For us content people, one of the most useful (and discipline-defining) books of the last few years has been Content Design by Sarah Richards. Until late 2019, though, any Australian wanting Content Design London training would have to fly to the UK (as I did). But no more! Sarah has asked Weave to deliver her content design course in Australia.
In mid-November, Angus Gordon and I delivered the two-day workshop to a fabulous group of participants in Sydney. We felt very privileged to be heading up the first public CDL course to be delivered outside the UK. Here are some thoughts I had along the way.
1. Sarah Richards is the bomb
Best moment? When someone asked Sarah to sign their copy of her book, and she saw how dog-eared and sticky-noted it was. Thanks to the stars aligning, Sarah was with us in Sydney for much of the first day. This was a little terrifying for the trainers who were delivering her course. But it was fabulous for the awe-struck participants as she dispensed advice and wisdom to help them with their content problems.
2. Many organisations still don’t get it
Pretty much every participant talked about still needing to prove the value of content to others. Those of us in content roles know that content comes first, and are sick to death of reading another Medium article making that familiar argument. But it’s important to remember that not everyone has caught up with us and we often still have to prove our findings to non-content focused colleagues. So the parts of the workshop where we talk about how to arm ourselves with data and evidence when we go in to battle for user-focused content were some of the most popular.
3. Even when we do get it, there’s more to learn
There was a huge range of experience in the room, from people who were encountering content design for the first time to seasoned practitioners. As a trainer, I could see first-hand how the course has something to offer even those experienced in and familiar with content design concepts and practices. There are two reasons for that. First, we move quickly from a ‘lesson’ on a particular topic to a practical application of that concept. Second, being guided through a sequential process reminds us of the value of all the different parts of that process and helps us keep the faith next time the pressure’s on at work.
4. Collaboration really does produce better results – do more than pay it lip service
Throughout the course, participants work with others in ever-changing small groups to develop their piece of content. At one point, I asked whether anyone’s work had stayed the same since they’d started. Of course not. Working with others brings fresh perspectives that can open your eyes to new possibilities, especially if you’re stuck. We ended the workshop with a brief foray into content crits, where people give constructive feedback on content, another hugely popular part of the course. Of course, beyond the workshop, collaboration with designers, UX-ers and SMEs can bring insight that is just as valuable.
5. Words aren’t always best… but sometimes they are
As people worked on their piece of content, they often considered non-textual elements such as wizards and calculators. Sometimes these were the perfect solution. Sometimes they just added complexity. It’s exciting as a content designer to think beyond words – especially for those of us who come from a wordy background – but let’s keep the focus on the user.
6. There’s a huge appetite for more professional development here in Australia
While post-workshop feedback confirmed that participants loved the course, they also wanted more. More on influencing stakeholders. More on content crits. More on content models. More on user research. More on data and analytics. At the same time, almost everyone thought the course itself was just the right length, and there wasn’t any single topic that more than one person thought could be cut down. So we can’t cram more into the course, but we are having Big Thoughts. Watch this space.
7. Content people are the best people
Everyone in the room was committed to communicating with their users in the best way possible. They were there with minds open to learn, and weren’t afraid to ask questions, but they were also hugely generous in sharing their own experiences and expertise. Thanks to all the participants for being so fabulous.
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