Google made big news a few weeks ago when they bought a Manhattan office building for a goggling $2.1 billion. It was big news because, as I’m sure you’ve heard, big tech has been shifting more and more jobs toward fully remote arrangements. However, according to a May email read by The Wall Street Journal, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai “told employees that most of them would end up spending around three days a week in the office and two days working remotely.”
The article continues:
“We know that our employees, in order to really be happy and productive, need to collaborate,” said William Floyd, Google’s director of public policy and government affairs. “Because of that need to collaborate, we’ve been investing more and more in office space.”
Many leaders say that their ability to collaborate and foster creativity has been strained since the pandemic began. How do you coordinate the activities of so many different employees working on who knows what who knows where?
Digital, interactive content is one of the trickier tasks to coordinate. Content must be created rather quickly to stay relevant to the topic at hand, and it traditionally has involved the specialized skills of a writer, a designer, and a developer.
The writer envisions the topic, conducts research, writes, and edits the content. They work closely with a designer to ensure the vision comes to life visually as expected. This often happens in real time, even if over Zoom.
Multiple meetings later — after having conversations about what’s possible, what you think about this, how does this look — and the copy and design wireframes make it over to the desk of the developer. Several weeks and several more meetings after that, you see the finished product in all its clickable, scrollable glory.
The real trouble with this process is that knowledge workers nowadays often work on their own schedules, balancing their work life with the demands at home — errands, kids, doctor appointments, and so on.
But the tools to create interactive documents today have changed significantly. Now, much of these conversations can take place not only asynchronously but also much more quickly, with real-time prototyping and editing. How?
Let’s dive into 3 tips to, borrowing an idea from economist Ronald Coase, decrease the transaction costs between coordinating activities within the firm.
Most digital writers today are used to writing in a text editor like Word or Google Docs. They write one thought after another in a linear progression, much like they did in high school and college. The reader reads it by only scrolling through paragraph by paragraph.
However, with the multimedia available at their disposal today — images, audio, video, and interactive elements — the way people consume content has changed drastically. They now need to think in terms of something akin to 3-dimensional space: How will the user click from section 1 to section 4? What if they hear this podcast in section 2 before starting on section 3? It’s a different method of creating content, a different way of thinking, something akin to those old choose-your-own-adventure Goosebump books.
In short, you have to write interactively. That is, build a UX model in your mind for how people will read a thing, watch a thing, and click and scroll around, even moving non-sequentially through your piece. It’s a completely different way of thinking, and it takes some practice.
Once you’ve imagined the path your users will take, you can effectively guide the designer through the decisions they have to make. You can add notes and comments to “embed this here” or “add a clickable element here to take users there,” and so on.
These notes do two things: They help the designer see what you’re trying to do, which speeds up their design process, and they also help the designer create the thing without the need to meet in real time. They can work within the schedule that works best for them, even if it’s 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday.
Now that the designer has detailed notes of the user’s experience moving through the piece of content, they’re free to build the content piece in their favorite design tool. This is a change in the traditional process because, as we’ll see in the next step, developers often place constraints on how designers have to build their content. Some need certain types of files while others say, “That can’t be done within our CMS,” or some such thing.
But today there are so many diverse design tools out there that designers like to work in. Some prefer the Adobe Creative Cloud while others prefer Figma or Sketch. Sometimes it’s just a matter of who has the best keyboard shortcuts, or at least the ones that designers are familiar with. Why force them to adopt a platform they don’t like, which only slows them down?
Designers, be free to follow your fingers and use the design tool you prefer. Then, you can simply integrate your files with a platform like Tiled’s no-code microapp builder.
Did we mention no-code? That’s right. We don’t mean to dump on developers. We like them. The thing is, they may even be glad to not have to work on that interactive content piece — it frees them to think more strategically about the kind of programming they enjoy most and brings the most productivity to the company as a whole.
But for interactive content, they’re not necessary to create what you’ve imagined. Between the writing and the designing, you already have what you need to publish.
Additionally, what often happens is that after interactive content is published, you’ll notice a glaring typo halfway down the first page. You then need to email your developer and ask them very nicely if they can “please fix this asap” because it went out to the house list of 100,000 people, which distracts them from the other things they need to do.
With platforms like Tiled, however, the writer or the designer can log in any time and fix that typo, upload a new logo, drag and drop in a new video that just came out that’s perfect for supporting the argument in section 3. Again, this can all happen asynchronously from anywhere by anyone on the team.
Finally, you can also get a sneak peek at how users are navigating through the piece with real-time analytics. Then you can go wild with adjusting the content on the fly to further engage your users.
Today’s content creators need to be flexible to embrace hybrid and remote arrangements. With modern tools, you’re free to collaborate, coordinate, and create your best content in any way you see fit, anywhere, and any time. Build the interactive experiences you’ve been imagining, starting today.