Content Strategy & Web Writing

Cdg_page_foldIf I had a dollar for every time a client fretted over “the fold”—well, I wouldn’t be a millionaire, but I could certainly afford an iPhone 4S. The idea of a page fold (and the fear of it) is a widely accepted bit of conventional wisdom, but that’s changing. We want to do our part to explore the myth of the fold and explain: what it is, whether it still exists, and how much agita it should cause you and your marketing team.

What is the fold?

The fold is a term adopted from newspaper publishing, where the most important items were featured in at the top of the page, visible above the paper’s fold. In the interactive industry, the fold refers to the point at which the user needs to scroll to see content. Anything visible above that point is considered to be “above the fold”.

Where is the fold?

Some people argue pretty passionately that there is no fold. I’m going to simply concede that—unless all of your content can be consumed on any device (including mobile) without scrolling, that the fold does exist. But pinning down its precise location is harder than geo tagging the Loch Ness Monster. Sure, your web stats can help you approximate where the fold falls for a portion of your users. However, given the varieties of screen resolution, monitor size, browser usage, and devices available (computers vs. mobile devices) there is literally no way to know where the fold resides for all—or even most—of your viewers.

How important is the fold?

This is the big question. When clients express concern about the fold, what they’re really worrying about is the kernel at the center of the fold mythology, namely:

The Myth that Users Will Not Scroll

<sinister music>dum dum DUMMMM. . . </sinister music>

Now here’s a myth worth BUSTING.

Like most myths, this one has some basis in fact. Back in the day when dinosaurs roamed and we all had dial-up connections, scrolling wasn’t the easy breezy task it is today. In fact, AOL did not allow page-level vertical scrolling. Beyond that, we were all learning how to consume information on the web. So it’s true that users didn’t scroll – in 1994.

Times have changed. As early as 1997, usability guru Jakob Nielsen retracted his recommendation against scrolling pages. And many studies have proven that users do scroll, and even use the scrollbar itself to assess the page length. Yet in 2011 people still are afraid that any content below the fold is effectively invisible.

To be fair, above-the-fold content does get the most attention, and the most clicks. The problem is, when you try to cram everything above the fold, you short-circuit you’re the users’ attention with information overload. When every department in an organization is clamoring for their stake at the top of the homepage, you need to remind them:

When everything is important, nothing is important.

Should we just forget about the fold?

Yes and no. The fold does still exist, but its existence doesn’t lead to hard-and-fast rules. Instead of shoving everything into the top of the page, good designers will create an environment that keeps key items featured at the top, yet implies that there’s valuable content below. Jakob Nielsen calls this an “information scent”— the page layout, design and content should allow the user to pick up the expectation of more content and follow it down the page.

Instead of completely disregarding the fold, I propose that we call a fold truce. Stop fighting to place every little bit of content in the very limited space above the fold and trust the intelligence of your users. If you give them a reason to scroll and reward them with quality content that matches their expectation, you’re going to iron out that fold pretty darn fast.

Need help getting the wrinkles out of your site? Contact CDG.

  Gastro_logo Scan a parenting magazine and it won’t be long before you see headlines about celiac disease, reflux, GERD, and childhood obesity. Fortunately, there’s a new resource for parents and patients dealing digestive and nutritional disorders: GastroKids.org.

CDG created the site for our long-time client, The North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN). The association asked us to create a site geared to an audience parents and patients, rather than the doctors who typically visited their site.

In 2009, CDG had designed a site for NASPGHAN’s foundation, which contained a large amount of the parent and patient focused content as well as information for health care professionals. The design still held up well, as did the basic information architecture. So rather than start from scratch, we leveraged the design elements of the existing foundation and performed a “content redesign.”

We created a new logo and tagline to rebrand the site, but its essential look and feel remained the same. Meanwhile, we re-wrote and re-optimized content to focus it exclusively on the parent and patient audience. We extracted the information for medical professionals and housed it within NASPGHAN’s main site. The result: two specific destinations for two very different audiences.

We implemented the site in Zeus, CDG’s content management system, making it easy for site administrators to add, manage, and remove content (including meta content). This was a key concern for NASPGHAN, as it has plans to grow the site into an ever-more robust resource for parents and kids.

Is your website ready for a tweak, a touch-up, or a full-on redesign? Contact CDG.

  Gastro_logo Scan a parenting magazine and it won’t be long before you see headlines about celiac disease, reflux, GERD, and childhood obesity. Fortunately, there’s a new resource for parents and patients dealing digestive and nutritional disorders: GastroKids.org.

CDG created the site for our long-time client, The North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN). The association asked us to create a site geared to an audience parents and patients, rather than the doctors who typically visited their site.

In 2009, CDG had designed a site for NASPGHAN’s foundation, which contained a large amount of the parent and patient focused content as well as information for health care professionals. The design still held up well, as did the basic information architecture. So rather than start from scratch, we leveraged the design elements of the existing foundation and performed a “content redesign.”

We created a new logo and tagline to rebrand the site, but its essential look and feel remained the same. Meanwhile, we re-wrote and re-optimized content to focus it exclusively on the parent and patient audience. We extracted the information for medical professionals and housed it within NASPGHAN’s main site. The result: two specific destinations for two very different audiences.

We implemented the site in Zeus, CDG’s content management system, making it easy for site administrators to add, manage, and remove content (including meta content). This was a key concern for NASPGHAN, as it has plans to grow the site into an ever-more robust resource for parents and kids.

Is your website ready for a tweak, a touch-up, or a full-on redesign? Contact CDG.

What do you need for an effective story?

We’ve talked about why you need a story for your business and the different types of stories businesses can use in their web marketing. This week we’re talking about how to create an effective story. Once again, we’re speaking with Amy Saidman, the artistic executive director of SpeakEasy DC, an organization dedicated to teaching people how to tell better stories.

“Beginning. Middle. End,” Amy says. “It seems simple, but it’s an often overlooked component, and it’s what differentiates a story from other content. A list of service offerings doesn’t have these, so it’s not a story.”

In addition, every effective story has:

Set-up – set the scene. When and where did the action take place?

Inciting Action – what happened to our protagonist. “This should create a question for the audience,” Amy says. “They should be wondering ‘What’s going to happen?’ If there’s no question, there’s nothing to keep them interested.”

Build – the build can be up or down. “Things can get better or worse,” Amy says, “but each step should get a little better or a little worse.”

Turning Point – this is what the listener or reader has been waiting for – what’s going to happen?

Resolution – what you take away from the story – what changed? This is what provides the emotional impact for the audience. The resolution comes quickly after the turning point.

Additional items for story development

In addition to the essential components of an effective story, these items can add richness and depth to your narrative.

  • Context – where is it in time and space? Who is in it? “Any time you say ‘we always,’ that’s not a story,” Amy says.
  • Action – something has to be happening.
  • Visuals – paint a picture. “Don’t go overboard. It’s not literature, but let your reader or listener imagine the scene.”
  • Characters – you have to have at least one person.
  • Show, don’t tell – “Instead of saying ‘He was angry,’ give us his words and tell us he was waving his arms and yelling,” Amy says. “Let us see it.”
  • Meaning – what’s at stake? What’s the take away? What changed because of this experience?
  • Internal thoughts – share the characters’ thoughts and emotions. “It doesn’t matter to us unless it matters to them.”

“Putting all of these elements together,” Amy says, “can help even a large institution find an authentic human voice.”

Now you know:

It often takes several iterations before a person is happy with their story. The SpeakEasy classes are geared to allow critique after each telling and then reflection and refinement.

Next steps

  • Analyze effective stories you’ve heard and remember for the required elements. Think about the build, turning point and resolution. Which were the most satisfying for you?
  • Decide which types of stories you want to tell.
  • Start crafting your stories.

If you’d like to create your own story, SpeakEasy DC offers classes in the Washington DC area and personal coaching by telephone or Skype. Contact SpeakEasy DC for class or coaching information.

If you need assistance getting your story online, CDG can help with your content strategy, website marketing strategy or website design. Contact us for more information.

What do you need for an effective story?

We’ve talked about why you need a story for your business and the different types of stories businesses can use in their web marketing. This week we’re talking about how to create an effective story. Once again, we’re speaking with Amy Saidman, the artistic executive director of SpeakEasy DC, an organization dedicated to teaching people how to tell better stories.

“Beginning. Middle. End,” Amy says. “It seems simple, but it’s an often overlooked component, and it’s what differentiates a story from other content. A list of service offerings doesn’t have these, so it’s not a story.”

In addition, every effective story has:

Set-up – set the scene. When and where did the action take place?

Inciting Action – what happened to our protagonist. “This should create a question for the audience,” Amy says. “They should be wondering ‘What’s going to happen?’ If there’s no question, there’s nothing to keep them interested.”

Build – the build can be up or down. “Things can get better or worse,” Amy says, “but each step should get a little better or a little worse.”

Turning Point – this is what the listener or reader has been waiting for – what’s going to happen?

Resolution – what you take away from the story – what changed? This is what provides the emotional impact for the audience. The resolution comes quickly after the turning point.

Additional items for story development

In addition to the essential components of an effective story, these items can add richness and depth to your narrative.

  • Context – where is it in time and space? Who is in it? “Any time you say ‘we always,’ that’s not a story,” Amy says.
  • Action – something has to be happening.
  • Visuals – paint a picture. “Don’t go overboard. It’s not literature, but let your reader or listener imagine the scene.”
  • Characters – you have to have at least one person.
  • Show, don’t tell – “Instead of saying ‘He was angry,’ give us his words and tell us he was waving his arms and yelling,” Amy says. “Let us see it.”
  • Meaning – what’s at stake? What’s the take away? What changed because of this experience?
  • Internal thoughts – share the characters’ thoughts and emotions. “It doesn’t matter to us unless it matters to them.”

“Putting all of these elements together,” Amy says, “can help even a large institution find an authentic human voice.”

Now you know:

It often takes several iterations before a person is happy with their story. The SpeakEasy classes are geared to allow critique after each telling and then reflection and refinement.

Next steps

  • Analyze effective stories you’ve heard and remember for the required elements. Think about the build, turning point and resolution. Which were the most satisfying for you?
  • Decide which types of stories you want to tell.
  • Start crafting your stories.

If you’d like to create your own story, SpeakEasy DC offers classes in the Washington DC area and personal coaching by telephone or Skype. Contact SpeakEasy DC for class or coaching information.

If you need assistance getting your story online, CDG can help with your content strategy, website marketing strategy or website design. Contact us for more information.

Last week we talked about why you need a story for your business. Now we’re going to discuss the different types of stories your business can use and how they integrate into your web marketing. Once again, we’re talking to Amy Saidman, the artistic executive director of SpeakEasy DC, an organization dedicated to teaching people how to tell better stories.

Origin Stories

“Origin stories humanize an organization,” Amy says. “They can anchor the vision and mission statements and help clients and new staff members understand the history of the organization and how they connect to it. The best origin stories keep going – you keep adding to them.”

The About Us page of your website is a great place for an origin story – it’s much better than a dry recitation of corporate history.  At my former employer, we had to know and tell clients the story of our founder pedaling on his bike around Amsterdam and working at his desk in his house – I still remember the story, and after talking with Amy, I understand why it was an important part of making a multi-national corporation feel service oriented and personal.

Successes

“One great way to frame success stories is to tell the story of your clients’ or members’ success,” Amy says. “That way you can show your impact on their business.”

Success stories highlighting a mutually beneficial partnership are great content for a case studies page.

Challenges / Overcoming Obstacles

“Overcoming challenges can be part of an origin story,” Amy points out. “Or they often work better in presentation.”

CDG recommends letting your clients tell the story of overcoming obstacles, and use those for your testimonials.

About Our People / Individuals

“These are more personable and personal when told in the first person,” Amy says. “So they don’t turn into a dry recitation of credentials. You may have to give people a prompt or probe to get the story of their journey from them, but it’s worth it to get to the thing that makes their work meaningful to them.”

If you have an Our Team page or staff listing on your site, these stories belong there. Some sites also put this type of content throughout the site, depending on what works best for you and your organization.

Future Stories

“We call these ‘what could be’ stories,” Amy says. “These work particularly well for non-profits or vision-driven organization. These stories connect actions to a vision of the future.”

These stories often work well throughout the site, connecting the content to the organization’s vision.

Once you’ve identified which types of stories you need for your organization, you’ll need to know what makes a good story – we’ll be talking about that next week.

Next steps

  • Think about the story of your company – what stories should you be sharing with clients and new employees?
  • How can you incorporate those stories as part of your regular communications?

If you’d like to create your own story, SpeakEasy DC offers classes in the Washington DC area and personal coaching by telephone or Skype. Contact SpeakEasy DC for class or coaching information.

If you need assistance getting your story online, CDG can help with your content strategy, website marketing strategy or website design. Contact us for more information.

Last week we talked about why you need a story for your business. Now we’re going to discuss the different types of stories your business can use and how they integrate into your web marketing. Once again, we’re talking to Amy Saidman, the artistic executive director of SpeakEasy DC, an organization dedicated to teaching people how to tell better stories.

Origin Stories

“Origin stories humanize an organization,” Amy says. “They can anchor the vision and mission statements and help clients and new staff members understand the history of the organization and how they connect to it. The best origin stories keep going – you keep adding to them.”

The About Us page of your website is a great place for an origin story – it’s much better than a dry recitation of corporate history.  At my former employer, we had to know and tell clients the story of our founder pedaling on his bike around Amsterdam and working at his desk in his house – I still remember the story, and after talking with Amy, I understand why it was an important part of making a multi-national corporation feel service oriented and personal.

Successes

“One great way to frame success stories is to tell the story of your clients’ or members’ success,” Amy says. “That way you can show your impact on their business.”

Success stories highlighting a mutually beneficial partnership are great content for a case studies page.

Challenges / Overcoming Obstacles

“Overcoming challenges can be part of an origin story,” Amy points out. “Or they often work better in presentation.”

CDG recommends letting your clients tell the story of overcoming obstacles, and use those for your testimonials.

About Our People / Individuals

“These are more personable and personal when told in the first person,” Amy says. “So they don’t turn into a dry recitation of credentials. You may have to give people a prompt or probe to get the story of their journey from them, but it’s worth it to get to the thing that makes their work meaningful to them.”

If you have an Our Team page or staff listing on your site, these stories belong there. Some sites also put this type of content throughout the site, depending on what works best for you and your organization.

Future Stories

“We call these ‘what could be’ stories,” Amy says. “These work particularly well for non-profits or vision-driven organization. These stories connect actions to a vision of the future.”

These stories often work well throughout the site, connecting the content to the organization’s vision.

Once you’ve identified which types of stories you need for your organization, you’ll need to know what makes a good story – we’ll be talking about that next week.

Next steps

  • Think about the story of your company – what stories should you be sharing with clients and new employees?
  • How can you incorporate those stories as part of your regular communications?

If you’d like to create your own story, SpeakEasy DC offers classes in the Washington DC area and personal coaching by telephone or Skype. Contact SpeakEasy DC for class or coaching information.

If you need assistance getting your story online, CDG can help with your content strategy, website marketing strategy or website design. Contact us for more information.

In the business press it seems like every day there’s another article about storytelling – from Fast Company to Investor’s Business Daily,  you’ll find articles proclaiming “You have to have a story!” or “Tell your story.”

The missing piece in all these articles is what makes an effective story. We sat down with Amy Saidman, the artistic executive director of SpeakEasy DC, an organization dedicated to teaching people how to tell better stories.

Over the next several weeks we’ll be talking with Amy about:

Why are stories effective in business?

In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Amy says, “Stories stick. Stories are the most powerful way to create a memorable message. People are hard-wired to communicate through stories. That’s how we’ve passed on lessons, how we should act in communities and groups, shared histories.”

“A well-crafted story helps you connect with your audience – whether that’s someone your standing in front of or someone reading your website – it pulls them in and makes them care about what happens next,” she adds.

“A story can tap into emotions and make them care which is the only way you can get people to act – whether that’s to make a purchase or get behind a cause. “

Now we know why stories can be an effective way to talk about your business. Next week we’ll talk about the types of stories businesses can use and where they belong on your website.

Next Steps

  • Think about brands, companies and causes you’ve connected with – do you know their stories?
  • Has the story of a company or brand ever influenced your decision to buy from them or work with them? How will your story set you apart from others in your field?

In the business press it seems like every day there’s another article about storytelling – from Fast Company to Investor’s Business Daily,  you’ll find articles proclaiming “You have to have a story!” or “Tell your story.”

The missing piece in all these articles is what makes an effective story. We sat down with Amy Saidman, the artistic executive director of SpeakEasy DC, an organization dedicated to teaching people how to tell better stories.

Over the next several weeks we’ll be talking with Amy about:

Why are stories effective in business?

In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Amy says, “Stories stick. Stories are the most powerful way to create a memorable message. People are hard-wired to communicate through stories. That’s how we’ve passed on lessons, how we should act in communities and groups, shared histories.”

“A well-crafted story helps you connect with your audience – whether that’s someone your standing in front of or someone reading your website – it pulls them in and makes them care about what happens next,” she adds.

“A story can tap into emotions and make them care which is the only way you can get people to act – whether that’s to make a purchase or get behind a cause. “

Now we know why stories can be an effective way to talk about your business. Next week we’ll talk about the types of stories businesses can use and where they belong on your website.

Next Steps

  • Think about brands, companies and causes you’ve connected with – do you know their stories?
  • Has the story of a company or brand ever influenced your decision to buy from them or work with them? How will your story set you apart from others in your field?

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