A List Apart

Menu

Topic: Writing

Writing and editing for the web. Copy as user interface. Writing content that works for a living: how anybody who touches copy can make a difference by insisting that every chunk of text on the site do something concrete. Words that zing. Websites for learners. Making up stories: perception, language, and the web. Cure content-delay syndrome. Revive anorexic web writing. Better writing through design.

  • Write What You Know (Now)

    ·

    We talk ourselves out of writing (or at least out of publishing) in all kinds of ways: It states the obvious. There’s no conclusion. No one will read it. Someone might read it! Well, so what? You never know how much that seemingly insignificant story of yours may be appreciated in the future—it could be one of a handful of search hits on an obscure issue; it could be a reminder of how you used to work 15 years ago; it could help people get to know you better; and best of all, it can definitely help you gain confidence in communicating. So give yourself permission to write what you know so far, because you’re the only one stopping you.

  • Reclaiming Social: Content Strategy for Social Media

    ·

    When we talk about content, we mean all the content: words, pictures, videos, the whole shebang. And—surprise, surprise—that includes social media. Too often neglected or left to the mercy of Klout, social media accounts need the same care, strategic planning, and governance as the rest of your digital properties. Ida Aalen and Ida Jackson explain how content strategy is just the tool to dust off your accounts, regain control, and start producing better social media content today.

  • Building Nonlinear Narratives for the Web

    ·

    The web operates in ways that can conflict with our traditional view of what a “story” is. Content is chunked, mixed, and spread across channels, devices, and formats. How do we understand story lines, characters, interactions, and the role of the audience, given this information sprawl? Cue nonlinear narratives—Senongo Akpem guides us past basic “scrolly-telling” to immersive, sometimes surprising experiences.

  • Conference Proposals that Don’t Suck

    ·

    Conference proposals seem simple enough: throw your thoughts into a text form on a website, keep them within the suggested word limit, and hit send with high hopes of winning over organizers. But there’s much more to a successful conference proposal than meets the eye, and Russ Unger is here to walk through the steps involved with getting your germ of an idea into a polished state that will impress any committee.

  • Training the CMS

    ·

    Launching a site powered by lovingly crafted content models is a joy. But what happens in the weeks that follow, as authors start entering new content into the CMS? If you want to keep your well-structured content intact and on strategy, a training PDF won’t cut it. Let Eileen Webb show you what will: getting editorial guidelines where your authors need them most—in the CMS itself.

  • Writing Is Thinking

    ·

    When you write about your work, it makes all of us smarter for the effort, including you. Done well, this kind of sharing means you’re contributing signal, instead of noise. But writers are made, not born. We often hear from people who say they’d love to write for A List Apart or start blogging, but don’t know where to start. They feel unfocused and overwhelmed by the task. If this is beginning to sound like you, read on, as Sally Kerrigan walks you through how writing works, and how you can get better at it.

  • A List Together

    ·

    A List Apart gets back to its roots: building community, giving a platform to new voices, and getting people excited about the web. We’re making changes to the way we work—starting with our decision to open-source the code that powers alistapart.com itself—and we want you to participate. Our Mat Marquis invites you to contribute code and concepts via GitHub, get to know our acquisition scouts, and use ALA and its editors to share your ideas and insights with the whole web design and development community.

  • Don’t Poke the Bear: Creating Content for Sensitive Situations

    ·

    Delivering bad news is hard, but it’s part of life and business. We notify customers when we’re out of a product they want to buy, and we send warnings when people violate our companies’ terms of service. God forbid we have to send a system alert because our database was hacked, affecting every one of our users. But these things happen to the best of us. Can you be the bearer of bad news in a way that respects your customers? Learn how to create empathetic content for tricky situations, and shape your internal culture to foster human values of support, respect, and empathy.

  • “Like”-able Content: Spread Your Message with Third-Party Metadata

    ·

    Woman does not share by links alone. Although formatting our content via structural markup makes it accessible across a multitude of platforms, standard HTML by itself offers no means to control how our message will come across when shared on popular social networks. Enter third-party metadata schemas. Facebook’s Open Graph protocol (OG) and Twitter’s Cards are metadata protocols designed to provide a better user experience around content shared on these social platforms. Clinton Forry explains how to use these tools for good.

  • Uncle Sam Wants You (to Optimize Your Content for Mobile)

    ·

    Thirty-one percent of Americans who access the internet from a mobile device say that’s the way they always or mostly go online. For this group, if your content doesn’t exist on mobile, it doesn’t exist at all. The U.S. government has responded with a broad initiative to make federal website content mobile-friendly. Karen McGrane explains why this matters—and what you can learn from it.

  • Your Content, Now Mobile

    ·

    Making your content mobile-ready isn’t easy, but if you take the time now to examine your content and structure it for maximum flexibility and reuse, you’ll have stripped away all the bad, irrelevant bits, and be better prepared the next time a new gadget rolls around. This excerpt from Karen McGrane’s new book, Content Strategy for Mobile, will help you get started.

  • Being Real Builds Trust

    ·

    Tons of products and services are the best, easiest, simplest, smartest things ever. They also all increase profits, decrease costs, and save you time. And as a result, they all sound the same. These kinds of qualifiers overrun our content because we’re constantly looking around at what everyone else is doing, rather than being honest about who we are. But trust inspires confidence, and it’s confidence that compels decision-making. Steph Hay shows us how to win customers by being real with our content.

  • Future-Ready Content

    ·

    The future is flexible, and we're bending with it. From responsive web design to futurefriend.ly thinking, we're moving quickly toward a web that's more fluid, less fixed, and more easily accessed on a multitude of devices. As we embrace this shift, we need to relinquish control of our content as well, setting it free from the boundaries of a traditional web page to flow as needed through varied displays and contexts. Most conversations about structured content dive headfirst into the technical bits: XML, DITA, microdata, RDF. But structure isn't just about metadata and markup; it's what that metadata and markup mean. Sara Wachter-Boettcher shares a framework for making smart decisions about our content's structure.

  • Making up Stories: Perception, Language, and the Web

    ·

    Stories have been around as long as we have, helping us understand our world and ourselves. We learn and retain information best through stories, because they turn information into more than the sum of its parts. But what makes a story a story, and what does it mean for the digital world we’ve built? Elizabeth McGuane and Randall Snare weave an enchanting tale of attention, comprehension, inference, coherence, and shopping.

  • Art Direction and Design

    ·

    Sure, your design’s composition is perfectly balanced, the typographical hierarchy works, and the contrast is bang on. But, when you step back and take a look, how does it make you feel? Does your design evoke the right emotion? Dan Mall explains the difference between art direction and design on the web and challenges us to do it again, this time with feeling.

  • Words that Zing

    ·

    When someone consults a website, there is a precious opportunity not only to provide useful information but also to influence their decision. To make the most of this opportune moment, we must ensure that the site says or does precisely the right thing at precisely the right time. Understanding the rhetorical concept of kairos can help us craft a context for the opportune moment and hit the mark with appropriately zingy text.

  • You Can Get There From Here: Websites for Learners

    ·

    "Content-rich" is not enough. Most websites are not learner-friendly. As an industry, we haven't done our best to make our content-rich websites suitable for learning and exploration. Learners require more from us than keywords and killer headlines. They need an environment that is narrative, interactive, and discoverable. Amber Simmons tells how to begin creating rich content sites that invite and repay exploration and discovery.

  • Content Templates to the Rescue

    ·

    As an industry, we’ve learned to plan our sites to achieve business goals and meet human needs while shipping on time and delivering compelling user experiences. Alas, despite all the sweat we pour into strategy sessions and GANTT charts, we still have to coax content out of our subject matter experts and get it onto every page of the site. This is where the strongest hearts grow frail, and even seasoned developers reach for Advil or something stronger. But help, in the form of content templates, is on the way. Seize the power.

  • Content-tious Strategy

    ·

    Every website faces two key questions: 1. What content do we have at hand? 2. What content should we produce? Answering those questions is the domain of the content strategist. Alas, real content strategy gets as little respect today as information architecture did in 1995. MacIntyre defines the roles, tools, and value of this emerging user experience specialist.

  • The Discipline of Content Strategy

    ·

    It's time to stop pretending content is somebody else's problem. If content strategy is all that stands between us and the next fix-it-later copy draft or beautifully polished but meaningless site launch, it’s time to take up the torch, time to make content matter. Halvorson tells how to understand, learn, practice, and plan for content strategy.