Podcast Episodes

Episode 12: Write for People and Machines (w/ Sarah Winters)

October 13, 2022 | 40:23 | Sarah Winters

Corey and Deane talk briefly about how hard it is to run a conference.

Then, Sarah Winters, founder of Content Design London and author of Content Design, joins to discuss the difference between content design and content strategy, writing and designing for accessibility, and the work it takes to turn a big ship toward lasting content change.

The Web Project Guide podcast is sponsored by Blend Interactive, a web strategy, design, and development firm dedicated to guiding teams through complicated web and content problems, from content strategy and design to CMS implementation and support.

Show Notes and Further Discussion:


Corey (00:11):

Hello, this is the Web Project Guide podcast and this is episode 12, Right for People and Machines. I'm Corey Villager, Director of Strategy at Blend Interactive and co-author of the Web Project Guide. Later on, we'll talk to Sarah Winters, author of Content Design and a Content Consultant who helped lead a giant project for GOV UK. But first I'm joined by the other Web Project Guide co-author Dean Barker, Senior Director of Content Management Research at Optimize. Hey, Deane.

Deane (00:34):

Hi Corey. How are you?

Corey (00:35):

Not bad. I had to just call you an author this time, a co-author this time, since this chapter of the book is about writing.

Deane (00:41):

Good. I see how you did that call back. Nice job. I'm a little weary. I just got back off eight days on the road.

Corey (00:46):

Las Vegas.

Deane (00:48):

No, I was actually at a conference in San Diego. I did end up in Las Vegas. I had tickets to see Jimmy Buffett and then he canceled, but I still had to get to Las Vegas for my flight home. But I was in San Diego for Optimization's Option, which is a big customer conference. And right next to our conference, which was in the Marriott Marquis Marina, was the San Diego Convention Center and Twitch Con was happening there. And the San Diego Convention Center is where Comic-Con happens every year. But Twitch Con was happening there and Twitch Con is in the news this morning because at least two people at Twitch Con in San Diego were in the foam pit and there wasn't enough foam and they broke bones in the foam pit.

Corey (01:25):

I saw that this morning. I also read a lot of people who were complaining, and probably rightfully so, that it was one of the least accessible conferences they'd ever been to.

Deane (01:37):


Corey (01:37):

It was very difficult to, if you had a wheelchair, to navigate it, they essentially overbooked. They had very famous twitches in very small rooms. It sounds like it was a disaster. And as you and I know, running a conference is very hard.

Deane (01:59):

Corey, you know what else is hard?

Corey (02:00):

What's that?

Deane (02:01):

Content design. How's that for a segue?

Corey (02:05):

That's good.

Deane (02:06):

I'm interested to talk to Sarah because when we talked to Kristina, what was it six weeks ago, she made the point that the new content strategy is actually content design and what people think of as content strategy is often content design. So now Corey, we are getting a content designer on the podcast to ask her about how content, because that's going to be my opening question, how does content design differ from content strategy? Because I don't think that we have level set that expectation with people.

Corey (02:33):

Well, let's get into it then. Sarah Winters is the CEO and founder of Content Design London, an agency that provides training and consultation and content strategy and content design for large and small organizations across the private and public sectors. Sarah's also the author of Content Design, using real-world and imagined examples. It takes the reader through content design process one step at a time. Explaining everything along the way.

But first, this episode of the Web Project Guide podcast is brought to you by Blend Interactive, a web strategy design and development shop dedicated to guiding teams through complicated web and content projects. Blend's been building great websites for over 17 years, and we're always looking for our next partnership. So visit us at blendinteractive.com.

All right, let's welcome our guest, Sarah Winters. Hello, Sarah.

Sarah (03:22):

Hi, how are you?

Corey (03:23):

I'm good. Deane, how are you doing?

Deane (03:25):

I'm doing awesome. I've got my coffee, which I just spilled on my keyboard. Very excited about that.

Corey (03:29):

I'm excited we were able to get this coordinated. This is the first time we've actually tried to schedule anybody outside of a United States time zone.

Deane (03:37):

Time zones are hard.

Corey (03:39):

Which just makes it really hard. And it was funny because I was mentioning before we hopped on the interview, Deane texted me and asked if we were really going to do this at 6:00 AM because he was, at that time, in Las Vegas. And I said, "No, nope, it's going to be 8:00 AM which is very early." Okay, anyway. Sarah, you wrote a fantastic book and I say that about everyone, but I mean it for you. You wrote a book called Content Design, which I think is a wonderful way to introduce the idea of writing for the web and understanding more than just that there's a bunch of words you need to put on a website, that there is a process behind it and that it's really important to write it in a specific way.

Deane (04:22):

Wait a minute, can I back us up even further?

Corey (04:24):

Deane, go for it.

Deane (04:25):

Okay, well we had a lovely live session with Christina Halvers on and Christina made the point that content design is the new normal. Content design is the thing. And so why don't we level it some, by backing up just a little bit further, Sarah, tell us from your perspective, what would you consider content design and how does it differ from content strategy, copywriting? Give us the 50,000 foot or 17,000 meter overview of content design.

Sarah (04:53):

All right, so I do find it very ironic that as word people, we can't actually decide on one set of terms for what we do and some words that accurately reflect what we do. The way that we see it, is that content strategists hold the content strategy include in the proposition. So what you publish, what you don't publish, the workflow and governance. If you've got more than five people in your workflow, then that's too many. The strategic direction, the success and value, what's the actual point of you, publishing anything And they hold those kind of elements to the business. Now a content designer sits with the design team, can be in product, website, whatever, sits with the design team and designs the experiences with them. So a lot of content design is not writing and that's the main difference. So I'm an ex-copywriter, I come from an advertising background and at that time I was given a brief, so you've got a tube at an underground ad or you've got a radio ad or you've got this, this is the product, go sell it, tell a story about it, sort it out.

And sometimes you would get the product to play with and sometimes you wouldn't. So you would just kind of make it up and you are trying to inspire and get that out. With content design you don't move until you've got the research and it may not be, the thing that you do, may not be on the website. So the fundamental differences is that content design may not be words, may not be writing and it may not be on the website. It's all to do with user mapping, journey mapping. And then you do your language mapping and then you do your user needs and then you fulfill a user need in whatever way the user needs it from you.

Deane (06:52):

Do you find a lot of confusion in the marketplace between content design and content strategy? Do you have people come to you and want to talk about content strategy and you have to say "No, I do content design," and how much do you overlap? Do you pretend to be a content strategist in many cases? And do you see content strategists pretending to be content designers?

Sarah (07:07):

So I do consider myself a strategist as well. We do content strategies. So yeah, we do both. I do see a lot of confusion between writing and content designers. So here in the U.K., when content design came out at the government digital service and it started to create traction here, a lot of organizations went out and just said, "Oh we need content designers." And then they bought them in and said, "Look, there's five templates in your content management system. Please put words here." It's like you're not letting them do a job, their jobs.

And so when the content designers were going in saying, "Okay, I need to be in the research sessions," a lot of the organizations would say, "Well what research?" Or "No you can't, you can talk to the user researchers afterwards." And it's very nuanced in that if you've got a content person sitting in a usability study, they will be looking for inflection in vocabulary. They'll be looking for the native and digital language, they will be looking for those changes. And I don't expect designers and user researchers to pick all that up just like I wouldn't expect the content people to pick up some of the nuances that the designers are looking for. And so those are the main differences in the way that I expect them to work.

Deane (08:28):

You mentioned templates in CMS, which of course piqued my interest because it's my thing. Do you find yourself... Well let me just confirm this is true, this sounds obvious to me. You would interface more with a technical CMS practitioner than a content strategist would because you are where the actual content strategy hits the road so to speak. You have to actually manifest it and cite some platform.

Sarah (08:55):

You know what? There's not that many content strategists over here doing strategy in the way that we expect it to be, to be brutally honest. I think it is a little different over here than it is in the U.S. So hardly any organizations have separate content strategists here. You get content designers who are doing it because they have to, because otherwise they can't get the process through. And so you'll find everybody really will get involved with the content management system because most places also only have one to three people or something. Even massive places will have very few content people, loads of marketing, loads of cons, loads of that, but not actual dedicated digital professionals. So you'll find everybody just getting on with it and doing whatever it takes including content management.

Corey (09:41):

I think that what we run into a lot, especially working with smaller organizations, is that we really get focused on titles. We really get focused on, well I'm a content strategist so I do content strategy or I'm a content designer so I do content design and in most cases it is like you said, a case of a lot of people are just doing all of the things and they really get hung up on, well should I be doing this? And when the answer is well you should be doing whatever you need to do to get the outcome that you're looking for. I'm wondering if we're... You've done a lot of work with demystifying government bureaucracy, you've done a lot of work in demystifying things for users. What are some situations in which you've had to almost demystify the content process to people to help them understand that maybe the titles won't matter as much as the work?

Sarah (10:33):

Yeah, there's actually several elements to that. So when we go in and we do content strategy work, we take a look at how they're running their teams. Now, often if you don't have a content strategist and you don't have a content strategy, we are just benchmarking at the moment on whether those organizations are actually committed to their content because we find these people dumped in and they have to learn to swim. And for some content designers, they don't want to. They want to be individual contributors and they are exceptional at what they do, but actually they want to work on the user interface. They want to create the best experience they can and that's it. They don't want to turn their entire organization. Whereas you also get people who are very good at stakeholder management and very good at telling a story and getting things through and getting things through people's heads and actually they're better at that than they are the detail.

I think we as an industry have a huge problem at the moment, in that we are expecting everybody to do everything all the time. And you do just get so many one-content designer who is expected to turn the Titanic. What do you think? It's just not going to work like that. And I think also as content people, we are used to fixing things quietly. So we almost train our organizations to ask us too much because we do it because we want to because we're so excited and passionate about it. But I think then actually we do ourselves some damage because we are used to fixing things and we do it and we don't tell our organizations actually these are two different roles and some people are suited to one and some people are suited to the other, some people are suited to both. Of course, they are, but not everybody. Sure.

Deane (12:19):

I don't think the content business has ever been encapsulated better than we expect everybody to do all the things all the time. That is the business in which we work because I still maintain that the business believes that content is magic. But I always think of that scene at the end of Avengers End Game when all the Avengers showed up to have a big fight and the portal opened up and they all stepped out of it. That's how the business thinks content arrives, you just crack open a portal and it comes tumbling out. And they don't realize that content creation can be much more technical and I hate to use the word rote, but at some point fingers have to hit a keyboard somewhere. And I don't think the business really understands that somebody actually has to type something if they want text textual content somewhere. And now of course we have AI which is going to write all of our content. So we're pretty much obsolete.

Sarah (13:02):

Right. Excellent. We're all going on gardening leave. Lovely.

Corey (13:05):

Perfect. That's perfect.

Deane (13:09):

Gardening leave sounds like such a British thing.

Sarah (13:11):

We all just drink tea and have scones.

Deane (13:15):

You're drinking tea right now though, aren't you?

Sarah (13:17):

Yeah. Look at this bucket of tea. We don't have cups here, they're punishment, cups. We have buckets of tea.

Corey (13:26):

You gave a talk at Confab probably three or four years ago and it was focused on writing for accessibility. What I think I really appreciated about it was that it was also a talk that hit on the points of how writing for accessibility is also really ultimately writing for machines and writing for metadata. You're writing for SEO, you're writing for everything. When you write for accessibility, how do you help writers understand that shift in context?

Sarah (13:54):

Kind of don't actually when it comes to it. So when we are doing the accessibility work, a lot of the code is not taken care of, by content people but they should be aware of the impact of it. But there are several tools that we can use that can help us see things through a different lens. And when you've got an accessible and an inclusion lens on, your content is just going to be so much tighter anyway. And so like you say, you get everybody without trying.

So for example, if you are creating a video and you don't have closed captions, not only are you not getting people who can't hear, you're also getting people who are on a bus and they don't have their headphones with them and you are excluding them. There is this thing that deaf people can read, which is not true. In this country at least, I don't know about American stats, but in this country at least, up to 80% of people who have British sign language as their primary language, can't read English. So when you are producing content and you think, actually I'm going to put a video up on this, the person who's looking at it may not be profoundly deaf but they may be people who know people who are so they become your champions so they might put things out on the internet so suddenly you've got a back-linking policy right there because people are sharing your content.

Corey (15:25):

A long time ago I worked for an organization that did TTY, essentially text to TTY translation. So many of us, and I know I did up until the point I started working for them, the understanding that it is just signing the words exactly whereas we know with any level of translation, that's not at all what it is. When you look at how you translate into Japanese or how you translate into Spanish, it's not just everything is word to word syllable to syllable. It's really actually it can be very difficult to parse if you don't understand how they have fit this together. How it's a shorthand that leaves out some words and doesn't need some words. And I'm glad you brought that up because I don't think we've ever talked about it in a web standpoint. I've never thought of it that way.

Deane (16:16):

I want to talk about text quickly though. I'm going to force you to link to, because you were talking about text and accessibility and I've always thought, just a brief thought about accessibility. I've always thought we should expand the definition of accessibility. We tend to look at accessibility as people who are differently able to are maybe disabled or handicapped in some way. But I feel like we need to look at temporary accessibility issues. Sarah, you mentioned with subtitles people can read it if they're on a bus. There are so many different times where my daughter send me Snapchat all the time. Well when the Snapchat thing is purple it's a video and I will often skip those because I'm just not in a position where either I want sound coming out of my phone or I would be able to hear sound coming out of my phone. The number one way to get me to not click on a news headline is put a little video icon after it.

I don't want to watch a video and I teach a university course on CMS and I have an article that I link to which I'm going to force Corey to link to, when he publishes this podcast. And the article is called Always Bet on Text and it's about the communication superiority of text. And I'm going to read the second paragraph here, it's very short, but this person says "Text wins by a mile, text is everything. My thoughts on this are quite absolute. Text is the most powerful, useful, effective communication technology ever period." Now that's a grandiose statement, but I generally agree that text is the most usable, malleable, and adjustable format in the wall world. But Sarah, am I being incredibly privileged by assuming that everybody can read text? Because we were talking about how I don't like video, but there are times where maybe people who struggle with reading maybe don't like text. And is that mutually exclusively or do you cater to one or cater to the other? Any thoughts on that from an accessibility standpoint?

Sarah (18:10):

Yes, unfortunately you are quite right. Text is lovely if you can read and if you have the time and the space and everything. So for example, we did some work on hidden access needs. You've probably all seen the Microsoft inclusivity care and that has temporary situational and permanent disability, which is great. What I don't see a lot of being talked about is hidden access needs. Now the one that... So we took three in one year. One was abuse, one was poverty. And I can't even remember what the third one was because we as an organization, we're focusing on abuse and poverty with our pro bono work. If we take poverty as one, video is no good because you need to download it and you don't have... A lot of digital professionals will have unlimited texts, unlimited data, unlimited everything else for 35 quid a month or whatever it is.

If you're poor, you don't have that. In the pandemic we saw that a lot of parents were keeping their data for the kids' homework because kids need to get and they don't have broadband at home. And so there is an access need right there. Now if you put all your information in a hidden pdf, you have to download that pdf one, that assumes your phone is a smartphone and a phone is only smart if you've got data on it. Otherwise it's a brick or it's a phone at best. You are taking up space. And a lot of people use their phones actually for texting and for photos because photos to a human is more important. And so what you have is this desire that everybody can just read or everybody will just do a video, is just not it. As content strategists, again, you need to take the whole journey and work out who is trying to do what, when, and then give it some of them in that way.

And I would also never exclude people. Again, UK figures, there are 87,000 people in the UK who have British sign language as their primary language. They have very little access to anything. In 2016 when Brexit was happening here, profoundly deaf people who were using BSL went to a bank, there's a bank here that offers BSL on their webpages and they were going to them and asking about Brexit because the government wasn't putting out enough information in BSL. I'm rambling now. You're quite right. Reading, if you've got that, if you have that as a skill, you also need to have the device and the capacity to download it and get hold of it in that way. Obviously if that's happening then you won't have access to videos either or any other kind of data-heavy, expensive ways of getting hold of that information. And so you really just need to work to the user need in the user journey. I'm sorry, I'm going to keep repeating myself. Every answer seems to come back to that. You need to work out where people are and go to that.

Corey (21:22):

Yeah, well obviously because it's an incredibly important point, it really centers the whole

Deane (21:26):

Thing. Here's a theme. We seem to have a theme here that we've talked about content strategy as being this kind of wide base of very strategic kind of issues. I feel like content design is when if you can't see me if you're watching this podcast, but Sarah can see me right now. If you look at this whole thing as a pyramid, we have this wide base of content strategy. I feel like we're narrowing and narrowing and narrowing. The tip of the pyramid is where a human being actually consumes the content. So you've content strategy and then you've content design which kinds of takes strategy and turns it into a malleable consumable artifact. And then you have copywriting and delivery and all the thing to the tip of the point where the human actually consumes it.

Do you agree that content strategy is really a... I love the word reification. Reification is one of my favorite words. It's from the Latin prefix re, which means to make real, right? Reification is when you take some kind of vague logical domain of happy thoughts and turn it into something a little more concrete. Do you believe that content design is one step in the reification of content strategy into something that a human being can actually absorb and consume? Am I thinking about that right?

Sarah (22:30):

Yeah, I really like that. I've now got some notes as you were speaking. That triangle is properly it. So you have seven to nine or seven to 12 unconscious thoughts before you can make a conscious decision about anything. If I was to put you into an MRI seminar and ask you which way you voted, I would be able to tell you seven seconds before you opened your mouth because of the way that your brain lights up. And so you have this stuff, this stuff is happening to you all the time.

Now a content strategist needs to understand they don't need to be accountable or responsible for it. I'm not saying that your content strategist who deals with your digital needs to do all the social media or do all the marketing, that's not it. But they need to understand what is in the ether and where people are and what you are trying to go for. Balancing the organizational goals and the user goals and making those match up, is part of the content strategy and content designer's work. So once the content strategy has got that and they understand everything that's going on, they understand the subconscious points and they can articulate that, the content designer can take it and go, "Right, that's how we're going to deliver it." So the way that I see it is the strategy sets the vision and the content design delivers it.

Corey (23:46):

There's a lot here that to somebody who might run their own smaller shop or somebody who is the director of marketing at an organization who hears this and they want to get going, they're ready to jump into this and they just want to start making changes, like you said, one person can't just make all of that change on their own, but to kind of help them in that direction. And I think of this specifically when I think of your work with GOV UK, which is fantastic, it's become one of, along with NPR's COPE model, it became one of those super case studies that everyone really talks about. It gets really mentioned in every conference talk.

But there was a lot that went to that. That's more than just writing content that works better on or searches better. There was a lot of what I assume, a lot of interpersonal, relatively political stakeholder focused movement to get them toward actually being able to start the actual content work. What was the hardest thing or what are some of the hardest things that you had to run into or that you had to overcome to help people actually get that rolling?

Sarah (25:01):

So this is an interesting one. A lot of people think that we... I don't know that it was a very glittery project and that it just worked. And every interview that I have, I need to say it was not glitter, it was swimming in treacle. At one point, terribly British. I had all my meetings at the British Museum Cafe members' cafe because people wouldn't shout at me in public. Whereas they would shout at me if I was in offices in White Hall. So there's that. When you are starting something and you are turning the ship. In the GOV UK model, I had top down mandate. So we had a minister saying that we could do it. We had very strong leadership. Anytime I ran into a problem, I just went to leadership and you said, "See those people, can you tell them that please?" And they would. They were absolutely supportive and I think that there are a lot of people out there right now who think that they can do that by themselves and that if they didn't, they're failing, you are not failing.

We had a lot of support. When it first started I went into a meeting. So previously the one before gov.uk was Directgov and all the departments basically owned everything. And every time we said "No, you can't have 4,000 words, putting jumpers on when you're cold," because we had that. Or keeping these, they would just say, "We're funding you and you need to put it up." And we had to put it up. Well I went into this meeting and I told them this wasn't happening anymore and that only me and my team had access to the content management system. They would not have access. They can fact check, but there was no approval and no sign off. Well we had one woman slam the desk and then walk out of the room slamming the door behind her and they were all like, "You can't do it. You can't do it, you can't do it."

And we locked the content management system. Only me and my team could get to it. And we were two weeks before launch before launching the beta. And I feel like I'm far enough away from it now to actually say which department this was. So the tax people, HMRC said that they weren't getting involved and they weren't going to sign it off and we can put any of their content up. And I said, "Well that's fine. I'll just go hire a bunch of accountants and I'll have them fact check it because that's all I need." And then they turned around and they got involved and now they've got one of the biggest teams. So it is a lot of interpersonal skills. It is. There was lots of tea. I went to tea. I mean obviously I'm British so I'm happy with that.

But there was an awful lot of tea going on and having chats with people and just explaining the difference. When we first said that we were going to call it content design, half of government, they went to social media and just were extremely derogatory. But that was the point, to start the conversation. It's like we are not doing the thing that we've been doing for the past 10 years together. We're not doing that. We're doing something new now. And so we would have that kind of conversation. And so it is personal skills but it is also an awful lot of top cover. And having a content management system that's locked.

Corey (28:11):

And threats, it sounds like a lot of threats, which is great.

Sarah (28:15):

There was a lot of confidence on my part because these people have been awful to me for five years straight. They have been awful. And so I just stood there again, "Ah-hah, you can't get to it."

Deane (28:26):

So this is two thoughts here. First of all, I'm going to drift into vendor territory because I'm going to say traditionally my company has made a CMS, but in January we acquired what's called a CMP. CMP stands for content marketing platform. I'm not in love with the acronym or the genre, but what a content marketing platform is a system to create and collaborate around content, but it's not a CMS. And so the way these systems work is you use a CMP for an editorial calendar and collaboration and everything and then people approve content and then it gets published to your CMS. And so the net result of this is, you can lock a lot of people out of your CMS and they will really only have access to this collaboration platform to create content, but they can't actually publish it to the CMS. Only certain people can kind of bridge that gap because they maintain in organizations about one 10th of the people that are creating content actually need access to your CMS.

Everybody else can work in something else. And the dirty little secret of CMS has always been, nobody creates content in the CMS. They just edit it there. Everybody just goes to Microsoft Word or a group of DOCX.

So that is my brief foray into vendor software stuff. But I think, Corey, what we've done is once again come full circle back from the practice.

Corey (29:41):

Every episode.

Deane (29:42):

Every episode, it comes from some technical thing about the practice of content, to human psychology. And I maintain we all need to go get master's degrees in counseling and therapy because this business more than any other business on earth, I think, comes back to figuring out how humans work and bridging the gaps between humans and making us all be nice to each other and get along. And if you are out there, I know a woman named Lisa Moore. Lisa Moore from the U.K., she went from tech to therapy. I think we need more people to go from therapy to tech. We need a bunch of counselors to decide they want to become content strategists and content designers and come over here and help us work our crap out, because most organizations are so dysfunctional at a human level that you can't even start to solve their content problems.

Sarah (30:34):

So we are often asked to go in and do a content piece of work and we'll start. They'll ask us to come in and do content design. We'll end up doing content strategy and then we end up doing organizational design and then we end up working out their workflow and their teams. And so you do service design as well. So it never just stops at content, I don't think. And a couple of years ago I did an American, intensive year-long ontological coaching course and it has been the most important part of my skill set to listen to people and really unpack what they're actually saying. And I really wish I had done it 10 years ago because I think my career may have looked very different and I may have been a much nicer person.

Deane (31:20):

Well there you go, Corey. In the end I knew we would get back to human psychology.

Corey (31:22):

I knew I we'd get there. Sarah, what are you working on now? What can we pitch for you?

Sarah (31:28):

I'm still working on my second book and that's taking a really long time.

Deane (31:33):

I loved your first book and it's somewhere on the bookshelf behind me. I have a thousand books back there and one of them is yours, Sarah.

Sarah (31:40):

Yay. Thank you. So I'm doing that. We actually have a book coming out by Heinrich von Hagen who is our training director. He's written a book called Content Transformation. And that is coming out and it is the way that we go into organizations and run content strategy sessions. It is a, do this, do that, say this. It is a step-by-step kind of book for those people who are alone that we were talking about before, that they are alone. They just want somebody to tell them what to do when and how to try and turn their organization around. So yeah, that's coming out.

Deane (32:17):

I do want to ask one question though, because when you said that you were going through those kind of rigamarole with that organization, there was a lot of tea. Now in a British sense, I think what you meant is that you were having tea. But there is a phrase, and I don't know if it's this way over the UK, but this phrase in the US called spill-the-tea. And you spill the tea is when you tell the secrets and gossip about people, is when they spill the tea on something and just as a final thought, does that somehow relate to having tea in the UK or my way off base?

Sarah (32:48):

So my children do say this, but when I first heard spill the tea, I was horrified. I'm British, I don't spill tea.

Deane (32:54):

It's a Kardashian thing. I think.

Sarah (32:57):

No, what I mean is when you have tea with people, it means that you probably take them to a cafe and you have that one-to-one because you're trying to make an actual human connection. You're not having a work meeting, you're trying to actually work out what's going on because otherwise you'll just have a meeting in a meeting room with no tea.

Deane (33:14):

No tea gets spilled.

Sarah (33:15):

No tea gets spilled. No tea spilled ever.

Deane (33:20):

Sarah, thank you very much.

Sarah (33:22):

Thank you. And thank you for the invite

Corey (33:30):

Deane, that was a great interview. We're back.

Deane (33:33):

Yeah, it was awesome. And I'm really excited because she seemed to enjoy my pyramid metaphor, which I don't know enough about content design and the fact that seemed to resonate with her made me feel really great. But I think it's a great bridging metaphor because I've always spoke with content strategy, not enough people can take the leap between their strategy for content and how to actually form a content artifact that a human being can consume so if that period metaphor helps anybody that's going to make me the happiest guy in the world.

Corey (34:06):

The idea of having a pyramid that makes a lot of sense in traditional design as well. Because if you look at all of those different disciplines, they're really focused on understanding users and understanding ideas and understanding concepts and this base level of just understanding that I think we take for granted a lot. And I think that's why the pyramid example made a lot of sense. It illustrated that in a way, when Sarah said that, really resonated with me was that content people are used to doing things quietly to just kind of do things on their own because it's always a fight. Content's always the forgotten child when it comes to a new website or in even product design in general.

Deane (34:47):

Content's magic, Corey, it just appears.

Corey (34:49):

Content is absolutely magic and there it is, it pops up and it's there and nobody really works on it. It just appears out of nowhere.

Deane (34:58):

I also appreciated the discussion about accessibility and how accessibility really needs to move from human focus. Like this person has accessibility problems to environment focused. This environment creates accessibility problems. Scott Hansel man is a evangelist for Microsoft, a very kind of famous guy. And I had a conversation with him once, his wife is Zimbabwean and so he spent quite a bit of time in Southern Africa and we talked about bandwidth constraints that they have in Southern Africa. And he has obviously a very new, very modern smartphone, but it is reduced functionality when he is in Zimbabwe because of the lack of reliable bandwidth. That in and of itself is an accessibility issue. And how do you account that? It's a temporary accessibility or sure, an environmental issue, but how do you account for that? And I've always thought we should do accessibility because we're empathic human beings that want the world to be an accessible and lovely place. But there is also a very crass capitalist value for accessibility in that it enhances your reach.

And I can tell you good subtitles on a video will enhance the reach of a video by three 400% because I guarantee you there are a ton of people that are not watching your video because they're just not in a situation that lends itself to watching video. So there is a very crass capitalist argument for using accessibility as a way to expand your audience breach. And I appreciated that discussion with Sarah.

Corey (36:25):

That's the way you can get it in the door. People who don't think they need to care about accessibility, if you can just say, "Hey, if more people see your stuff and understand it, more people will be willing to buy the thing you're trying to sell." And if-

Deane (36:34):

Sad that we have to approach it that way, but.

Corey (36:36):

Right. If it's understandable to a certain level, it'll also be understandable to a machine that can then help you with your SEO. There are these capitalistic ideas around accessibility that kind of help get it under the cynic's doors.

Deane (36:49):

I remember way back when, probably 15 years ago I read a book by Mark Pilgrim called Dive Into Accessibility, very famous book at the time, which was the first book that really brought accessibility to the fore I think. And I remember reading this book and closing the book and thinking, Well, Mark's just telling us don't design stupid things. Because 15 years ago was the height I think, of stupid design on the internet, when we were designing things stupidly just because we could. And Mark was basically saying, "If you stop doing stupid things on the internet, your stuff will be more consumable by everybody involved." Lovely conversation. Sarah was great. Her book is wonderful. I encourage everybody to go get a copy.

Corey (37:29):

Yeah, absolutely. Sarah Winters, she works for Content London. She owns and runs Content London. She's the author of Content Design. You can actually order a copy of that book at the Content London site, which is contentdesign.london. And if you go up to the store link, you'll be able to find it there. It's a crucial book for anybody who's really looking to write and maintain web content. And then I'm very interested in this content transformation book that she mentioned at the end. The Web Project Guide is a product of Blend Interactive. We are a web strategy design and development shop that builds websites and guides teams through complicated web and content problems from content strategy and design to CMS implementation and support. We're dedicated to making great things for the web and this podcast is one of those things. This is episode 12 of the Web Project Guide, which corresponds with chapter 12 of the book, Write for People and Machines. You can read the full text of this chapter at webpro.guide/writing.

Deane (38:23):

You know what, Corey? I just want to note that some math tells me that we are now officially half done with this podcast.

Corey (38:29):

We are one halfway through.

Deane (38:31):

24 chapters, 12 podcasts. We made it halfway. It's all downhill from here, buddy.

Corey (38:36):

We can free ourselves from this prison next December.

Deane (38:42):

Fair enough.

Corey (38:42):

These kinds of conversations are really ultimately what built the idea of the web project guide. We're collecting this framework built by experts and thought leaders across the web community. And that's why we really enjoy talking to people like Sarah. If you want, you can order your own copy of the book directly from us at order.webproject.guide, or international friends, head over to Amazon and you can get some better international shipping. But we appreciate that, no matter what, and we also appreciate your unending praise. So make sure you jump into Apple Podcasts or Spotify or wherever you can rate podcasts and give us a five star review and a five star review only. And while you're there, check out some best episodes. Deane is smiling at that, but-

Deane (39:23):

It just reminds me.

Corey (39:24):

Why would you go on and give a four star review of something? Just give a five.

Deane (39:27):

It just reminds me of, I went into Subway and there was a little sign that's saying, "Did you love our service? Go here to take a survey." And the unspoken part was, if you didn't love our service, please don't take this survey.

Corey (39:41):

Just get out. Yeah. Anyway, while you're in there giving us that review, check out some past episodes of the podcast. We've recently talked to Lisa Maria Marque about organizing content. We talked to Jeff Eaton about modeling content. We talked about Christina as we mentioned a few times about content strategy as a whole. So there's some good stuff back there. Next month we're going to talk about design. So we thank you for tuning in for another month. Subscribe, share, check us out next month. And until then, go do amazing things.

Good luck.