I love content strategy, as you may know, and at the heart of content strategy is good content. And at the heart of good content is good writing. Heck, most of the content that libraries provide is in the form of the written word.
Because of this, when I was invited to write another book for the Rowman & Littlefield Practical Guides series, I decided to write it on this topic. The working title is Writing for the User Experience. It’s going to be all about writing with the user in mind. We hear a lot about user-centered design. Now let’s dig into one of the hardest (but most important) pieces: user-centered writing. Most of the writing I’ve seen on library websites – and on education sites in general – is overly complicated, disorganized, and lacking of any personality. It’s getting better (shout out to MIT and Cal Poly especially), but still needs some serious attention.
I’ve been a fan of Ginny Redish’s Letting Go of the Words for years, my first introduction to better writing for the web. A recent masterpiece on the topic is Ann Handley’s book Everybody Writes, which came out last year. Couldn’t put it down. It’s fantastic.
I’ve dabbled in the topic a lot over the past few years. I taught a course on writing for the web for Library Juice Academy with my former colleague Nicole Capdarest-Arest, and spoke at edUi back in 2013 on writing with users in mind. I’ve been working with our content strategist at the library to re-work all of our content, slowly making strides to improve the experience our users have with our written content.
My goal is to write something that’s practical for the librarian. I hope it leads to better content not just on our websites, but in all communication channels. Everywhere content touches the user experience (think: emails, web, brochures, posters, signage, social media). It’s going to be a fun book to write, and if all goes well the manuscript will be in next May and published in the fall. Wish me luck!
And in other news…. I published a book! It came out at the end of September and I’m hoping it will be useful for anyone who is interested in dabbling in usability testing for the first time or leveling up their skills. Whether you’re on a string budget with little staffing, or you have a larger web team that’s committed to improving the user experience, this should be a worthwhile read.
If it’s not already a go-to handbook on your book shelf, please check it out. Available for $55.79 on Amazon.
WordPress reminded me that I’ve been slacking on this blog, sorry about that…
It’s a bit late, but this is a presentation I gave along with our web content strategist, Shoshana Mayden, at edUi earlier in the fall:
EdUI – a great conference as always.
And some news: just last month, we were able to secure a permanent position. That’s right, our library now has a full-time content strategist! And it’s pretty fabulous. (She was previously on a one-year contract. A year of hard work proved how extremely valuable content strategy is to our organization).
Presentation I gave as part of the UX Unconference we organized at the UA Libraries early in December. This is a 20 minute version of the 4-week long class I teach for Library Juice Academy.
Yesterday, I presented a webinar sponsored by the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records. They organize professional development for library workers across the state. This was a great opportunity to share an overview of how to conduct usability testing easily and on a budget.
We had a few technical issues at the start, and some of my slides came out funky or incomplete, but other than that I think it went well.
Webinar recording (1 hour)
I was fortunate to attend edUi for the second time this year. Excellent conference that brings together leaders in user experience from the higher ed community. I presented twice – first with colleague from UNC Chapel Hill, Kim Vassiliaddis on bringing together stakeholders and leading staff during times of big changes:
I then presented with former colleague, Samantha Barry, on techniques for effective web writing:
Earlier this year, I helped organize the UX Certificate program for Library Juice Academy. It’s 6 courses, completely online, with each course lasting 4 weeks. I’d previously been teaching the Do-It-Yourself Usability Testing, which was super fun & interesting, so I was happy to add a couple more, and also bring in some colleagues from elsewhere to contribute.
I was lucky to get others on board to help with the curriculum and the teaching:
- Carolyn Ellis, User Experience Librarian at University of Texas San Antonio. She teaches the first course: Designing a Usable Website (the fundamentals of user-centered design)
- Susan Teague Rector, Information Architect and Web Strategist at the University of Colorado Denver. She teaches Information Architecture: Designing Navigation for Library Websites
- Sonali Mishra, User Experience Specialist at the University of Michigan. She follows my usability testing course with Beyond Usability Testing: Other User Research Methods.
- Nicole Capdarest-Arest, Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Arizona Health Sciences Library. She co-teaches Writing for the Web.
It’s great to see so many familiar faces in these classes – students taking the entire program. I also see some new faces in each course, which is also fun. We have a mix of students from academic, community college, and public libraries as well as some who are working towards their MLS or who are just seeking some continuing education.
We have in the final month of teaching right now, wrapping it up with Content Strategy for the Web. I am possibly most excited about this course, because content strategy has been on my mind for a long time and I want to share the love. I published an article earlier this year, Developing a Content Strategy for an Academic Library Website, and am currently right in the middle of a search for a one-year Web Content Strategist for our library. I’ve been de facto content strategist, but if we could have someone whose whole job is dedicated to this type of work, that would be awesome. I think we could so some really innovate stuff with our site. And we have some great candidates, which is really exciting. This position has been funded for 12 months, but I am thinking we might be able to justify having a permanent line in this role, depending how the year goes and what we accomplish. We shall see!