This is a post from Blog Secret Santa
This post was written as part of Blog Secret Santa 2014. It was an anonymous gift post, published here unedited. Here’s the full blog roll, including something by me.

In his play The Cenci, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley weaves a tragic tale of villainy and disaster.

A bloodthirsty 17th-century nobleman becomes the target of a murder plot. In today’s parlance, we’d say that “no jury in the world” would convict young Giacomo and his cohorts of plotting to murder the abusive, lecherous Count Cenci.

But after concocting their scheme, Giacomo is dismayed to hear that the evil count has escaped his clutches. By chance, the count has missed his date with destiny by embarking on a journey an hour too soon.

Content strategy

Sticky note overload! My talk from UX Design Day

UX + Content Strategy = Better business


So, UX Design Day in Dunedin was a great little conference. My place in the programme was as the one and only content strategist, in town to pitch for as much cooperation as possible between UX and content people as we work on building things.

And what’s the best way to win the hearts and minds of UXers? With sticky notes. So here are my slides.

Content strategy

I’ll be at Dunedin’s UX Design Day, October 31

Update, 2 November: UXDD was a fantastic day. I’ve posted my talk material: Sticky note overload! My talk from UX Design Day

One of the hardest things about getting to present at conferences and events is keeping my damn mouth shut about it until the organisers have announced the line-up. So, after a week or two of keeping my trap shut: I’M COMING TO DUNEDIN FOR UX DESIGN DAY!

Dunedin’s a special place, and any excuse to head back down for a visit is always a good thing. I lived there for seven years, it’s where I met my wonderful wife (as well as being her home town), and it’s where I made some of the best friendships of my life. As far as I recall, it was always exactly like this:

(That’s me on the obligatory outdoor couch, in the yellow and black t-shirt.)

Content strategy

Agile development, lean UX … What about a Lean Content Manifesto?

What would a Lean Content Manifesto look like?

The digital world needs a Lean (or should that be Agile?) Content Manifesto. If you agree, get in touch!

Developer and UXers are ahead of us, and it’s working for them

Making software used to take longer, and be way more painful than it should. The wrong people were in control and devs ended up having to focus on the wrong stuff. It sucked. So a group of forward-thinking people who cared wrote the Agile Manifesto, which duly took over the world:

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Meanwhile, UX work has a reputation for taking ages and being expensive. But lean UX is catching on. The Lean UX Manifesto is deliberately familiar:

We are developing a way to create digital experiences that are valued by our end users. Through this work, we hold in high regard the following:

  • Early customer validation over releasing products with unknown end-user value
  • Collaborative design over designing on an island
  • Solving user problems over designing the next “cool” feature
  • Measuring KPIs over undefined success metrics
  • Applying appropriate tools over following a rigid plan
  • Nimble design over heavy wireframes, comps or specs

As stated in the Agile Manifesto, “While there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”

Working out what’s important and what it’s more important than, and then using that to tell the world what we’re all about, seems like a great idea to me. So, why isn’t there a Lean (or Agile) Content Manifesto yet? And who wants to make it happen?

By the way, this quote from Jim Highsmith’s history of the Agile Manifesto is truly lovely, and points us in a great direction

We all felt privileged to work with a group of people who held a set of compatible values, a set of values based on trust and respect for each other and promoting organizational models based on people, collaboration, and building the types of organizational communities in which we would want to work. At the core, I believe Agile Methodologists are really about “mushy” stuff—about delivering good products to customers by operating in an environment that does more than talk about “people as our most important asset” but actually “acts” as if people were the most important, and lose the word “asset”. So in the final analysis, the meteoric rise of interest in—and sometimes tremendous criticism of—Agile Methodologies is about the mushy stuff of values and culture.

Jim Highsmith’s history of the Agile Manifesto.

Content strategy

Content people: An Auckland content strategy meetup presentation

I’m one of three people who have brought Auckland content strategy meetups back to life. We started on Wednesday night, and it was fantastic. I gave a short talk about “content people”, which was based on my ‘Content strategy and UX are twins’ post from last year.

It’s the first thing I’ve ever added to SlideShare, too, so this is just a big ol’ week of firsts. Excitementness!

Web content people – who we are, what we do, who we're like from Max Johns


I leaned heavily on some wonderful research by the wonderful Richard Ingram. His diagram of content strategy’s well-trodden paths is from his 2011 CS Forum talk, ‘How did we all get here?’. The video is well worth a watch.

On the UX side, Neilsen Norman Group’s User Experience Career Advice is the most thorough work of its kind that I’ve seen. If you don’t already get Jakob Neilsen’s Alertbox emails, you’re missing out.

Update, Feb 11: I just saw the typo (or entirely missing word, ahem) in this slide deck, and now I hate myself.

Content strategy

Notes on content strategy and UX overlap

I’ve started reusing an oldish notebook recently, and these two pages (ripped out of a hotel notepad) just dropped out of it. They date back to the week before I wrote Content strategy and UX are twins. This was the thinking that started me down that path, but it kind of got lost somewhere along the way. So here are the raw-form thoughts.

Yes, I have two distinct styles of handwriting. No, I only have one personality.

The two three two things you can do online:

  • consume information
  • interact with systems or people (including create).

i.e. absorb information passively, or exchange active input for output (calculated, social, buying things, whatever).

Content strategy is traditionally concerned with:

  1. consumption: making information easier to consume, and
  2. archiving the results of interaction.

UX is traditionally concerned with interaction as it happens.

BUT interactions need a lasting impression to be good experiences (if the shopping cart is great, but the stuff I bought never gets dispatched = fail).

AND consumption is a [user] experience.

AND interaction affects content.


If we’ve developed professional specialities based on how passive or active the user is, we risk forgetting the way people slip between consumption and interaction. Do you go to Facebook to read, to interact, or both? It’s both a content experience and an interaction experience. This is why UX specialists and content strategists are twins – we’re working together on what, to users, is a single experience.

In cases where there’s an offline aspect as well – as with shopping online – even a perfect online experience counts for zilch if the offline experience sucks. The twins of UX and content strategy need a close sibling taking care of people in the real world, too.


This post is 274 words long, with an average reading grade of 9.3.