Write for billions. Tweet the news. Don’t open emails.

Mike Reed
9 October 2014

The Last Word, a series of events exploring writing in the digital world, began this week. We went. We saw three great speakers. Then we wrote about it (this).

First up, digital consultant, Padma Gillen, who worked on the exemplary GOV.UK. How, he asked, do you design content that works for… oh, you know, just everyone in the UK?

By making everything simpler, clearer, faster. Discover real user needs (‘As an [x], I want to [y], so that I can [z]’), create single–purpose pages to fulfil each need, and make them easy to find.

With its rigorous planning and large–organisation–inertia–through–wading, GOV.UK could have been a boring project, said Padma. But it wasn’t. Not when you’re writing to support people — often at disruptive moments in their lives — all over the country.

Sarah Marshall, social media editor at the Wall Street Journal, was up next. How does WSJ compete with Buzzfeed? What’s the difference between news and entertainment?’

‘NOTHING, ANYMORE!’ you might cry, but it’s not that simple. News uses entertainment techniques to socialise stories — charts, Q&As, animations, and the like. But there’s still a distinction. Buzzfeed use entertainment to pay for their serious news — and they’ve broken lots of stories.

We also glanced at glance journalism. That’s when you share a headline without expecting people to click through to the full story. The headline’s enough. But we won’t go into the full story.

Finally, step up Gearóid O’Rourke, Product Lead at Hassle. He was talking about design—EMAIL
He was talking about—EMAIL
He was talking about designing—EMAIL
He was talking about designing interruptions. Because emails are, essentially, interruptions.

Hassle wanted to inform their customers, not spam them with unnecessary automated emails. So in a huge overhaul, they reconsidered every single email they sent. Is it good news, bad news, or no news? No news emails were scoffed at, then banished. Bad news emails were stripped of fancy design and personalised.

Are customers informed? You can’t tell through open and click rates. Satisfied customers don’t return to the site — they’ve booked a great cleaner, that’s it. Plus, you don’t need to open an email if the from field, subject line, and header preview work hard enough. Emails become inbox notifications — shadow apps.

The night was brill. We think you should go to the next one. Follow @TheLastWordio to keep track, and we’ll see you there.

© Reed Words. All rights reserved.