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.

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.

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.

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.