Category Archives: Communication Technology

ABCs of a 21st Century Writer

Prose, Pixels and Persuasion

Audience

Start with your audience—what they know, what they need to know and how they make sense of the world.

Brevity

Tight copy is the “soul of wit,” and it takes twice as long to write.

Context

Pre-existing knowledge and conditions dictate how an audience receives messages. Incorporate context to add layers of meaning. Ignore context and risk failing to connect.

Drafts

The third draft is always better than the first or second. The fifth? Not so much. Exert the right amount of effort and resist obsession.

The Greeks knew some stuff.

Ethos

Beyond the prevailing zeitgeist, every corporate culture, marketplace and social media following taps into specific memories, values and language to make meaning. Persuasiveness often hinges on these.

Feedback Loops

Natural feedback signals are lost when we use any media—from writing books to broadcasting video. Many of today’s technologies, like social media, are including ways to measure audience reactions. Click-through rates, watch-times and other social media listening techniques act virtually to tell us what’s resonating and why.

Graphics

Graphic design increases readability and keeps our messages relevant in fast-moving media environments.

Modern readers unconsciously judge our visual production values against everything else they encounter.

Hyperlinks

Hypertext is the most underappreciated and the most powerful writing developments in our lifetime.

Hypermedia de-clutters our prose while adding unimaginable richness to our documents. Your digital composition can unlock the world with the right hyperlinks.

Interface

Our documents are read on a myriad of screens—some are the size of matchbooks, others the size of walls. Anticipate which interfaces your audience uses to design features like graphics, audio, video and interactivity.

Juxtaposition

Compare and contrast to help delineate and distinguish.

Knowledge Management

Communication increasingly means managing information flows, platform integration and data analysis. Technology and numbers can often intimidate communicators. It shouldn’t.

Written language is a profoundly complicated technology. If you can master English, spreadsheets should be like coloring books.

Laughter

Comedy is best left to professionals.

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” — Erma Bombeck

Modality

Digital communication is beautiful because we can incorporate any or all of these modes into our documents:

  • Text is great for brevity and/or complexity.
  • Video captures short attention spans.
  • Audio contains subtle cues and emotional richness.
  • Interactivity engages the mind, the will and the body.

Negativity

It’s not all sunshine and lemonade. When you say something important, someone else is likely disagree.

Anticipate possible negative reactions and integrate effective responses when possible. On social media, always have strategies for dealing with negative posts. Especially learn how to deal with trolls. (Hint: Don’t feed them.)

No Trolls!

Obviousness

Don’t do the thinking for your audience. You’ll bore them and lose them.

PowerPoint

I know we have to use PowerPoint. But must we use it badly?

When you use it, avoid the well-known sins that lead to glassy looks and ineffective presentations.

Questions

For interest, create questions in the minds of your audience; questions they must answer for themselves.

For clarity, answer the questions your audience might ask if they could.

Repeat

If it needs to be said, say it again and then say it again.

Then say it a different way. Then repeat it. Then recap, referencing the first three times you said it.

Cut a groove into an audience’s memory that isn’t easily erased.

Speed

Quick turnarounds, instantaneous responses and on-the-go content development are creating pressures for communicators to be faster and faster.

It’s amazing and exhilarating to open a mobile app and produce a fully formatted video that posts 5 minutes after initial inception. It’s also exhausting and sometimes reckless to move at the pace afforded by these platforms.

Tap the brakes for better content.

Timing

Impatience can cause an initiative to fail on the launch pad.

Measure the moment, looking for what the Greeks called kairos (the fullness of time, the pregnant moment). This is especially important with campaigns where information builds upon itself or momentum is critical.

Unaddressed Issues

When you choose not to directly address issues that are important to your audience, it’s often helpful to signal that you’ve made a conscious choice and are not guilty of ignorance or oversight.

Voice

Professionals are often required to slip into their client’s voice rather than to find their own.

We all have a style. We just have to open our mouth and sing to find it.

Words

I love words. You love words. The right word is a delicious morsel; the crafted sentence a feast.

It may seem that technology is pushing words aside, but fear not. Words accomplish things AI never will. In the hands of artisans (smiths), words reach into our memories, touch our hearts and create our possible worlds.

X-rated

Always avoid blue jokes and references (see Laughter).

Yell

SOMETIMES IT’S GOOD TO GO BIG!!!

Zig when others Zag.

If everyone is using digital, it may be time to mail a beautifully crafted, glossy print piece.

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Building a Green Website

An Earth Day consideration of UX.

Today is Earth Day and a perfect time to publish this last in a series of posts about designing your next website with a focus on User Experience (UX 2022). 

Environmental impact being a critical issue for everyone and every endeavor, it’s good to consider ways to mitigate any negative impact caused by our design choices. 

Digital’s Huge Aggregate Impact

Computers don’t have exhaust pipes. So, sustainability isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when building a website. Yet, the collective impact of communication technology is substantial.

While the aggregate footprint of all computers is huge, an individual organization’s share is likely miniscule. So ignoring the problem may be tempting. Which would be a missed opportunity to be part of the solution and/or raise awareness and engagement on behalf of the environment. 

Tiny and Incremental Steps

It’s true that your individual website generates a tiny negative footprint and any design choices you make will only help on the tiniest of margins. The reverse also is true. The impact of individual web design choices can add up to a substantially positive aggregated impact. 

As a general design principle, eliminating “interaction friction” means fewer steps, smoother transitions and less computation, all leading to using less energy and generating less heat/friction. 

The following are some choices you can make to reduce interaction friction:

Be a Solution Minded Organization

From a cost perspective, building a new, greener website, or replacing the functionality in your current site just to make it more efficient will not save money. Typically, organizations rebuild a site every five years or so.  If cost-saving is the objective, the next scheduled rebuild will be the best time to incorporate more Earth friendly design choices. 

Beyond the material benefits, however, there is goodwill value in a greener website. Your Earth friendly design choices tell customers, employees and other stakeholders that your organization is both aware and part of the solution. 

Just like tiny energy savings add up to a real impact, tiny individual efforts on behalf of the environment can add up to entire communities and societies that value the environment–when everyone does their part.

UX 2022 Series 

In 2022, a good UX has become the standard for good website design. In this series, we’ve looked closely at important UX features, how they work, and how they can improve a website. All articles in this series can be accessed via the links below.

UX 2022 (An introduction.)

Core Web Vitals: Googles three essentials to user experience. 

Thumbs Up! The ergonomics of great mobile UX.

Speed: Slow websites are quickly abandoned.

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Speed

Slow websites are quickly abandoned.

The User Experience must be fast.

As we detailed in a previous article, Google has changed the ranking metrics for websites to optimize UX (user experience.) Google’s Cores Web Vitals influence a website’s Google search rankings and how well it works on the popular Chrome browser. Google’s outsized influence on the web makes their Core Web Vitals the de facto standard for good web design.

Two of these metrics focus on the speed of your website­­—how fast it loads and how fast it responds to inputs. Slow loading and reaction speeds feel excruciating to users, causing them to abandon a site prematurely out of frustration. Optimizing speed is not only good practice, it’s essential. 

The key to speed

Achieving faster website speeds is somewhat technical. Yet the underlying concept is relatively simple––don’t present users with content until they need it.   

Three key to speed is to quickly load a stable framework and then optimally position your content for speedy, on-demand access. This will make your site smaller, less cluttered, and faster.

These three principles can help guide your planning:

  • Use a framework that allows you to manage content flow.
  • Strategically map your pages and your content flow to keep your site uncluttered both visually and on the backend.
  • “Outsource” content to larger, faster, more geographically strategic, networks, so it can load faster without affecting your page. 

Speed checklist

When working with your developer, you’ll want to use technologies and techniques that streamline your pages. This checklist is a great starting point:  

  • Choose VPS* not shared hosting
  • Maximize browser caching 
  • Make images Internet friendly (smaller files)
  • Don’t overuse “plugins” and CMS* features 
  • Host your content on a CDN*, not on your page
  • Only load content for a page that’s currently open
  • Have content load as your scroll

* See below:

VPS—virtual private server. Instead of being on a single dedicated server or a shared plan, content is distributed across the Internet on large server farms. This speeds up website loading based on geography and real-time Internet traffic. 

CMS—content management system. The framework behind most modern websites, CMS keeps them very stable and makes updating content easy. Examples: WordPress, Shopify and Squarespace. 

CDN—is content delivery network. This brings features similar to VPS to your content. Broad distribution allows much faster loading.  Examples: Amazon’s AWS, Google Cloud and Cloudflare.

UX 2022 Series 

In 2022, good UX has become the standard for good website design. In this series we look more closely at important UX features, learn how they work and how they can improve a website.

Here are other articles in this series:

UX 2022 (An introduction.)

Core Web Vitals: Googles three essentials to user experience.

Thumbs Up! The ergonomics of great mobile UX.

Building a Green Website

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Thumbs Up!

The ergonomics of great mobile UX.

It’s the holiday shopping season––snow is falling, bells are ringing, and people are all headed downtown to the department stores to help Santa with his list. 

No. No, they aren’t.

If they’re like me, they’re thumb scrolling their way across various shopping sites looking for that perfect French bulldog tumbler or rustic garden trowel. In fact, almost 1/3 of all retail sales are transacted on a mobile device, and that number is only growing. 

Santa is mobile now. With all the gifts he has to get, Santa needs websites designed to be easy, efficient, fast and comfortable to use with only one hand. (The other is busy  with reindeer, chimneys, cookies and the like.)

As we continue our series on UX (User Experience) web design, let’s take a closer look at the physicality of web design. Let’s focus on our thumbs. 

Swipe left. Swipe right.

Ten years ago, websites were being upgraded to include responsive design. Now more than half of all web traffic goes over mobile devices. Mobile apps and mobile versions of a website should anticipate the way people interact with a phone to facilitate easy and fast navigation. 

A great example is Tinder’s “swipe left, swipe right” search method. It’s a super easy and economical movement that has become a cultural touchstone synonymous with Tinder’s brand. Tinder’s content display was built to facilitate ergonomically efficient touchscreen interactions. Some designers call this “thumb friendly.” 

Thumb Friendly

There are three elements to the principle of “thumb friendly” design:

Understand the role of the thumb. When holding a phone in your hand, you can most easily activate the touch screen by using either your free hand or the thumb on the hand holding the device. Assuming that people are often multitasking while looking at their screen, incorporating movements for the thumb make sense. On a right-handed person, the thumb pivots and swivels from the right bottom corner of the screen. 

Design to natural thumb movements. The thumb can easily move up and down. It can tap the phone and it can swipe left or right. Designers build devices to facilitate natural movements such as tilt, pinch, zoom, tap, double tap, swipe, scroll and more. 

Because these movements can be done with the thumb on the same hand holding the phone, as much as possible, UX web design should make navigation and important content choices accessible by locating them within the “thumb zone.”

Use the thumb zone as your guide. When designing mobile pages, keep the images below in mind. They are a good template for creating  thumb-friendly web design because they’re focused on optimizing ideal ergonomic movements. 

Left Thumb Map
Right Thumb Map

UX 2022 Series 

In 2022, good UX has become the standard for good website design. In this series we look more closely at important UX features, learn how they work and how they can improve a website.

Here are other articles in this series:

UX 2022 (An introduction.)

Core Web Vitals: Google’s Three Essentials to User Experience.

Speed: Slow websites are quickly abandoned.

Building a Green Website


More Ideas