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In housing your content team the Ah Um way

Some businesses use agencies, some freelancers, others their own in-house agencies to get their content done. While they can all be great ways to ensure your creative content is delivered – we reckon we’ve developed a better one.

The great resignation, quiet quitting, skills shortages, in-housing nightmares… all phrases that have become increasingly common when talking about the workplace. There’s no denying that hybrid ways of working have changed the business landscape – and now, more than ever, businesses are looking at ways to optimise how they create content. But what is the best way to get great content?

The traditional options

Agencies

External agencies bring an outside perspective, and the potential to see creative and marketing opportunities that may have otherwise been missed. However, they’re also known for working in pretty rigid models and working in silo to your internal teams with account managers blocking access – missing possibilities for collaboration.

In-house teams

With your delivery team in-house you can realise the benefits of having your content created by a team who are already experts in your company and its culture, as well as having more creative and financial control over outputs. However, sometimes being part of the furniture can mean resource is not put to good use, creativity can get stale and the breadth of experience within the team can be limited.

Freelancers

Using freelance resource can be ideal for plugging some skills gaps, but they don’t come with out their own issues. Freelancers often don’t tend to, or want to, work as a part of a collaborative team, which can make managing wider projects where freelancers are involved more difficult. Plus there are added admin implications such as IR35 compliance and general management of disparate freelancers.

Recruiters

Recruiters can be a good option to help you find the resource you need for a particular project – but that’s kind of all they do. They aren’t content specialists, they focus on individuals rather than teams and don’t manage the people they put in your teams – so if it doesn’t work out you’re back to square one.

The Ah Um option

We’ve taken the best bits of in-house teams, freelancers, external agencies and recruiters and designed a way of creating content that delivers everything you need, in the most flexible, efficient way possible.


How do we do this? We build, embed and run the creative teams you need for your projects directly within your business, for the time you need them. So you can…

  • Get flexibility – onboard and stand down teams on a project-by-project basis, a bit like how an in-house team would work

  • Access top talent – get the benefits of an external agency in terms of having the best, most enthusiastic writers, strategists and creatives making content for you

  • Keep costs on track – our model means you can actually resource your teams efficiently without the overheads of recruiters, full-time staff or using freelancers

  • Realise top-level outputs – embedding a creative team for a particular project means you can achieve the outputs you need without letting other internal projects slip, and without increasing headcount, and long-term costs

  • Mitigate risk – increase the creative capabilities of your existing teams without taking on additional risk or admin – we’ll deal with any personnel absence/changes/issues so you don’t have to

So, you could say we’re like an external agency in structure and experience, but we deliver more like an integrated, in-house team. Our teams take the time to get really involved in your project, understanding the nitty gritty of your product and business, no matter how technical and work with you to get it right, while bringing the fresh eyes and outside perspective needed to make your comms and content strategy fresh, accessible and exciting for your audience.

Read now
3
min read
Articles
Content Strategy & Writing
C-Suite Tech Survey: How decision makers and decision shapers in tech, AI and analytics consume content

What makes content engaging for a B2B audience? It’s a question that we’ve been pondering, so we put it to leaders in tech, AI and analytics and now we’ve written a report on our findings. It isn’t quite ready to go, but we wanted to tell you a bit about our key finds ahead of its release. We’ve discovered three key criteria behind successful B2B content marketing strategies that target this audience.

The background

We’ve spoken to over 250 senior leaders working in the tech, AI and analytics sector to help us understand the factors that shape high-value, group-based buying decisions, and the role that content plays in this decision-making journey.

The respondents are divided into two groups: decision-makers and decision-shapers. Decision-makers are those who are ultimately responsible for choosing new technologies to invest in, while decision-shapers are those who research technologies and consult on decisions, but who do not hold ultimate responsibility for taking investment decisions.

Our conversations have highlighted a factor which is often overlooked in content marketing strategies — content often targets decision-makers, when in reality their decisions are made with input from multiple parties.

So how can we make sure that content is made to engage with these leaders? Turns out that to achieve this goal, content must be visual, varied and valuable.

Visual

The first interaction with a potential customer is vital, especially when competing for attention with a range of other content. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, so an eye-catching graphic is a key consideration.

Trust is also fundamental when trying to connect with decision-makers. Leaders might be short on time, but they need to be able to trust that the content they’re consuming is well-researched, so make sure not to lose the substance of your content when you’re creating the visuals. Attention to detail is just as important.

Varied

Our report found that decision-makers and decision-shapers consume content differently, with decision-shapers preferring to look at a company’s website, while decision-shapers are most likely to find B2B content through social media.

This highlights the necessity of a varied content marketing strategy. To have the greatest impact on the decision-making process, companies must target these leaders with diversified content across their website and social platforms.

Valuable

The visuals might draw your audiences’ attention, but adding value will help you keep it. Leaders were unequivocal in their answers: content needs to be useful to them in their jobs if they’re to keep reading.

So what would be the best format for this content? Leaders voted for videos as their most popular format, closely followed by infographics. While these should be staples in any content strategy, we were still intrigued to find that we mustn’t overlook the importance of printed material. 67% of decision-makers said that they regularly read printed magazines, and 60% of leaders read all of the materials provided at industry conferences.

Putting the pieces together

The results are in — visual, varied and valuable content will draw and retain the attention of leaders, and therefore has the potential to influence buying decisions. Beyond that, we’ve also been reminded how important it is to choose your format and channels with care, as these factors will determine which buyers you are able to reach. But that’s not the extent of it! Look out for the full report to get even more lowdown on how to create engaging content that hits the right target.

Read now
3
min read
Report
Three tips for better brainstorming

⏰prep time: 10 mins
⚡brainstorming time: 90 mins
🚀suitable for: 1–20 people

It’s easy to be overwhelmed when you’re asked to create something new, or fix a problem that seems unfixable. Having a deadline to meet can contribute to this sense of impending doom, stopping you in your tracks before you’ve even started. At this point, scrolling through social media for pictures of cute puppies or your favourite Star Wars memes (we don’t judge) can seem like a great idea, and no wonder.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you’re a world-famous creative or a complete novice, everyone will get stuck with this feeling at some point. And that’s okay. In a world of easy distractions, reaching that flow state where you’re immersed in your work is a challenge. Whether it’s those emails you’ve let build up or those chores around the house that you’re avoiding, there’s always something else that you can be doing.

With all that in mind, we’ve come up with some brainstorming tips that will help get you over this hurdle and on your way to coming up with fresh ideas.

Be the architect of your environment 🎨

“Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behaviour”
James Clear, Atomic Habits.

Our ability to be creative is affected by the space that we find ourselves in. Knowing this is an important first step, as we can craft our environment to help us be more productive. For example, if you surround yourself with books, you’re much more likely to pick one up and read for a while. What’s even more important is what you don’t have around you.

John Cleese described the ideal of an oasis, where your mind is free from the distractions and obligations of everyday life. So find a space where you can put your phone and your laptop away (or at least turn off your notifications) and make sure that you have everything you need to jot down your thoughts.

Once you’ve done this, try to use this space for problem solving or forming ideas, not just once but every time. Over time, your brain will come to associate this space with creative thinking (the sciencey word for this is neuroplasticity, which is pretty cool).

Identify the root causes of your problem 👀

Start your 90 minute timer now (any more than that and our brains get a bit frazzled).

First, take some time to really think about the problem that you’re trying to solve. The idea here is to dig into the causes and effects of your problem. You might think that it’s a step back from the actual doing, but it makes the difference between a good idea and a great idea.

For example, let’s say you’re writing an essay. First, you’ll want to identify the components of the question you’re trying to answer. What are the key themes? What evidence do you have? What has already been said on this topic? Asking these questions will help you when you structure your argument later on.

The same idea applies to a whole range of problems that you might face. By unpicking the details of the problem, you can identify the root causes, and you’ll have the insight you need to explore effective solutions.

Here’s how we can visualise it:

Get your brain into open mode⚡

Okay, now it’s show time. In order to brainstorm effectively, you need to be open minded and imaginative. Don’t build on your ideas as this will slow you down (and you’ll have time to do that later!).

Our favourite way to get into the open mode is to think of a number of ideas to come up with. It doesn’t matter how many, but it should be enough to scare you a bit. As an example, list 1–20 on your page and try to fill each spot. Don’t worry about how good they are, just get as many down as possible.

If you start to lose the flow, try writing down the worst possible solution, or the exact opposite of what you need. It’s a fun thought experiment which can help get those ideas flowing again. Plan in your schedule when you need to pick a solution — leaving it to the last minute is actually a good thing in this case.

Remember, don’t be afraid to be silly. Humour can lead to you having more fun creating ideas which can lead to more creative solutions.

By the end of this exercise you should have a list of stupid ideas, generic ideas, ambitious ideas and some really great ideas.

Some other brainstorming techniques to try🖊️

There’s a range of different brainstorming techniques out there. You’ll find some more useful than others based on whether you’re doing it alone or in a group, and what your brainstorming is trying to accomplish.

Brainwriting

You’ll find this method particularly useful if you’re brainstorming in a large group. Each team member should write their ideas down on sticky notes without sharing until the end. Brainwriting allows everyone to contribute and prevents personality bias from creeping in.

Mindmapping

Mindmaps are a fun and creative way to get ideas down on a page. Start with a blank piece of paper and write your subject in the middle. From there, add your thoughts as branches from that centre point until you can’t think of any more. Mindmapping helps you connect various ideas and can make for an inspiring visual.

Now you’re set! You can start to develop your favourite ideas.

But don’t throw the others away, keep them or take a photo just incase that ultra stupid idea you thought would never work turns out to be the best!

Read now
5
min read
Content Strategy & Writing
UX & Design Thinking

Recent posts

Brighton SEO as a non-SEO expert

As a copywriter with little experience of the SEO world, I didn’t know what to expect when I made the short trip down to Brighton earlier this month. The outcome? I learned some useful tips and tricks to improve content and search rankings (even if the talk on Google Analytics 4 went way over my head!)

Person on a stage giving a presentation to a crowd of people

A trip to the seaside it may have been, but we didn’t spend the whole two days on the beach (despite having to fend off some seagulls that had some serious croissant-envy). There were a range of speakers tackling all sorts of topics, and here are five points which really stood out to me.

Accessibility is a must

If your content is not accessible, a significant amount of people will not be able to engage with your products or services. There are many things you can do to improve accessibility, and platforms will rank your content more favourably. Here’s a quick checklist that I’m aiming to stick to from now on:

  • Include strong text colour contrasts when using multiple colours in designs
  • Use clean fonts and avoid funky text like italics
  • Use emojis sparingly
  • Punctuate your hashtags e.g. #BrightonSEO instead of #brightonseo
  • Keep background noise to a minimum in video
  • Include transcripts for audio content
  • Upload live and scheduled video with closed captions or subtitles

Avoid creating the same boring, self-centred content

Obvious, right? Yet too often content falls into this same pitfall. If you don’t engage with your audience, you can’t expect to know what it is they want to see, and you risk creating an echo chamber. Instead, share your own values and voice, but don’t forget to regularly ask your audience questions.

One thing you should always practise is to reply to every person that engages with your content individually rather than template your responses. This shows that you’re really listening, and it’s something that I’ll be keeping in mind as the Ah Um following grows across our social media.

Brand is everything

Another point where you might say ‘well, I knew that!’. But if the brand is everything, then it must be everywhere. Think of Beyoncé (there were more Beyoncé references throughout the conference than you would’ve guessed). One of the reasons she’s become what she is is due to the fact that she’s involved in films, politics, charities, ecommerce, business and more. Everywhere you might expect to see her or engage with her content, there she is.

The same idea applies to small businesses. A successful omnichannel strategy will turn your website into your brand HQ, which will see more traffic as a result of exposure through different mediums. That’s when technical SEO can add value, producing the speed, fluidity and connectivity that ensures smooth user experiences and better conversion rate optimisation.

Use white space effectively

The designers in the room may have already mastered this art, but white space is a useful and often underutilised tool that can simplify your designs and guide your audiences’ eyes where you want them to go. This talk made me think about how I can apply this concept when I’m writing for design: less is often more.

Influencer marketing might be what you’re missing

If you haven’t considered implementing influencer marketing, now is the time. User-generated content adds an authentic feel to your brand, and reaching out to influencers can result in high-quality, repurpose-worthy content that you can share through multiple channels.

The key to success lies in the metrics. Once you’ve vetted your influencers and started posting their content, keep an eye on your online visibility, domain authority, links and keyword ranking. Tools such as Google Analytics, Semrush and Buzzsumo can give you a useful insight into what’s working and what isn’t. More importantly, influencer marketing can be used to improve your awareness, reach and reputation.

Read now
3
min read

As a copywriter with little experience of the SEO world, I didn’t know what to expect when I made the short trip down to Brighton earlier this month. The outcome? I learned some useful tips and tricks to improve content and search rankings (even if the talk on Google Analytics 4 went way over my head!)

Person on a stage giving a presentation to a crowd of people

A trip to the seaside it may have been, but we didn’t spend the whole two days on the beach (despite having to fend off some seagulls that had some serious croissant-envy). There were a range of speakers tackling all sorts of topics, and here are five points which really stood out to me.

Accessibility is a must

If your content is not accessible, a significant amount of people will not be able to engage with your products or services. There are many things you can do to improve accessibility, and platforms will rank your content more favourably. Here’s a quick checklist that I’m aiming to stick to from now on:

  • Include strong text colour contrasts when using multiple colours in designs
  • Use clean fonts and avoid funky text like italics
  • Use emojis sparingly
  • Punctuate your hashtags e.g. #BrightonSEO instead of #brightonseo
  • Keep background noise to a minimum in video
  • Include transcripts for audio content
  • Upload live and scheduled video with closed captions or subtitles

Avoid creating the same boring, self-centred content

Obvious, right? Yet too often content falls into this same pitfall. If you don’t engage with your audience, you can’t expect to know what it is they want to see, and you risk creating an echo chamber. Instead, share your own values and voice, but don’t forget to regularly ask your audience questions.

One thing you should always practise is to reply to every person that engages with your content individually rather than template your responses. This shows that you’re really listening, and it’s something that I’ll be keeping in mind as the Ah Um following grows across our social media.

Brand is everything

Another point where you might say ‘well, I knew that!’. But if the brand is everything, then it must be everywhere. Think of Beyoncé (there were more Beyoncé references throughout the conference than you would’ve guessed). One of the reasons she’s become what she is is due to the fact that she’s involved in films, politics, charities, ecommerce, business and more. Everywhere you might expect to see her or engage with her content, there she is.

The same idea applies to small businesses. A successful omnichannel strategy will turn your website into your brand HQ, which will see more traffic as a result of exposure through different mediums. That’s when technical SEO can add value, producing the speed, fluidity and connectivity that ensures smooth user experiences and better conversion rate optimisation.

Use white space effectively

The designers in the room may have already mastered this art, but white space is a useful and often underutilised tool that can simplify your designs and guide your audiences’ eyes where you want them to go. This talk made me think about how I can apply this concept when I’m writing for design: less is often more.

Influencer marketing might be what you’re missing

If you haven’t considered implementing influencer marketing, now is the time. User-generated content adds an authentic feel to your brand, and reaching out to influencers can result in high-quality, repurpose-worthy content that you can share through multiple channels.

The key to success lies in the metrics. Once you’ve vetted your influencers and started posting their content, keep an eye on your online visibility, domain authority, links and keyword ranking. Tools such as Google Analytics, Semrush and Buzzsumo can give you a useful insight into what’s working and what isn’t. More importantly, influencer marketing can be used to improve your awareness, reach and reputation.

The Inside Track: my top five learnings from Oliver’s in-housing event

We were lucky enough to go to Oliver’s in-house and future marketing event, The Inside Track, in Shoreditch, London. We got some great insights into how brands are diving headfirst into digital transformation, streamlining and supercharging internal marketing ecosystems and planning for growth in an increasingly cost-conscious landscape.

Spread over two days — one in New York, one in London — The Inside Track had a wealth of interesting talks, engaging speakers and top tips for how to find advantage and opportunity in the rapidly evolving marketing landscape.

My top five takeaways

1. ‘Companies that integrate creativity, analytics, and purpose are delivering at least two times the growth of their peers.’

Brands must harness the strengths of all three elements in their marketing because analytics are much more powerful when realised through innovative creative ideas. Analytics and creative also resonate more deeply with customers if they’re connected to purpose.

2. In-house solutions drive growth and accelerate efficiency

Using a mix of in-house experts and embedded teams allows brands to adapt at pace. By not relying on the limitations of fully in-house teams or fully external agencies, brands have the ability to draw on a broad range of talent blended with detailed product knowledge to achieve things that wouldn’t be possible using traditional models.

3. Web3 is a thing and it’s presenting great opportunities

Web3 will be the platform on which the future of the world wide web will exist. It’s decentralized — so no one company will control it, and it’s interoperable — so you can switch from platform to platform with ease. It’s not entirely clear where it will go yet but it’s going to offer brands loads of opportunities to experiment and develop — so keep on top of it!

4. Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are more important to customers than ever before

Diversity in your workforce leads to better, more rounded work as you can learn from and challenge each other. And clients know that. When recruiting, always look for cultural add, not cultural fit.

5. Where has all the talent gone?

It’s projected that 50% of the industry could be freelancing within the next decade. What does this mean? Traditional agencies won’t have the best talent anymore — the most creative teams will be built especially to work in-house and on-demand for specific projects.

Read now
2
min read

We were lucky enough to go to Oliver’s in-house and future marketing event, The Inside Track, in Shoreditch, London. We got some great insights into how brands are diving headfirst into digital transformation, streamlining and supercharging internal marketing ecosystems and planning for growth in an increasingly cost-conscious landscape.

Spread over two days — one in New York, one in London — The Inside Track had a wealth of interesting talks, engaging speakers and top tips for how to find advantage and opportunity in the rapidly evolving marketing landscape.

My top five takeaways

1. ‘Companies that integrate creativity, analytics, and purpose are delivering at least two times the growth of their peers.’

Brands must harness the strengths of all three elements in their marketing because analytics are much more powerful when realised through innovative creative ideas. Analytics and creative also resonate more deeply with customers if they’re connected to purpose.

2. In-house solutions drive growth and accelerate efficiency

Using a mix of in-house experts and embedded teams allows brands to adapt at pace. By not relying on the limitations of fully in-house teams or fully external agencies, brands have the ability to draw on a broad range of talent blended with detailed product knowledge to achieve things that wouldn’t be possible using traditional models.

3. Web3 is a thing and it’s presenting great opportunities

Web3 will be the platform on which the future of the world wide web will exist. It’s decentralized — so no one company will control it, and it’s interoperable — so you can switch from platform to platform with ease. It’s not entirely clear where it will go yet but it’s going to offer brands loads of opportunities to experiment and develop — so keep on top of it!

4. Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are more important to customers than ever before

Diversity in your workforce leads to better, more rounded work as you can learn from and challenge each other. And clients know that. When recruiting, always look for cultural add, not cultural fit.

5. Where has all the talent gone?

It’s projected that 50% of the industry could be freelancing within the next decade. What does this mean? Traditional agencies won’t have the best talent anymore — the most creative teams will be built especially to work in-house and on-demand for specific projects.

Designing accessibility as a habit, not an afterthought

Accessibility is a vital aspect of successful web design, yet too often we see that it is implemented late in the process, or sometimes not at all. To ensure inclusive user experiences, accessibility must become a habit throughout design.

Why is accessibility important?

Inclusive and accessible web design is an ethical consideration and legal requirement, yet 97% of the world’s top one million websites don’t offer full accessibility.

The vast majority of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) failures on these homepages fell into categories such as low contrast text, missing alt text, empty links, missing form labels, empty buttons, and missing document language, with 96.5% of all detected errors falling into these categories. Addressing these issues alone would significantly improve accessibility across the web.

Forgetting to design for accessibility means that you are potentially failing to meet the needs of 15% of your target audience (WHO 2021). Implementing best-practices from the start ensures that all of your users are able to have a good experience.

How to apply accessibility throughout your work

Designing for a range of user needs can be a complex process, and there’s always room to improve. Here are three points to consider:

Keep learning

There are hundreds of resources available which contain all sorts of information to help you learn more about designing for accessibility. To start, you can read articles that people have created on the subject, especially if there is an article on the niche you are designing within.

Another way to learn is to see what has been done before. Run an accessibility checker on your competitors’ websites. If they’ve done well, look closer at what they’ve done. Look at what other large companies are doing, look at where they’ve failed, and where they have succeeded.

You can also run a chrome add-on, such as Funkify (which has a 4 day free trial) or Silktide (free), which simulates sight disabilities such as dyslexia, colour blindness, blurred vision, and partial vision loss. You’ll be surprised by the difference it makes.

Check it often

Run an accessibility check every week, month, or quarter (depending on how often it changes on your website), or if you are particularly on it you can run an accessibility check every time you make a major or structural change to the website you are designing.

Similarly, whenever you use a new background colour or new text colour, check the colours you want to use against the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. There are tools available online that will let you enter your hex codes and let you know if they are A, AA, or AAA compatible. Accessible web’s colour contrast checker is useful, and you can find others easily through google.

Make it easy for yourself

You’ll find it easier to design for accessibility if you embed it within the small actions that you take. For example, If you have a word template for article drafts and a section for images, add in a space for the alt text right next to the images. Then whenever you add in an image, add in the alt text. If you have a template you need to use, add in the accessibility reminders where appropriate. Before too long, these steps will become instinctual.

Still not sure where to start?

You can read WCAG 2.1 for more guidance on how to design for accessibility. Don’t forget to check all three levels, sometimes the difference between A, AA, and AAA is very small, making it worth jumping straight to the AAA guidance. If reading through documents isn’t for you, there are some simplified versions out there which help to break down what you should be doing to improve the accessibility of your website.

You can also run an accessibility check on your website to figure out what to improve next. A great chrome add-on tool to use is WAVE, which is powered by WebAIM. When run, it has a colour contrast checker and looks for any structural accessibility issues on the webpage it is checking.

Read now
3
min read

Accessibility is a vital aspect of successful web design, yet too often we see that it is implemented late in the process, or sometimes not at all. To ensure inclusive user experiences, accessibility must become a habit throughout design.

Why is accessibility important?

Inclusive and accessible web design is an ethical consideration and legal requirement, yet 97% of the world’s top one million websites don’t offer full accessibility.

The vast majority of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) failures on these homepages fell into categories such as low contrast text, missing alt text, empty links, missing form labels, empty buttons, and missing document language, with 96.5% of all detected errors falling into these categories. Addressing these issues alone would significantly improve accessibility across the web.

Forgetting to design for accessibility means that you are potentially failing to meet the needs of 15% of your target audience (WHO 2021). Implementing best-practices from the start ensures that all of your users are able to have a good experience.

How to apply accessibility throughout your work

Designing for a range of user needs can be a complex process, and there’s always room to improve. Here are three points to consider:

Keep learning

There are hundreds of resources available which contain all sorts of information to help you learn more about designing for accessibility. To start, you can read articles that people have created on the subject, especially if there is an article on the niche you are designing within.

Another way to learn is to see what has been done before. Run an accessibility checker on your competitors’ websites. If they’ve done well, look closer at what they’ve done. Look at what other large companies are doing, look at where they’ve failed, and where they have succeeded.

You can also run a chrome add-on, such as Funkify (which has a 4 day free trial) or Silktide (free), which simulates sight disabilities such as dyslexia, colour blindness, blurred vision, and partial vision loss. You’ll be surprised by the difference it makes.

Check it often

Run an accessibility check every week, month, or quarter (depending on how often it changes on your website), or if you are particularly on it you can run an accessibility check every time you make a major or structural change to the website you are designing.

Similarly, whenever you use a new background colour or new text colour, check the colours you want to use against the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. There are tools available online that will let you enter your hex codes and let you know if they are A, AA, or AAA compatible. Accessible web’s colour contrast checker is useful, and you can find others easily through google.

Make it easy for yourself

You’ll find it easier to design for accessibility if you embed it within the small actions that you take. For example, If you have a word template for article drafts and a section for images, add in a space for the alt text right next to the images. Then whenever you add in an image, add in the alt text. If you have a template you need to use, add in the accessibility reminders where appropriate. Before too long, these steps will become instinctual.

Still not sure where to start?

You can read WCAG 2.1 for more guidance on how to design for accessibility. Don’t forget to check all three levels, sometimes the difference between A, AA, and AAA is very small, making it worth jumping straight to the AAA guidance. If reading through documents isn’t for you, there are some simplified versions out there which help to break down what you should be doing to improve the accessibility of your website.

You can also run an accessibility check on your website to figure out what to improve next. A great chrome add-on tool to use is WAVE, which is powered by WebAIM. When run, it has a colour contrast checker and looks for any structural accessibility issues on the webpage it is checking.

Why are agencies so keen to understand everything about your business?

Getting intimate with your business’s offering, audience, pain points and goals is critical for your agency to create content strategies that work and deliver content that will make a difference.

Laying strong foundations 💪

You might have made hundreds of successful content strategies before, but that doesn’t mean you can skip out laying the groundwork for the next one. Every great content strategy relies on knowing and understanding four important things:

  1. Your goals 🎯
  2. Your purpose ☝️
  3. Your target audience 👥
  4. The competitive landscape 🏆

What’s the big deal? 💁

Now, you might think that you can tell your agency these things in an email, or use your one hour kick-off meeting to flesh out these points.

But to deliver content strategy which is truly tailored to your business and destined to make a difference, your strategic creative team will want to take a deep dive into each one to make sure they really understand these four elements.

1. Understanding your goals 🎯

To create a strategy which will get you where you want to be, your content agency will need to fully understand what you want to achieve from a new strategy.

This will include knowing what triggered you to look for help in the first place, what your wider business goals are to understand how content fits into the bigger picture, and what results you expect to see from a new strategy.

2. Understanding your purpose ☝️

What you do and why you do it is going to be hugely important to your content strategy.

That’s why your agency will put the time and effort into really knowing your product and services. This might be done through extensive research, interviews or workshops, but however they go about it, they’ll want to understand what makes you great and what sets you apart from the competition.

3. Understanding your target audience 👥

Knowing your target audience, their challenges and how your product or services address these is essential to make sure your messaging resonates with them.

One of the most effective ways to understand your target audience is for your strategists to work with you to create audience personas. This will help them to identify what kind of communications they respond to, how they engage with content — looking at the best platforms and channels to use — and what makes them convert.

4. The competitive landscape 🏆

What your competitors are up to and how they are perceived in the market will arm your creative teams with an insight into what works in your industry, who they’re up against and help them understand how they can draw out your USPs to really make a difference.

That’s the long and short of it 🖐️

Armed with all this in-depth information, your content agency will be in a position to confidently and creatively explore content strategy for you, developing a plan that is bound for success.

But what if there were more… 👀

We believe in the power of knowing our clients so well and so intimately that one of our favourite services we offer is our on-demand studio model.

If you have a content strategy or project that you need created, implemented, advanced, or anything else at all, we put together a team of really great creatives and strategists and embed them into your team.

From this position they work directly with you, learning the ways of your business and the needs of your project — to the extent that they feel like a natural extension of your team.

And, as a result, they’re able to help you create really exceptional content efficiently and cost-effectively. It’s proven to be a great way of working and we really enjoy it.

Read now
3
min read

Getting intimate with your business’s offering, audience, pain points and goals is critical for your agency to create content strategies that work and deliver content that will make a difference.

Laying strong foundations 💪

You might have made hundreds of successful content strategies before, but that doesn’t mean you can skip out laying the groundwork for the next one. Every great content strategy relies on knowing and understanding four important things:

  1. Your goals 🎯
  2. Your purpose ☝️
  3. Your target audience 👥
  4. The competitive landscape 🏆

What’s the big deal? 💁

Now, you might think that you can tell your agency these things in an email, or use your one hour kick-off meeting to flesh out these points.

But to deliver content strategy which is truly tailored to your business and destined to make a difference, your strategic creative team will want to take a deep dive into each one to make sure they really understand these four elements.

1. Understanding your goals 🎯

To create a strategy which will get you where you want to be, your content agency will need to fully understand what you want to achieve from a new strategy.

This will include knowing what triggered you to look for help in the first place, what your wider business goals are to understand how content fits into the bigger picture, and what results you expect to see from a new strategy.

2. Understanding your purpose ☝️

What you do and why you do it is going to be hugely important to your content strategy.

That’s why your agency will put the time and effort into really knowing your product and services. This might be done through extensive research, interviews or workshops, but however they go about it, they’ll want to understand what makes you great and what sets you apart from the competition.

3. Understanding your target audience 👥

Knowing your target audience, their challenges and how your product or services address these is essential to make sure your messaging resonates with them.

One of the most effective ways to understand your target audience is for your strategists to work with you to create audience personas. This will help them to identify what kind of communications they respond to, how they engage with content — looking at the best platforms and channels to use — and what makes them convert.

4. The competitive landscape 🏆

What your competitors are up to and how they are perceived in the market will arm your creative teams with an insight into what works in your industry, who they’re up against and help them understand how they can draw out your USPs to really make a difference.

That’s the long and short of it 🖐️

Armed with all this in-depth information, your content agency will be in a position to confidently and creatively explore content strategy for you, developing a plan that is bound for success.

But what if there were more… 👀

We believe in the power of knowing our clients so well and so intimately that one of our favourite services we offer is our on-demand studio model.

If you have a content strategy or project that you need created, implemented, advanced, or anything else at all, we put together a team of really great creatives and strategists and embed them into your team.

From this position they work directly with you, learning the ways of your business and the needs of your project — to the extent that they feel like a natural extension of your team.

And, as a result, they’re able to help you create really exceptional content efficiently and cost-effectively. It’s proven to be a great way of working and we really enjoy it.

What you missed at UX London: part two

Following from my last post about the great time we had at UX London, we’ve put together a short list of the top five tips and tricks we’ve come away with. And, we thought we’d share them with you

The top 5 tips and tricks we learnt at UX London

1. When working with a new person, ask them about how they like to work

Find out:

  • How they prefer to receive feedback
  • When do they like to do deep work and be left alone
  • At which points do they like to ideate together
  • What has and hasn’t worked well for them when working with others in the past?

Photo of presentation slide with 6 questions to ask people you work with: 1. How do you like to work with other designers? 2. How do you prefer to receive feedback? 3. At which points do you prefer to do deep work and be left alone? 4. At which points do you feel more comfortable ideating together? 5. Have you worked with content/product designers before? 6. What worked well and what didn’t for you working with other designers in the past?
Heldiney Pereira’s slide from UX London

How we’re going to put this tip into action

As an agency that embeds ourselves into other organisations — we get stuck in and work closely with our clients — we work with new people all of the time. Finding out how each member of our new teams likes to work will allow everyone to play to their strengths and empower each other.

Tip from Heldiney Pereira.

2. Add “by monkeys” to the end of your sentences

That’s it. That’s the tip… ok, so there is a bit more to it. When you’re writing, you want to avoid using a passive voice. If a sentence makes sense when you add “by monkeys” to the end of it, then it’s in the passive voice and you’ll need to change it up a bit.

Photo of monkey typing on a computer

How we’re going to use this

While our copywriters are used to avoiding passive voice, for those of us in our team that don’t write all the time it’s an easy trap to fall into! This tip is definitely going to make it easier for me to check if I’m writing in a passive voice. If you hear me muttering “by monkeys” to myself you’ll know why!

Tip from Sophie Koonin.

3. Redesign the design process to include evaluate, forecast, and monitor

The idea behind this tip is to ensure that whatever is being designed is ethical.

Image is split into two sections. First section has the heading Intents and the stages empathise, define,and evaluate. Second section has the heading Results and the stages ideate, forecast, prototype, test, ship, and monitor.
Kat Zhou’s slide from UX London

How we’re going to use this

We’re going to embed this tip right into our design and research process. Starting from the beginning, after we’ve gone through our empathise and define stages, we’ll add in the evaluate stage and look into whether or not the problem is ethically worthy of being addressed.

After we’ve ideated on some ideas and settled on one, we’ll start to think about whether any ethical violations can occur if we implement the idea we’ve chosen. If there are, well it’s back to the ideation stage for us! We’ll “design around potential consequences” (Kat Zhou).

And finally, when the product has been released we’ll monitor it (and advocate for our clients to do the same), checking to see if any ethical issues are cropping up.

Tip from Kat Zhou.

4. Make your first draft bad.

When you’re not too precious about what you’re writing, it’s easier to put something down on paper. Suddenly you’re no longer staring into an abyss where all dreams go to die…just me? Getting something down on paper, means that you can iterate and improve what you’ve written, because you’ve got something you can improve. When the first draft is bad and less effort has been put in, you’re less invested in the work, meaning that when you get someone to check your work, you’re less likely to take their feedback to heart.

Photo of a notepad with HELP! written on it surrounded by balled up paper

How we’re going to use this

This is a great tip for non-writers who write at Ah Um. Personally, I struggle to get my creative juices flowing when I’m staring at a blank screen, having something down on paper — even if it’s bad — helps a lot.

This tip can also apply to digital design, where a bad draft can equal a quick sketch or a rough wireframe. Again, the less ‘serious’ effort put in means it’s easier to iterate, criticism is taken less to heart, and we can discover earlier on if we’re all on the same page.

Tip from Giles Turnball.

5. If you get stuck when writing, apply a ridiculous constraint.

Write exactly 57 words, ban words starting with the letter B, have it written by 14:23, or write in an unusual colour. The idea behind this tip is, I think, that you end up focusing more on the constraint and less on what you are actually writing, allowing you to get something down on paper (or screen) which can then be iterated on.

How we’re going to use this

I think this one may be fairly obvious, but when we’re writing and are stuck on what to write next, we’re going to make up a ridiculous constraint and just get writing.

Tip from Giles Turnball.

Check out What you missed at UX London: part one

Read now
5
min read

Following from my last post about the great time we had at UX London, we’ve put together a short list of the top five tips and tricks we’ve come away with. And, we thought we’d share them with you

The top 5 tips and tricks we learnt at UX London

1. When working with a new person, ask them about how they like to work

Find out:

  • How they prefer to receive feedback
  • When do they like to do deep work and be left alone
  • At which points do they like to ideate together
  • What has and hasn’t worked well for them when working with others in the past?

Photo of presentation slide with 6 questions to ask people you work with: 1. How do you like to work with other designers? 2. How do you prefer to receive feedback? 3. At which points do you prefer to do deep work and be left alone? 4. At which points do you feel more comfortable ideating together? 5. Have you worked with content/product designers before? 6. What worked well and what didn’t for you working with other designers in the past?
Heldiney Pereira’s slide from UX London

How we’re going to put this tip into action

As an agency that embeds ourselves into other organisations — we get stuck in and work closely with our clients — we work with new people all of the time. Finding out how each member of our new teams likes to work will allow everyone to play to their strengths and empower each other.

Tip from Heldiney Pereira.

2. Add “by monkeys” to the end of your sentences

That’s it. That’s the tip… ok, so there is a bit more to it. When you’re writing, you want to avoid using a passive voice. If a sentence makes sense when you add “by monkeys” to the end of it, then it’s in the passive voice and you’ll need to change it up a bit.

Photo of monkey typing on a computer

How we’re going to use this

While our copywriters are used to avoiding passive voice, for those of us in our team that don’t write all the time it’s an easy trap to fall into! This tip is definitely going to make it easier for me to check if I’m writing in a passive voice. If you hear me muttering “by monkeys” to myself you’ll know why!

Tip from Sophie Koonin.

3. Redesign the design process to include evaluate, forecast, and monitor

The idea behind this tip is to ensure that whatever is being designed is ethical.

Image is split into two sections. First section has the heading Intents and the stages empathise, define,and evaluate. Second section has the heading Results and the stages ideate, forecast, prototype, test, ship, and monitor.
Kat Zhou’s slide from UX London

How we’re going to use this

We’re going to embed this tip right into our design and research process. Starting from the beginning, after we’ve gone through our empathise and define stages, we’ll add in the evaluate stage and look into whether or not the problem is ethically worthy of being addressed.

After we’ve ideated on some ideas and settled on one, we’ll start to think about whether any ethical violations can occur if we implement the idea we’ve chosen. If there are, well it’s back to the ideation stage for us! We’ll “design around potential consequences” (Kat Zhou).

And finally, when the product has been released we’ll monitor it (and advocate for our clients to do the same), checking to see if any ethical issues are cropping up.

Tip from Kat Zhou.

4. Make your first draft bad.

When you’re not too precious about what you’re writing, it’s easier to put something down on paper. Suddenly you’re no longer staring into an abyss where all dreams go to die…just me? Getting something down on paper, means that you can iterate and improve what you’ve written, because you’ve got something you can improve. When the first draft is bad and less effort has been put in, you’re less invested in the work, meaning that when you get someone to check your work, you’re less likely to take their feedback to heart.

Photo of a notepad with HELP! written on it surrounded by balled up paper

How we’re going to use this

This is a great tip for non-writers who write at Ah Um. Personally, I struggle to get my creative juices flowing when I’m staring at a blank screen, having something down on paper — even if it’s bad — helps a lot.

This tip can also apply to digital design, where a bad draft can equal a quick sketch or a rough wireframe. Again, the less ‘serious’ effort put in means it’s easier to iterate, criticism is taken less to heart, and we can discover earlier on if we’re all on the same page.

Tip from Giles Turnball.

5. If you get stuck when writing, apply a ridiculous constraint.

Write exactly 57 words, ban words starting with the letter B, have it written by 14:23, or write in an unusual colour. The idea behind this tip is, I think, that you end up focusing more on the constraint and less on what you are actually writing, allowing you to get something down on paper (or screen) which can then be iterated on.

How we’re going to use this

I think this one may be fairly obvious, but when we’re writing and are stuck on what to write next, we’re going to make up a ridiculous constraint and just get writing.

Tip from Giles Turnball.

Check out What you missed at UX London: part one

What you missed at UX London: part one

At the end of last month we were lucky enough to go to our first in-person conference since the pandemic. UX London was hosted by Clearleft and brought together some of the industry’s most prestigious experts and UX teams from all over the world.

UX London is the first conference we’ve been to as a team, and it was great to get back into the thick of it. We met loads of interesting people and enjoyed the unbridled enthusiasm of all attendees — every day saw a mad dash for workshop tokens. Clearleft had put together a diverse and inclusive panel of speakers who spoke about — you guessed it — diverse and inclusive topics…funny how that works!

I enjoyed nearly every talk and workshop I attended over the three days, but unfortunately I can’t write about them all here. So, I’ve whittled it down to my top four highlights for this article.

The top four things I learnt at UX London

1. UX in healthcare, with Videha Sharma

Videha Sharma gave a brilliant talk on UX in healthcare and did an excellent job of ‘showing the thing’ by sharing screenshots and photos he had taken along the way. ‘Showing the thing’ is a term commonly used to remind people to show visual examples to give context to what they’re speaking about. For example, he walked us through some of the pain points of being a surgeon and showed off one of the many forms you need to fill in for a kidney transplant, as well as a data journey model to emphasise how complex the system currently is.

A photo of a slide from Video Sharma’s talk with the text “Current state” and a photo of a complicated form

Videha reminded us that we often forget about the benefits of pop-up or guerilla research, even when we have easy access to our user base. In a hospital a surgeon carrying a laptop is an unusual sight — so Videha took advantage of people’s natural curiosity and gathered opinions and feedback whenever he was stopped and questioned. Early on in the design phase, pop-up research can give us quick feedback with little time, effort, or cost required, allowing us to iterate quickly.

2. Designing with the autistic community, with Irina Rusakova

In one of my favourite talks of the conference, Irina Rusakova spoke about the importance of inclusive design, and in particular how to design for the autistic community. Her seven principles for designing for people with autism were super thought-provoking, and I reckon they’re good guidelines to follow whoever you’re designing for!

Do no more unexpected pop-ups sound good to you? Take a look at the principles yourself in this blog post.

A photo taken from Irina Rusakova’s talk of a slide with the text “Normal is diverse”

3. Service design, with Lou Downe

Lou Downe took us on a familiar journey in her talk — a journey where we don’t question things for the simple reason that no one wants to look stupid. But in protecting ourselves we risk our business, and our services, looking stupid. This struck a chord with me as someone who creates an acronym cheatsheet whenever I work with a new company. I’ve noticed that often company employees are using the very same acronyms without knowing what they stand for.

This creates a cycle of miscommunication that can hold back good service design. When we’re afraid to ask questions, people assume everyone is on the same page. When we assume everyone is on the same page, we’re afraid to ask questions because we don’t want to look stupid and so, nothing changes.

A cycle diagram with the text We don’t know something, We don’t ask questions, Everyone assumes everyone is on the same page, Nothing changes.

This leads to issues for users down the line. My takeaway was to ask questions when you don’t understand something — and remember the age old adage, there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

4. Designing for human perception, with Alastair Somerville

To round off the third and final day at UX London, I went to a workshop on designing for human perception hosted by Alastair Somerville. We had a great time trying to piece together a tactile way to get a blindfolded volunteer to ask us the question we wanted them to ask us, which was “What’s the wifi password”. We succeeded in case you were wondering — plasticine came to our rescue!

A photo taken during Alastair Somerville’s workshop of a blindfolded man trying to guess the phrase “What’s the wifi password” by feeling moulded plasticine

The story that really drove home the importance of designing for human perception for me, was one that Alastair told us about a ‘check engine’ message popping up on his dashboard when he was driving along the motorway. Could he ignore the message for now and get it checked out later? Or did he need to immediately pull onto the hard shoulder? The message caused confusion and panic because it didn’t give him any indication of what to do next. The workshop taught me how critical it is to never ‘induce emotion without providing direction for action’.

All in all, we had a great time at UX London. All of the talks were brilliant, and we came away with lots to think about. Plus, after the devastation of missing out on a Figma t-shirt on the second day, I am very pleased to announce that I snagged myself a hoodie on day three and yes, I’m still feeling pretty smug about it.

Check out part two of ‘What you missed at UX London’, where I look at some of the tips and tricks I picked up over the three days.

Read now
5
min read

At the end of last month we were lucky enough to go to our first in-person conference since the pandemic. UX London was hosted by Clearleft and brought together some of the industry’s most prestigious experts and UX teams from all over the world.

UX London is the first conference we’ve been to as a team, and it was great to get back into the thick of it. We met loads of interesting people and enjoyed the unbridled enthusiasm of all attendees — every day saw a mad dash for workshop tokens. Clearleft had put together a diverse and inclusive panel of speakers who spoke about — you guessed it — diverse and inclusive topics…funny how that works!

I enjoyed nearly every talk and workshop I attended over the three days, but unfortunately I can’t write about them all here. So, I’ve whittled it down to my top four highlights for this article.

The top four things I learnt at UX London

1. UX in healthcare, with Videha Sharma

Videha Sharma gave a brilliant talk on UX in healthcare and did an excellent job of ‘showing the thing’ by sharing screenshots and photos he had taken along the way. ‘Showing the thing’ is a term commonly used to remind people to show visual examples to give context to what they’re speaking about. For example, he walked us through some of the pain points of being a surgeon and showed off one of the many forms you need to fill in for a kidney transplant, as well as a data journey model to emphasise how complex the system currently is.

A photo of a slide from Video Sharma’s talk with the text “Current state” and a photo of a complicated form

Videha reminded us that we often forget about the benefits of pop-up or guerilla research, even when we have easy access to our user base. In a hospital a surgeon carrying a laptop is an unusual sight — so Videha took advantage of people’s natural curiosity and gathered opinions and feedback whenever he was stopped and questioned. Early on in the design phase, pop-up research can give us quick feedback with little time, effort, or cost required, allowing us to iterate quickly.

2. Designing with the autistic community, with Irina Rusakova

In one of my favourite talks of the conference, Irina Rusakova spoke about the importance of inclusive design, and in particular how to design for the autistic community. Her seven principles for designing for people with autism were super thought-provoking, and I reckon they’re good guidelines to follow whoever you’re designing for!

Do no more unexpected pop-ups sound good to you? Take a look at the principles yourself in this blog post.

A photo taken from Irina Rusakova’s talk of a slide with the text “Normal is diverse”

3. Service design, with Lou Downe

Lou Downe took us on a familiar journey in her talk — a journey where we don’t question things for the simple reason that no one wants to look stupid. But in protecting ourselves we risk our business, and our services, looking stupid. This struck a chord with me as someone who creates an acronym cheatsheet whenever I work with a new company. I’ve noticed that often company employees are using the very same acronyms without knowing what they stand for.

This creates a cycle of miscommunication that can hold back good service design. When we’re afraid to ask questions, people assume everyone is on the same page. When we assume everyone is on the same page, we’re afraid to ask questions because we don’t want to look stupid and so, nothing changes.

A cycle diagram with the text We don’t know something, We don’t ask questions, Everyone assumes everyone is on the same page, Nothing changes.

This leads to issues for users down the line. My takeaway was to ask questions when you don’t understand something — and remember the age old adage, there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

4. Designing for human perception, with Alastair Somerville

To round off the third and final day at UX London, I went to a workshop on designing for human perception hosted by Alastair Somerville. We had a great time trying to piece together a tactile way to get a blindfolded volunteer to ask us the question we wanted them to ask us, which was “What’s the wifi password”. We succeeded in case you were wondering — plasticine came to our rescue!

A photo taken during Alastair Somerville’s workshop of a blindfolded man trying to guess the phrase “What’s the wifi password” by feeling moulded plasticine

The story that really drove home the importance of designing for human perception for me, was one that Alastair told us about a ‘check engine’ message popping up on his dashboard when he was driving along the motorway. Could he ignore the message for now and get it checked out later? Or did he need to immediately pull onto the hard shoulder? The message caused confusion and panic because it didn’t give him any indication of what to do next. The workshop taught me how critical it is to never ‘induce emotion without providing direction for action’.

All in all, we had a great time at UX London. All of the talks were brilliant, and we came away with lots to think about. Plus, after the devastation of missing out on a Figma t-shirt on the second day, I am very pleased to announce that I snagged myself a hoodie on day three and yes, I’m still feeling pretty smug about it.

Check out part two of ‘What you missed at UX London’, where I look at some of the tips and tricks I picked up over the three days.