In 2019, Scott Kubie told us that Content Strategy Is Boring (and That's OK).
I reckon he was right in every way except one. He said: ‘leave the creativity for your content’. Nup. That’s where I disagree.
Lots of content is boring. And that’s OK too. Delight isn’t always right.
At Weave we write all sorts of content. Sometimes this has been what could be considered more creative writing – crafting little content chunks about scientific research to help people see the importance of our environment, for example. We get to tell a story.
More often though, we’re explaining stuff like how businesses can comply with their legal obligations, how consumers can make a complaint when they’ve been ripped off, how students can find the course they want, or how employees can get their leave entitlements. Stuff a lot of people would call boring. This is when we really need to write clear content that users can understand. We just want to help them do what they need to do, understand what they need to understand, get what they want to get.
Boring beats baffling
Scott said about content strategy: ‘Boring beats baffling. Obvious beats obtuse. Articulated beats assumed.’ This is absolutely true of the content itself too.
And it’s exactly what content design helps us with.
As Sarah Richards tells us in her book Content Design, we need to write clear, front loaded headings so that people can see immediately what the page is about. Boring rather than baffling. We need to use plain English – those high-frequency words that people recognise rather than the obscure ones we think make us sound smart. Obvious rather than obtuse. We need to put the most important information first without thinking users know the way our organisation thinks. Articulated rather than assumed.
At Weave, whenever we create content we use the principles of content design. User-first, evidence-based, well-structured, plain-English, accessible content. Even when we’re creating content like tools or graphics that aren’t text heavy, the words are critically important.
Embracing my boring … and my creativity
I’d always worried about being a boring writer and not a properly ‘creative’ one. I can’t do poetry, I’ve never mastered those long, deliberately meandering sentences that can take the reader on a flight of fancy, and I haven’t written fiction since I was about 9. Sure, I’ve done a lot of writing about interesting things, but one of my strengths has always been in imposing logic and structure on what I – or other people – write. Something I thought was a ‘boring’ strength.
Now I embrace my boring. Boring is what I want to do.
But. Actually. Putting the words down on paper (screen) is a creative process. I find the process of content design deeply interesting and creative. I enjoy doing all the research and thinking that goes into coming up with content that works for the user.
We need to bring creativity to being boring. So maybe I don’t disagree with Scott.