Duolingo has been around for a while and it is a testament to just how good it is that it is still so successful. It uses gamification to help users persist at learning a language long after the initial excitement disappears. It blends this with a beautiful and intuitive interface to make it easy to see your progress and to continue returning to it day after day.
You start by picking a language and then you start on your skills tree. You need to get 17 of twenty exercises correct to pass a set; pass the one to ten sets in each skill and it turns golden. You can then move to the next row of skills and pick any of them but you need to complete everything on a row to move on.
The exercises are a mixture of types which never become repetitive.
The neat part of Duolingo
When discussing what a Web Content Strategist does, it is very easy to get bogged down on all of the different requirements of a role that spans so many disciplines. It is a very useful exercise to reduce it to its most important elements. In the excellent The Web Content Strategist’s Bible, Richard Sheffield outlines 4 key qualities for a content manager which have nothing to do with technical requirements. He contends that the individual must be:
- A decent writer and editor
- Someone who understands how to plan and implement a project
- Someone who really wants to do this kind of work
- Someone who understands the bare basics of how the web works technically
And that’s it. Everything else is ‘gravy’.
Different jobs will have different emphases and technical requirements. I would fully agree with the above. Of course I can think of half a dozen other attributes to add to the list but that is self-defeating.
Traditional sharing plugins such as DIgg Digg and Alternative Digg have been around so long that they look dated, and their position on the side of the page can lead to either unwanted effects or a lack of confidence that they work in all circumstances without plenty of testing.
Enter Simple Share Buttons Adder. It sits either before or after your primary content, or in both places, so you can be sure it is consistent across multiple devices. It offers 8 gorgeous button types and keeps things nice and simple by limiting itself to around ten of the most popular sharing platforms. It just works.
Simple Share Buttons Adder
I haven’t placed it on this site, but rather instead I have placed it on Cycle Ireland, where I am active on my supporting social media accounts.
If you want a simple sharing plugin, this is it.
I have been working on a retail site and the issue of how to label the Buy button cam e up. Different possibilities have different connotations:
- Buy – blunt
- Add to cart – impersonal
- Purchase – too formal
- Buy now – too bossy
To complicate matters the site is not traditional in that it sells high-ticket items that people are unlikely to buy more than one of. That makes the concept of a virtual shopping basket less appropriate than it might be on other sites.
I wanted to check out the labelling that big retailers use to get a pointer on this.
- Wiggle – add to basket
- Asos – add to bag
- Amazon – add to basket
- Fashionphile – add to bag
- Chain reaction Cycles – add to basket
- Yoogis closet – add to shopping bag
- Harvey Norman – add to cart
- Pixmania – add to basket
We have 4 “Add to basket”, 2 “Add to bag”, 1 “Ad to cart” and 1 “Add to shopping bag”.
I want my terminology to be consistent with what people are use to, so I will use the phrase “Add to…” on the button. But add to what? I don’t want to use “bag,” as handbags are what the site primarily sells. If they were one of twenty product types it would be ok, but they are the primary one. So that’s out. That leaves “basket”or “cart”.
I think “basket” is the less harsh and more modern of the two, so that’s the one to go for. We can test it at a later point if we don’t like the conversion rates.
In recent times there has been an increase in website footers that are packed with links that take you all over the site. They have so many links that it becomes very difficult to actually find the one that you want.
You can have 40, 50 links or even more across several columns. Some people don’t recognize when they reach the point of diminishing returns. The footer is not a dump. It is a place to show miscellaneous but necessary links. The exact links to show will depend on the type of site that you run.
As a rule, if the link would only be required by a specific type of user (as opposed to general users), it is a good candidate for the footer.
Keep it simple. Combine pages where it makes sense. If you do have a lot of links, keep the names of them as short as possible to save your users’ time while they scan the footer looking for the one that they want.
Your homepage web content is most likely the most important web content on your site. Naturally it is the part of the site that you should spend the most time on. A good exercise is to determine the calls of action that you most want to direct users to, such as:
- buy a product
- contact you with questions/complains
- sign up to a mailing list
- follow you on facebook/twitter/pinterest
- read your content
Once you have written them down, put them in the order of most to least important. Now take the first one. That is what should be the first thing on your homepage. All the others must fit around it, whether in navigation bars, sidebars, headers, footers or in a different part of the main content area.
Too often homepages look like a junkyard, with every possible action to be found there, and complete confusion as to where you intended journey through the site is meant to be.
Look at your homepage and see if you can simplify it. Make the most important thing that visitors can do clear to both them and to you. Other things should be findable and placed where people would expect them to be.
You may end up with something very different and very fresh.
Paul Kimmage interview with Floyd Landis on NY Velocity.
In 2010 the journalist Paul Kimmage interviewed the former pro cyclist Floyd Landis for a newspaper article. Landis won the 2006 Tour de France before having his title stripped for a doping offence. Coming from a Mennonite background and having been almost completely ostracised from the sport, Landis is an unusual character in comparison to most cyclists.
Kimmage read through the transcript of his 7 hour conversation with Landis and decided there was more to it than he could cover in a single newspaper article. A couple of months later the full, 31,000 word transcript was published on nyvelocity.com, an act which would not have been plausible offline.
The interview quickly gained attention and led directly to multiple lawsuits which divided and galvanised cycling fans. The topic of doping is discussed at length in the interview and revelations would dominate the sport since.
Only online could you publish such a document and see it spread so quickly. It was an inspired and brave decision to do so and shows how not all content decisions can be made by referring to guidelines or usual practice.
Don’t be afraid to take risks with your own content and to test what happens when you do something unexpected.
Ok, my name is James and I work at company.com. My email address is email@example.com.
How do I best write that?
That’s it. That’s how you write an email address. Post done.
But wait, how do people mess it up?
I follow on from my last post with a few more ideas on creating an appropriate content tone for your online writing.
Know what you want to say
Everything that you write must be in service of a point, whether that is to educate or persuade. Know where you must end up before you start. Sketch an outline before you start and it will be easier to stay on track.
Illustrate with stories
Instead of writing about what customers want, illustrate it with a story or two. Just make sure that the stories have something compelling to them. “John was a first-time customer who bought X product and was happy with it.” isn’t much of a story. There needs to be a twist or a reveal. “John bought X from us and returned 2 months later to buy the same for his wife – he said X had been invaluable to him during the coldest December in a generation when his family got snowed in for three days.” gives the reader a lot more information.
Call to action
Whatever it is, whether it’s a purchase or an email signup, carefully lead up to it and don’t be shy about doing so. You are writing for a reason and this is it.
Content tone needs to be crafted
It is not something that happens on its own or is a byproduct of writing. You need to craft it and practice it in order to get it right. Don’t neglect it.
To truly be successful, your content writing needs to be consistent and have an identifiable voice. For example, I don’t want my writing to be lifeless or a chore for the reader. I would prefer it to be almost anything else than boring. I would prefer it to be arrogant or obnoxious (obnoxious is when something is unpleasant – don’t worry, I’ll keep the long words to a minimum for you) than boring.
3 tips to bring your writing to life
Here are some ways to batter your writing back into life.
If you use jargon you do two things: you limit yourself to those people who already know the terms that you are using and you identify yourself as someone who uses jargon. Keep it to an absolute minimum. Rewrite passages if you find yourself constantly referring to the same terms over and over again.
Many inexperienced writers don’t have the confidence to try and be funny using the written word and also make the mistake of thinking that writing is divided strictly into comedy and non-comedy. But most pieces, like life, can be funny sometimes and not other times. That’s fine. Though do be careful to keep the YOLOs to a minimum in your critique of the war photography exhibition you are reviewing.
Be confident whether you feel you should be or not. You have a voice that nobody else has, so write something that nobody else could. Don’t hide yourself in dull writing because you think that ordinary is the best that you can aim for. Write and rewrite until what is on the screen reflects clearly what you are thinking.