An Event Apart, Seattle
April 2, 2018 @ 9am
I went to college at Indiana University in Bloomington Indiana. David Frost came to speak to them, and as he flew from city to city he forgot where he was… so when he arrived he seemed a little bit tipsy, and came up to the podium in Bloomington Indiana, and he said ‘Good Evening, Wilmington!’ and Jeffrey loved that, and he filed that away.
Then years later when he was going to speak in Portland, he thought it would be really funny to do what David Frost had done. So he came out and said “Hello, Seattle!” And that was the last time he spoke in Portland.
…. so… Good morning, Portland! (lol)
We’re going to talk about content because we all have to deal with it and it’s impotent… and we’re going to talk about engagement.
He’s in meetings a lot, and he talks to stakeholders a lot. There are 2 kinds of stakeholders – the kind that wants it to be better because it sucks, and then there’s the stakeholder that wants it to be better because it’s already good but it can be better. Both kinds want it to be better, ut specifically at ENGAGEMENT. ‘Why are we not engaged?’ ‘People came to our site but they only visited one page, didn’t touch the navigation bar, they’re only on
#1 stakeholder request when it’s time for a redesign is ‘more engagement’, but is that really the right metric? Is that really what we should be thinking about when we iterate our projects or start from scratch?
Sometimes engagement absolutely is the right metric… like for Instagram! It’s what you want if you have a big, massive content site like Smashing Magazine, A List Apart, etc.
But for most websites, the kind that most of us work on (insurance sites, university sites, charity sites…), it’s not about engagement. Engagement is a silly metric for those sites.
Most of the sites we work on are not like libraries with comfy chairs where we want people to sit down and get engaged. They’re like a customer service desk. Most of our sites are in the customer service business!
If a customer spends 30 minutes on our site, was she engaged… or frustrated? 
Probably frustrated… but it’s also very hard to tell this quickly from engagement statistics. 30 minutes on a shopping site COULD mean
Being engaged isn’t necessarily a good thing with websites. We need SPEED OF USEFULNESS. Jeffrey is calling this ‘the Content Performance Quotient’. Business people really like it when things sound official and important… So, CPQ it is.
Twitter feed @DesignCPQ to follow
Content Performance Quotient is a measurement of how quickly we can get the right content to the right customer at the right time. HOW QUICKLY CAN YOU SOLVE THE CUSTOMER’S PROBLEM? It’s the shortest distance between problem and solution. It’s also a measurement of YOUR VALUE to the customer. How quickly you can solve the customer’s problem and let them get on with their life is absolutely a measurement of your value to them.
From the customer’s point of view, Design CPQ is the time is takes her to get the information she came for. We design these open ended multi-pointed experiences for millions of people, but for the individual that is using the site it is an intensely personal experience.
From the organization’s point of view it’s the time it takes for a specific customer to find, receive, and absorb your most important content. What do you need that customer to know about you and your business? They should know that immediately when they hit your site. We’ve moved away from oriented the customer with the business / site. A lot of times we build a beautiful website but we never REALLY tell people what the website / business does!
Yes there are opportunities to make wonderful, whimsical sites for ourselves and likeminded people but most of what we do is unheralded, unthanked business. We make stuff that helps people’s lives a little bit better… and sometimes we make it a little bit worse. He just had an experience where he bought something online with 1-click and it was SO EASY, but there was an issue with delivery and it took him 30 minutes to find the way to get help about that!
If we don’t start designing this way, we are going to be building Pretty Garbage. Pretty in this case means aesthetically coherent, well designed visually. Garbage in a delightfully response grid is still garbage. It may have had the most wonderful copy, design, branding, etc, HOWEVER, if nobody needs it, it’s just pretty garbage.
Jeffrey is going to talk about starting over with everything because in most cases that’s the best plan.
In the 1950’s when the Leo Burnett Agency in Chicago started the Marlboro campaign, TV spots lasted 60 seconds. Now they’re 15-30 seconds and they still feel like an eternity… In the 1950’s and 1960’s, a white man in a suit with a distinguished speaking voice would talk off screen for 60 seconds solid, and show you visual aids for every single thing said! Marlboro, instead of that, did a commercial where there was no copy / talking at all until the end. Leo Burnett wanted to start selling filtered cigarettes to men, so instead of saying ‘these are for men!’ they just showed ****
‘Come to where the flavor is. Come to Marlboro Country.’ This is when the average commercial had 100 words or more! Then for the billboard, they cut it down to ‘Come to Marlboro Country.’ Then they went to ‘Marlboro’ only. AND IT WORKED.
With every single thing we have on a website, we need to ask, “Why do we need this?” And how do we find the answer? We compare it to our goals.
Goals, what’s that?! … You should have them.
Well, Jared Spool says ‘Design is the rendering of intent.’ So, design is intentional… or at least it SHOULD be. If we’re given an assignment to improve something, we need to ask what do our customers need and what does management need to keep the lights on and keep paying salaries.
If you’re design isn’t going somewhere, it’s going nowhere. Even if what you’re doing is very good, if it’s not going somewhere it’s useless.
Luke’s book on Mobile First asks ‘what does the customer REALLY need?’ We need to know that so we can design  the mobile experience appropriately
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
We have started prioritizing meetings over meaning. We didn’t say ‘let’s only attend meetings that have a purpose and an agenda.’ We only want to have HAPPY meetings now…
Having a good meeting doesn’t mean having a GOOD (happy) meeting. If we aren’t willing to fight for the user, to do what’s right, we end up where everybody is a winner (all the stakeholders) and nobody is a winner (the customer).
And then we invented the might CMS where everybody can add an article to a website and a section in a section in a section and now even though we spent a year working on our taxonomy sure let’s make everybody happy.
It’s easy to give everybody what they want… it’s harder to do the right thing, but it’s better for the customer and the bottom line. If we don’t do what’s best for the customer, even though we might get yelled at or get fired, we’re not doing the right thing and nobody wins.
HOW DO WE STOP THIS? 
We have to stop designing 2001 sites for 2018 web.
We put videos on our website ‘because they’re engaging!’ and they are, but we should put videos where people GO TO SEE VIDEOS which is YouTube and Vimeo, not on our site!
In the real world where we design in now, people aren’t necessarily coming to the website for our content. It may be ONE place they come, but there are other places. We’re still building these deep content sites like people are coming to our websites and then spend 40 minutes drilling down and reading stuff, but THAT’S NOT THE CASE!
A master chess player teaches how to play chess by showing you one move to checkmate with 3 pieces (2 queens and a pawn), the ultimate end of the game… then he builds up from there.
We’re talking about customization, knowing if the person has been here before, and putting the content they’re out likely to want in their path when they want it. We do a lot of spying in our business… and we know a lot about our users. And in this case we can use it for good. We can say ‘they’ve been here before’ so they already know what
When you strip down the game to its core, everything yo clear is a universal principle -Erik Kennedy “The King vs. Pawn Game of UI Design” It’s about taking all the complexity we’ve spent years creating and stripping it down to the minimum viable INTERACTION. What’s the important interaction for a given customer and build out from there.
If this sounds familiar it may be because you’ve read or practiced Atomic Design (Brad Frost) focuses relentlessly on the individual interaction. Yes, always know the brand and brand requirements, but think about the interaction first.
They just launched a jewelry site and they thought about Apple and their genius Genius bar – how if you buy a phone from Apple and it doesn’t work, you don’t get mad, you go online and make an appointment with a Genius, go in the store, they give you a new phone for free and you’re so happy you guy 3 more products!
People don’t really buy jewelry online, they mostly do that in the store… so the purpose of the website and ecommerce site is really a trick, because even though you COULD buy an engagement ring there, you probably won’t. It’s his job to get the visitor into the store. They paid relentless attention to the shopping cart experience.
If we do it for shopping carts, then we can do it for our content.
Read: “No More FAQs: Create Purposeful Information for a More Effective User Experience by Lisa Wright” on A List Apart.
FAQ problems:
  • There is duplicate and contradictory information 
  • There is a lack of discernible content order – it’s the laziest thing we can possibly do!! It also is silly because 
  • Repetitive grammatical structure
  • Increased Cognitive Load
  • More content than they need
 
“Users come to any type of content with a particular purpose in mind, ranging from highly specific (task completion) to general learning (increased knowledge).”
That’s what this is about – PURPOSE. Helping a customer fulfill a purpose faster. Anything that gets in the way of that shouldn’t be done, it’s distraction.
HOW DO WE WORK ON THIS TYPE OF PROJECT IN OUR ORGANIZATIONS?
In our organizations this can be hard. Here are some techniques to try:
Waterfall
  • Massive content inventory.
  • It’s not always recommended (it was 10 years ago) but this is one way to approach a massive redesign / rethink. Maybe looking at all the content piece by piece is a good idea.
  • “Do we need this, what purpose of the customer or our organization does it serve?”
Agile/Scrum
  • Constantly iterate on the content
  • We make our product better slowly
  • This is best for in-house
 
Redesign
  • It’s an opportunity to start fresh and rethink everything
  • Best for an outside team
Jeffrey is working on a website for an insurance client and even though their budget could have paid for 20 pages, he is working to see how much value he can deliver the customer with only 3 pages, and that may be all they need! If they need 20 pages, he’ll give it to them, but just because they have a bigger budget doesn’t mean he’s going to give them stuff they don’t need!
Read: We need design that is faster and design that is slower
Faster for people who are trying to get things done because theory your customers and they need our best efforts, and we need design that is slower for people who are trying to comprehend – people who are trying to think about things, and these are the people who are going to save the world.
Design can play a part in how people think. 
We make deep content pages ‘scannable’ – this is good for transactions, bad for thoughtful content. This does a disservice to lots of people. We live in a state of distraction, but when we want people to sit back and think, we need a design that encourages people to slow down and think. We need our news designs to SLOW DOWN the reader. Jeffrey recommended bigger type, art direction, better typographic hierarchy, more whitespace.
Bigger type forces people to lean back from their computer!
Art direction can also signify importance. Who’s doing this right:
  • The Washington Post
  • The New York Times
  • ProPublic
  • Slate
  • Smashing Magazine
  • Vox
  • Readability
  • Medium
  • A List Apart
They are all doing this well in different ways – bringing the content to the floor and making the readers slow down.
If the content is for the good of the public, design it slow.
If it’s designed to promote business or help a customer to get an answer, it must be designed fast.

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