Top Five Takeaways From Agile Content Conference

At the end of January, I attended the Agile Content Conference in London. With the overall theme of collaboration, I was excited to pick up some practical tips to improve our work with colleagues in schools and services. Here are my top five takeaways from the day of case studies and workshops.

Embed content professionals within product/service teams

Erica Hoerl talked about her time working as a lone content strategist in the Messenger product team at Facebook. Emphasising the importance of having a voice for content at every stage of the product’s development, rather than drafting someone in for a specific content phase.

I’ve experienced the latter situation a lot. When the content team sits externally to a product or service team, we’re often brought in after the important decisions have been made. Embedding a content professional as a member of the team from the outset helps to get content seen as not just an add-on but a crucial part of any development.

Learn together

Jonathan Kahn introduced the conference with a series of collaboration tips to help find a solution that works for everyone:

  • talk to a range of people, not just those you’ve worked with before
  • align goals before identifying user needs
  • reframe objections as opportunities
  • learn together

They key to this, I think, is learning together; involving all stakeholders in user research and content design. This is supported by something Jo Wolfe asked us – to challenge ourselves to leave our preconceptions behind when starting a project. I think too often we start a project with a solution before really understanding the problem we’re trying to fix.

Pair writing workshop

Proof I was there – taking part in a pair writing activity

Mental models help create empathy

In its simplest definition, a person’s mental model is the way they look at the world. It’s based on beliefs or assumptions about how things should work. Mental models are built up over time through experience. They are unique to an individual and change over time, as we gain more experience of different situations.

We can gain an insight into someone’s mental model through user research. This allows us to understand their motivations and concerns. It helps to create empathy and in turn, allows us to design content that meets their needs.

Use principles to drive content creation

Lauren Pope and Sarah Jones from Brilliant Noise shared a case study from their work with American Express to streamline content creation and reuse through an editorial hub. They aligned the work of multinational content production teams through a clearly defined purpose and set of principles.

The principle that stands out to me is this:

“Only AmEx can do this.”

It’s a bold statement about the importance of producing unique content. Something that I’m painfully aware of in the HE sector is the number of university websites that are just carbon copies of each other. Whenever we create new content for our sites we need to ask “what makes us unique?” and use that to tell a story.

Solve fewer problems better

This nugget of wisdom comes from Alex Watson, a product manager for BBC News. It’s pretty clear what it means, and I’m sure most of us would be likely to dismiss it as a given. And perhaps that’s the problem. We can get so swept along on a treadmill of things we need to get done, that sometimes we lose quality in the work we’re doing. I’m going to make a commitment to myself to do fewer things better. Will you join me?

Image credit: Paul Clarke on Flickr.

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Online Task Management with Trello

If you’ve been to one of our Go Mobile training sessions you’ll have already been introduced to Trello. For the rest of you, today’s your lucky day. I’m going to give you an overview of this productivity tool and tell you about some of the ways we’re using it in the web team.

What is Trello?

Trello is quite simply an online task management tool. It’s flexible and can be used in many different contexts – just look at Trello’s inspirations board for evidence of this.

The basics

There are three essential things to get your head around before you start using Trello:

  1. Boards – every project you create in Trello is represented by a board
  2. Lists – you organise your project and its various stages using lists
  3. Cards – create a card for each task in your project. You can move cards around your lists as work progresses

To learn how to use Trello, check out their getting started guide.

Trello basics; boards, lists and cards

How we use Trello in the web team

In the web team we use Trello for collaborative task management. Here are a couple of examples of the variety of things we use it for.

The editorial calendar

We have a board set up as an editorial calendar for this blog. The lists map to stages in the production of a blog post. They are:

  • post ideas
  • planning
  • writing
  • ready for editing
  • scheduled

Each card has two people assigned to it; one writer and one editor. We use card comments to identify who is in which role. We archive cards when the post goes live.

The calendar power-up allows us to get a visual overview of what’s coming up on the blog.

Workload planning

We have one board used by the whole team for planning tasks that we identify as business as usual. As project requests come in they’re added to a list of tasks to assign.

In our weekly team meeting we review the board, and assign cards to individuals. We have one list per month so we can see what work needs to be done when.

We use checklists, comments and attachments to collaborate on tasks in Trello. This helps to cut down email and allows input from technical and editorial team members.


Trello helps us to keep an overview of everything the team is working on and to increase transparency. It’s easier to see the progress on a project when work is in a shared environment rather than trapped in individual inboxes.

If you’ve been inspired by this post, join Trello to kick-start your collaborative task management.

Share your experiences

Are you already using Trello? Let us know in the comments and share your tips and tricks.

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