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Business Consulting For The 21st Century Via A Holistic & Intelligent Approach

King Content – Part 2

Consumed => “How Disregarding Design Limits The Power Of Content” by Christopher Butler on Smashing Magazine.

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/10/17/how-disregarding-design-limits-the-power-of-content

=> My value add (i.e., left a comment)…

Maybe I got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning but I feel compelled to comment. At the risk of coming off like a critic, I’d like to share some thoughts on this article:

1) “It appears to be a reader’s market.”

I can only hope the vagueness of the “appears” is some sort of pun on the subject matter to follow. If you’re a designer and you have yet to realize that it *is* a readers’ market then I’m not so sure you should be starting the realignment of your education here. It’s probably best to start with an optometrist. See? (Pun intended). Perhaps a\so look into getting your empathy gene checked.

2) “Anyone interested in communicating more effectively should reflect on the degree to which the format — or lack thereof — of their content supports or undermines the content’s message.”

In other words, context effects consumption. Pardon me but…duh?!?!? The sad irony here is that Smashing, Mashable, et al are constantly presenting websites, biz cards, menus, etc. with the preface of aesthetic beauty being the key metric for good/great design. My Gawd, nothing could be further from the truth. Yet the lack of myth busting marches on.

3) I’d like to add context includes the receiver. For example, 10 point text might be an appropriate font size for college students but it’s not appropriate for the 45 & up crowd. Yet how often do we see that too? Or, people accustomed to reading on-screen are going to have different expectations than those who do not. While unlikely in most cases, perhaps Chris is outside the target market sweet spot of some of these publishers?

As Mr. Butler points out, design is as old as the written word itself. Yet in spite of the history available and the modern tools, etc. the originators and inventors seems to have done a better job with communication than a significant number of today’s digital media manipulators. I’m not a designer and frankly I’m embarrassed for ya all ;)

4) If we’re going to discuss “content & design” then is that not what’s wrapped within the context of UX? And isn’t “design” about enhancing that experienced? That is, “design” is a means to an ends and not a (selfish?) ends in and of itself. Correct?

5) Let me try to end on a less provocative and more positive note:

If you want to quickly wrap your head around the idea of effective broadcasting and receiving then consume the first chapter of “Words That Work” – Dr. Frank Luntz.

I also found this article in the NY Times from a few months back very intriguing:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/19/health/19mind.html

My takeaway? That easy to read does not equal easy to remember. And while the examples cited in The Times; article are in the context of education, you have to wonder if such characteristic of the brain don’t cascade into other areas of life. In other words, maybe pretty and consumable does not translate into memorable? Perhaps the brain perceives learning more broadly such that surfing the web is quite often a form of education?

Speaking for myself, there have been plenty of times I’ve been on a site that appears to be “memorable” only to forget a day or less later. True, the broader context of how much other content is the receiver is consuming has impact as well. And around we go again…See?

  1. Mark,

    You’ve got some good thoughts here.

    My responses to some of your numbered points:

    1 & 2: “…appears to be a readers market…” Yes, a bit of sarcasm here. When we say it’s a buyer’s market, we’re saying there are more homes for sale than buyers, which puts the buyer in a position of power. When I say it’s a reader’s market, I’m saying that there’s more content than time to read it, which puts the reader in a position of power. Yet, most people think it’s enough to just produce content. What I’m trying to put out for discussion here is that it’s not enough to just produce text; we have to produce content worth the reader’s attention.

    So, that leads to the “…reflect on the degree to which the format…of their content supports or undermines the content’s message.” Duh, yes. But still, most content producers are not doing this. And this isn’t just a blunt instruction. What I’m calling for here is reflection. There isn’t just one way to best format content. What we need is thoughtful consideration of how to best communicate ideas.

    3. Agreed. Unfortunately, I have no control over the design of Smashing Magazine’s website.

    4. Agreed again. I recently wrote an article for my firm’s website discussing the idea of ten-second usability tests that are meant to show how design enables or disables a user’s ability to evaluate the purpose and value of a webpage. A Nielsen study has shown that most web users decide whether to continue reading or leave a webpage within the first 10 seconds. So, I put together a process that helps to evaluate how your webpage performs in that flash scenario. As you say, easy to read doesn’t always mean something is easy to remember, nor does it mean that the page has created the right first impression on a reader. The article is here, if you’re interested: https://www.newfangled.com/how_design_helps_users_get_to_know_webpages.

    – Chris

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