shiny, happy content

Content, meet engineering

In addition to being editors, publishers, information architects and diplomats, it seems content strategists must now add engineering to their skill set. It is only with the solid foundations and future-proof planning of clever information and data engineering that content strategists can deliver useable digital products in the myriad of devices, formats and platforms available now and peeking at us over the horizon.

At the UK Content Strategy Association’s April 2012 meet-up on adaptive content, three insightful, engaging speakers painted a future where it was indeed possible to ‘create once, publish everywhere’. But this won’t happen without secure and robust foundations. Which means working more closely than ever before with technical architects and builders.

Data dude

Mike Quinn set the scene with a reality check: mini versions of your .com site for your mobile site won’t cut it anymore, apps outscore mobile web in some industries, tablet ownership is predicted to explode over the next few years, and you can no longer keep creating content over and over for every platform. By drilling down into the data and analytics for your site, you can find out who is accessing what, and when, where and how they’re doing it. If you have this, you can sew the technology together to create the personalised experiences people expect to see.

XML zen

Noz Urbina showed us a glimpse into the future where digital content is everywhere, rippling from one interface to the next in contexts unexpected and surprising. As enticing and exciting as this Jetson-esque scenario seems, the hard truth is that such a future is only possible if underlying data is structured and existing processes and practices challenged. It’s time to let go of micromanaging displays, and allow the power of semantic structure do its job. Only structured data (using something like XML, a standards-based enabler) will help us deliver to the new contexts presented by the audience and scenario diversification heading our way.

Content capture

Cleve Gibbon brought home the inescapable truth of the building blocks needed to deliver digital products. Don’t trap your content in a CMS. Don’t design and build for one device. And then another. And then a different device again. Metadata and semantic structure will release your content, allowing you the freedom to publish to the current and the next big thing. Cleve’s overview of the different disciplines and systems at work – publishing, production, UX, architecture, workflows, engineering, design and development – demonstrated there’s nowhere to hide anymore.

Everything old is new again

Many may argue there is nothing new here. By necessity, we have always embraced the tech and worked closely with technical teams to understand the possibilities and limitations of underlying systems. But not to the degree of complexity that adaptive/responsive content now demands.

Before you rush off for that Coding 101 course though, remember that with content in the spotlight like never before, the oldest rule of all still applies: quality in, quality out. If we want good digital products and experiences, content strategists need to step up to the challenges posed by emerging technologies and formats and keep content quality central to the digital world. Which means exposure (to tech’s nitty gritty) not immersion. We otherwise run the risk of u-turning back to the days of tech-led products where content was an afterthought.


‘Content goes here’?! Web Managers talk UX

It was another fast-paced March Web Managers meet-up with a focus on the user experience journey. As ever, the speakers were all engaging, happy to share, and talking at just the right level for the audience of experienced digital folk.

But, dear readers, there was cause for alarm when those squabbling siblings, UX and content, were at it again. Discussion was nearer the end of the night than the start before content was even mentioned. And only then after an impassioned plea from the audience.

Very quickly the panellists assured us that they would never neglect content or present designs with a ‘content goes here’ tag. We discussed/debated and finally agreed (?) that as web managers, we were responsible for not only coaxing our organisations along a path of fulfilling user journeys, but one with rich, meaningful and engaging content as well.

The challenge for content people like myself though, is actually getting our hands on this elusive stuff. It’s sticky and slippery, and only with decent strategy and governance do we stand a chance of coming close to having a seat at the table.

Even then, we need to share the love. As elegantly argued by content strategist Lisa Moore, surely it’s more than time that we stopped bickering and instead just did the best we can for recipients of our carefully nurtured content? After all, without content, UX is but an empty shell. And content needs the ease of a good journey to really hit home.


I loved Richard Wand‘s entertaining take on the history of UX bullsh*t. So refreshing to have some levity amongst this serious work business. Finally, we can let go of those pesky ‘truths’ about the fold, and three-click rule in the UX journey. Yay!

Darius Pocha and Simon Norris from Nomensa took UX into the future for me. Madly trying to tweet the highlights as they spoke, I instead found myself completely absorbed by what was for me a new UX model. It’s probably not that new. I just need to pay more attention to the Humanising Technology blog 🙂

Arthur Moan, David Holmes and Carina Hoogeveen from User Zoom showed how we can be agile, that by letting go and learning to be beta, creativity can thrive.


The two big lessons for me from the night, both from Nomensa:

  • If you only do one thing, do A B testing of your site. This tells you which of your designs is more meaningful for customers.
  • If the purpose and meaning of the sparkling design presented by your agency is not crystal clear, don’t be shy. Tell them you can’t see it, don’t understand. Make them work.

Oh, and that you don’t have to be able to draw to properly map a user journey 🙂

Stories and photos

Web Managers Group

The fantastic Web Managers Group started on LinkedIn in 2009 as a place where web managers could connect to learn, share and  (occasionally)  whine.  With the splendid efforts of Adam Cranfield, the group has grown into its very own life force, and from 2012, continues to be shaped by the expertise of Davina Lines from Mixing Digital.

What’s in a name?

ContentEdUsers is a play on words.

  • Content, noun: words, pictures, posts, metadata
  • Content, adjective: satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more
  • Contented, adjective: the state or feeling of being content
  • Ed: editor
  • Ed: education
  • Users: you and me

Which means I may be someone who:

  1. makes users happy and content
  2. works as a content editor
  3. works in education (or used to)
  4. all of the above

As it happens, it’s all of the above.

My name, Kate Thomas, is by no means unique, and I can rarely/never claim social media handles, domain names, email addresses etc using it.

Which leaves me brainstorming and word playing until I find something that fits.

I hope it works for you.  After all, I only want you to be happy 🙂

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