The Specialized Web: Working with Subject-Matter Experts

Content strategists often rely on the specialized knowledge of subject-matter experts (SMEs) to get the job done. But that job isn’t always straightforward; it’s complicated by different perspectives, communication styles, and project goals. Amanda Costello shows us how people skills—and the right mindset—can lead to better collaboration with SMEs and a smoother process from start to finish.

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.

Gardens, Not Graves

The stream is great for showing timely, scannable content. But solely organizing by reverse chronology leads to a dire loss of context. What can we do to make content easier to understand for those coming across it for the first time? Allen Tan explores methods for turning our untended archives into lively, flourishing spaces.

The Battle for the Body Field

As we attempt to combine multi-device design requirements with complex, media-rich narratives, we’ve hit the wall. The chunky, fields-and-templates approach we’ve developed can’t save us from the mismatch between our content and HTML’s descriptive tools. The good news is we don’t have to convert all our projects to XML to learn from the XML community’s wisdom. By using custom elements and properties to represent content’s meaning, transforming it into HTML on output, and ensuring that editing tools share the same vocabulary, we can publish structured content that supports the needs of today’s editors and art directors while also making our content safe for future generations.

Responsive Design Won’t Fix Your Content Problem

For years, we’ve told clients to serve the same content to every platform. We explained that Responsive Web Design allows content to squish itself into any container. Is it any wonder, then, that the belief has slowly grown that RWD can act as a substitute for actual content strategy?

Following Through with Post-Launch Strategy

Design studios have traditionally worked on a “launch and dash” model: we study a client’s business problem; address it in design, UX, and content strategy; inject templates into a CMS; take the money, and run. But while we’ve spent years refining our web and UX practices, we’ve never paid much attention to what happens months after we deliver a site. If we truly want to help the client whose conversions are going flat, it’s time to embrace post-launch strategy—and stop thinking of it as a bundle of shameful SEO tricks that are disconnected from our work. Aaron Mentele shares how his small boutique studio hired a digital strategist, and the benefits that have accrued to the studio as well as its clients.

Summer Reading Issue

Presenting the second annual ALA Summer Reading Issue—a deep pool of editor’s picks from the recent archives of A List Apart, sprinkled with some of our favorite outside links. This summer’s picks are arranged in clusters that echo the design process, and like all good summer reading, they travel light. (This issue is also available as a Readlist, suitable for reading on Kindle, iPhone, iPad, Readmill, or other ebook reader.) Dive in!

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.

Designing for Breakpoints

Text, navigation, and tables, oh, my! What’s a responsive web designer to do? How can you confine your design to as few major breakpoints as possible? Where and when will you sketch minor breakpoints? How should you think about content while sketching? Is it possible to sketch on actual devices, and what are the accessibility implications of doing so? The answers to these and other profound questions will be found in this exclusive excerpt from Chapter 7 of Responsive Design Workflow, Stephen Hay’s new book, available now from New Riders.

“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.