3 Content Strategy Lessons from Seattle Interactive Conference

Travis McKnight

Recently, the team from Portent attended the latest installment of Seattle Interactive Conference, a fantastic digital conference just down the block from our shiny new home office. Thousands of attendees flocked to downtown Seattle and listened to dozens of speakers share their insights about the digital marketing landscape. (Portent’s own Tim Mehta spoke at SIC about friction in UX and how it affects a user’s journey.) As with any conference, some talks were riveting and others just missed the mark. I attended 11 talks during the two-day event. Here are three content strategy insights I took away from those SIC discussions.

Emphasize Data Transparency (Multiple Speakers)

In a GDPR world, we are the product for many global companies, like Facebook, Twitter and Google. Old news to digital marketers, but still very much worth repeating. Knowing what data these companies collect about us and how it’s used is of monumental importance. Look at the Cambridge Analytica scandal as an example of how data gets abused when users are kept in the dark or mislead.c

Nathan Kinch, the author of “Designing for Trust: The Data Transparency Playbook,” says data transparency is crucial because user trust is at an all-time low. His solution is for brands to tell users exactly how they intend to access and process their data. This includes discussing who else (external companies, partners, etc.) has access to the data and what benefits users gain from this data exchange.

Among companies that do provide this transparency, many of them don’t present the information in a user-friendly fashion.

Ask yourself this question: Is any “average user” going to scroll through 15 pages of legalese that they can barely understand, let alone use in an actionable way? I highly doubt it.

Data transparency must be easy-to-digest information that involves users from the get-go. Not just checkboxes and an “I Agree” button.

So what does that interactive process look like?

If users create a new account with your brand, hold their hand and guide them through visual and interactive steps that discuss exactly what happens to their data. If at all possible, give users the option to opt out of data collection entirely. If you do give users this option, provide a caveat that teaches them what services and benefits they’re going to forfeit for withholding the data exchange. An important reminder for this step, teach your users in plain language what they’re giving up but don’t guilt-trip or shame them into giving data access.

This interactive process builds trust and allows users to create a positive connection with the brand. The opt-in, opt-out method allows users to become partners instead of just a data piggy-bank.

Unlike a bad navigation or slow website, data collection is not an in-your-face UX concern for many users. But unlike aesthetic UX snafus, if a brand misuses, loses or abuses data, users lose trust in the brand as a whole. Ultimately, user experience is all about trust, communication and ease-of-use. And data transparency is among the most important pieces of that puzzle.

Congratulate Your Users (Multiple Speakers)

Receiving a high-five feels good, right? It’s a celebration that you did a great job or achieved some task worthy of congratulations. But when is the last time a website or app gave you a high-five for visiting, making a purchase or being a returning customer?

Unfortunately, you probably don’t get to experience high-five moments online very often.
A high-five moment in UX, also known as a “delighter,” occurs whenever you provide users with a fun, congratulatory experience for completing a given task.

For example, MailChimp uses a literal high-five GIF after users send off a survey. The GIF is cute, funny, and makes the experience more fun overall.

Ultimately, high-five moments provide users with a more human experience and allows them to feel more connected to a brand, product or website.

If high-five moments are so beneficial for a user’s psyche, why don’t more websites use the tactic?

The simple answer is that properly executing a high-five moment is really damn hard. And there is no “look at their elbow” cheat in UX.

As UX Planet writes, the MailChimp high-five GIF works as a delighter because the underlying MailChimp product does a great job of fulfilling user needs. MailChimp has fine-tuned its service so it’s useful and easy to use.

The totality of product functionality and the service’s UX is what makes-or-breaks a delighter.

“In order for your delighter to have a positive effect, you must first meet or exceed the user’s basic expectations,” the UX Planet article states. “Otherwise that moment will likely add a layer of cheese on top of the original disappointment.”

There are countless examples of cheesy delighters, but one high-five moment gone horribly wrong stands atop the garbage heap: Clippy, your “favorite” helper from Microsoft Word. Clippy is obtrusive and annoying when it congratulates you for writing in a Word document. Instead of providing a helpful service or making you feel accomplished, Clippy creates aggravation and diminishes Microsoft Word as a whole.

Too often, designers and UX’ers alike focus on ensuring designs are aesthetic and practical. We forget that users love delightful experiences, too (just don’t go overboard and create something like Clippy). So the next time you’re designing or evaluating an experience, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Does this product/experience/website/etc. meet my users’ basic expectations?
  2. Do I think the product/etc. can be innovated or improved enough to provide a performance payoff?
  3. What change to the product/etc. can make the intended innovation more delightful for users? The answer becomes your “delighter.”

If numbers 1 and 2 are a “yes,” then consider how to incorporate number 3 into your design or recommendations. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a well-earned high-five?

Use Authentic, Emotional Stories to Inspire Action – Paul Norris

Storytelling is humankind’s natural form of communication. Stories teach us morality, entertain us, and even help our societies evolve. They’re also crucial components
in any marketing strategy because an excellent, authentic story compels users to satisfy whatever emotions or desires the story inspires.

So how to do you create a compelling story? The best place to start to place a modern twist on Aristotle’s classic storytelling framework.

At SIC, Paul Norris spoke about emotional storytelling in UX. Below is his modern twist on Aristotle’s formula.

  • Vision: Present your users with a scenario. Help them imagine how life is in the world.
  • Problem: Teach your users about what’s wrong in the world you’ve presented.
  • Inspiration: Show users how the problem has changed the world in this story, and give them a glimpse of hope for how these villainous circumstances can be repaired.
  • Involvement: Present users with the solution you hinted about earlier.
  • Fascination: Allude to (or show) how the world has changed or can change now that users are involved and adopting the solution.

During the presentation, Norris used this framework to explain a recent Airbnb advertisement.

As you can see, within 30 seconds the video tells a compelling story that successfully follows this formula.

Importantly, viewers are left with one defining message: travel keeps the world moving forward and you should participate. With a posteriori knowledge of Airbnb, the argument that Airbnb helps people travel is unstated but readily apparent, too.

This type of storytelling is powerful because it empowers users to see the story as aspirational and shows how they can have a positive effect in the world by getting involved and traveling.

This formula works because it triggers three distinct responses in users:

  • Inherent Response: an immediate feeling that influences your instinctual perceptions about a scenario.
  • Reflective Response: how you believe this scenario affects your life or the lives of people you care about.
  • Behavioral Response: the actions you take based on the outcome of your reflective response.

Tapping into these three responses helps guide users toward a specific behavior. It’s a stellar method to use while developing your user journey map.

If you missed SIC this year but you’d like a taste of what it was like to be in the room for a standing-room only presentation, you can watch Portent’s own Tim Mehta give his full talk on finding and fixing friction in user experience here.

Finding and Fixing Friction in User Experience - Link to Tim Mehta's SIC 2018 Video Presentation

Travis McKnight

Travis McKnight

Content Strategy Architect
Content Strategy Architect

Prior to migrating to digital marketing, Travis spent many years in the world of journalism, and his byline includes The Guardian, New York Magazine, Slate Magazine, and more. As a Content Strategy Architect at Portent, Travis gets to apply his passion for authentic storytelling to help clients create meaningful content that consistently delivers a refined experience for users.

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