The SpoolCast with Jared Spool

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Episode #78 The Web as a Conversation

August 21, 2009  ·  45 minutes

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Ginny Redish joins us to discuss why the web should act like a telephone conversation between you and your customers.

Show Notes

One of my favorite people to speak with about the state of content on the web is Ginny Redish. She's one of those people who cuts to the point so decisively that you're left asking yourself… "why didn't I think of that?"

Ginny has made her career by helping organizations engage their users with captivating content. I had a chance to speak with her regarding what she's up to and what she plans to talk about at our upcoming User Interface Conference and I was not disappointed.

Ginny is using a new analogy in her workshops. Navigation and search, design, and technology are the three legs of a stool. In the stool sits the content: what your visitors are coming for. Why do we spend all of our time building the stool, then all-but ignore what the stool is built to support? It's like putting a beautiful front door on your house, and having nothing inside!

Another analogy Ginny shared was "the web as a telephone." You've put all this stuff up on the web so people won't have to call you and ask for information. But if you don't give it to them in that conversational, informative manner… they're going to call you up anyhow! People come to your web site to answer the questions they have about your organization or your products. Have a conversation with your customers though your web site's content just as you would have through the telephone.

You can create significant savings for your organization by writing your content as a conversation. Ginny regularly travels the country to work with organizations and their content. After one of her clients re-wrote their site's content following the techniques in her book, her client told her they were able to reduce the number of people staffing the phones by three full-time positions!

One way to avoid success is through FAQs. Ginny says if you have FAQs on your site, that's a sure-fire sign that the site content covering that topic has failed. If you're receiving questions frequently, that means it's time to update your site content because either the content is missing or isn't findable by your customers. Remember, each topic should be a complete conversation with your customer.

Ginny has found that writing toward personas can help produce this successful form of content creation. Of course the next step after writing is to test the content with your customers to see if it indeed answers their questions. But there's an important next step, especially if you're a larger organization. You must work cross-silos to make sure different departments are not having contradictory conversations with the same customers. You also have to ensure that all the information on your site is current. If one department updates data, they all must still agree!

There was so much more in our conversation, so please tune in to the podcast for more inspirational ideas to get your site's content fully tuned up.

Ginny will be presenting Planning & Writing Web Content that Works, Content as Conversations at the User Interface 14 Conference this fall in Boston. Clearly, it's not one to miss.

What stumbling blocks are you hitting with your organization's content? Let's discuss in the comments.