Don’t Let Your Experience Be Your Guide

If you’re in the web industry, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that everyone — and I mean everyone — is an expert on what the web should be doing. It’s similar to education in this way: We all went to school, so we all think we know how a school ought to work. The same mindset applies when we use the web.

You hear web project managers, designers, programmers and others complain about this — the marketing director who likes the color green, so the site must be green, or the CFO who doesn’t use Google, so he won’t approve an expenditure for any site search technology….the list goes on.

Unfortunately, I’ve also run across this attitude in other web professionals. It’s an easy bias to have: We know how we search/browse/like images/don’t like images/expect to find content/like our forms to look, so it’s all too easy to say, “The way you want to do it is [list your personal favorite way].”

So when you’re hiring web professionals to work on a project, you don’t want to know their favorite way. We’ve all got our own biases. Just because I can use your site search engine for 10 minutes and find any document on command doesn’t mean your customers can or will. Hire the person who can tell you how most people like to do it, or even better, who can figure out how your site users like to do it.

And whatever you do, make sure you’ve got a better reason for your site design….or your navigation philosophy….or your content categorization, than, “makes sense to me.”

P.S.: This is the first post I’ve written in an editing swap with Matthew Grocki. Thanks for the cleanup, Matthew!

When you need content strategy: Content hack-a-matic

I spend a decent amount of time explaining to people in the web industry when they need content strategy. [Answer: on every project, of course.]

And so I thought I’d put together a few situations that arise in real life….those times when you really need your friendly neighborhood content strategist on speed dial. Here’s the first:

You’re trying to unwind your hacked-together “content management system” and implement a real CMS. Sure, you started off with good intentions. Your site structure made a lot of sense when you first built it….a few years ago. And ever since then, when you’ve added something new, you discovered the content system/blog software/hacked-together pieces-parts can’t quite handle it….so you’ve just added on some new software or technology or something to make it work. Perhaps your site itself actually looks good. But it’s gotten to the point where you’re terrified to even look at the site, because you know you can’t hack anything else onto it, and simple text changes eat up your day.

First, if you’re in this situation, you’re not alone. Many, many other organizations’ websites suffer from the same problem. But if you’re ready to figure out how to make content maintenance easier, get a content strategist to help.

What a content strategist can do for you:

  • Audit your content to figure out what you have
  • Determine the types of content you have
  • Determine the kind of information [metadata] you need to have for each content type
  • Recommend how to use this info to set up a system that will make your content work for you
  • Craft or improve a content workflow that fits your organization
  • Help you find and migrate to a tool that makes all this possible and automates manual tasks

Links from Old Natchez social media chat

I spoke today about managing your online identity. We talked a lot about teaching your kids the skills they need online, and helping them manage their privacy, as well.

We used these links to spur our discussion.

In case you weren’t scared already….

Kevin Colvin, busted for his Halloween partying

The Real Facebook Burglaries story

Google engineer stalks teenagers via their Google accounts

Managing your online identity

Everything you want to know about online privacy: We didn’t get to this site but it remains a favorite resource of mine.

Managing your privacy on Facebook

Get started with Twitter

Share photos: Flickr and Picasa

Share videos: YouTube and Vimeo

Free blogging services: and Blogger

Special cases

Teaching your kids about media

My BarCamp Nashville session: Content Strategy…Or Else

Here’s the promo I just added to the BarCamp Nashville site:

Content strategy’s quite the buzzword these days. But what does it really mean? Does incorporating content strategy mean your web projects are going to be shiny and glorious? [Don’t we all hope!] Or that they’ll be more expensive, take longer, and get more complex? [No!]

Content strategy is the underpinning of a sound web project, and chances are, you’re doing some of it already. Learn the pieces/parts of content strategy in this session, from business goals to audits to information architecture to content retirement planning.

You’ll leave knowing how to be more intentional about your content. You’ll know how to prevent the train wreck that derails many a web project. And you’ll have all the lowdown on the latest web buzzword.

Please sign up now—it will be a great way to learn about how content strategy can improve your web projects.

BarCamp Nashville: Sign Up Today

Tomorrow’s the first day to pitch speaking proposals for BarCamp Nashville 2010. Last year, I was able to attend just a couple of sessions, but they were great, and topics were really varied….but there wasn’t a ton on content strategy. So I’ll be pitching a session tomorrow. Watch for more details on that.

In the meantime, sign up now to attend BarCamp Nashville. It’s free, and it’s better than a lot of conferences you’d pay good money and travel to attend. [Note: the BarCamp movement calls for a particular style of “unconference” — and except for the first year, Nashville’s BarCamp has not really adhered to that loose, unplanned style. While BCN still bills itself as an unconference, you’re going to find well-planned, well-delivered presentations on a variety of topics, and logistics planning around food and events that put many expensive conferences to shame. It’s an outstanding day.]

Nashville’s digital community is not as well-hidden as we used to be, but I think it’s still fair to say that we’re emerging. I think the great news is, I’ve worked in digital media here for 15 years, and I used to know everyone in town in my industry. I haven’t been able to say that for several years, and I’m networking more than ever.

So, sign up for BarCamp today. You’ll get great ideas and you’ll meet some great folks in digital media.