It was a beautiful day to be at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in downtown San Diego for WordCamp. Web developers, designers, bloggers, and consultants mingled around the modernist lobby of the third floor against the backdrop of sailboats crossing the harbor under a bright blue sky. Two adjacent conference rooms hosted talks ranging from simple tips about blogging and typography, to dense, developer-related themes that I am still trying to fully comprehend days later.
“Content marketing” has been trending in 2013, although it hasn’t been trending as hard as cat memes (more on that in a minute). Everyone in the online world is realizing that SEO-friendly keywords and high-authority links may get readers to visit a page, but good content is what will keep readers from bouncing. This isn’t simply my opinion. At lunch, Phoebe and I sat with an entrepreneur who runs his own consulting business. After hearing that I do ‘Content Marketing’, his curiosity piqued and he asked what I really do. He said that ‘content marketing’ is the buzzword he has been hearing, and wanted to know what the hype was all about. He must have been in the WordPress Security talk earlier that morning, instead of hearing Adam McLane in the conference room next door.
Adam hosted my favorite talk of the day, one that was geared toward content marketing. Adam explained why good content is important, and how to craft engaging content. The slide that summarized his presentation stated that “if content is king, craft is aces.” Clever, cleveriffic in fact!
In most card games kings can be defeated by aces, and average content can be outdone by content crafted with passion and care. He shared simple tips like planning a content calendar and taking creative risks, to more advanced ideas such as collaborating toward success and how to fall in love with your craft by creating a routine and setting rules. All of his ideas have the potential to make a positive impact on any blog and can be found below. His presentation was the second I attended that day, and the second to feature cats.
Another great presentation, more on the design side, was JJ Springer’s talk on Typography. Her presentation dissected different fonts and users’ reactions to certain fonts. She shared some helpful websites in choosing which ones to employ, and gave her own tutorial on choosing fonts that have the same ‘x-height‘. When deciding the typography for a page, her advice was to “create contrast while maintaining one key element between different fonts.” Simple yet deep, like a child gazing into a kaleidoscope.
Her presentation was very informative, demonstrated her authority on the subject, and was based around a cat meme that was used in multiple slides.
Kevin Conboy’s talk on designing for WordPress was also very insightful. I design sentences and paragraphs as opposed to page layouts and navigation menus, but his perspective and advice was universal for anyone who creates for a living.
One of his opening slides had an aerial view of a rural village in the Moroccan desert. An observer could make assumptions regarding what each building might be used for, but it was impossible to determine where the town square was, or if there was a central meeting place at all. There was no way to tell how or where the town began, or why it expanded in the manner it did. The form did not necessarily reflect the function. So how did the town come to its current layout? Why did the main corridor zig this direction, then zag the other?
Kevin went on to explain organic growth, and how one can use existing tools and adapt them to one’s own needs. The second version of a website is influenced by its first, a writer is influenced by what he or she reads, designers are influenced by what they see. The speaker’s point was that there is always the artist’s vision of how a project should be, but through collaborative efforts and a project having to be tweaked to fit a different departments’ specifications, the end result usually looks much different than originally intended. Just like the elementary school game, telephone, where a message is whispered from person to person, through cupped hands into one’s ear, then into that person’s cupped hands into another’s ear until the message barely resembles what was said originally.
Kevin’s main point was to be flexible and have the ability and willingness to adapt and to change without maintaining the view that you are compromising your art. His presentation was not only engaging and introspective, but was the only presentation I saw that did not feature a cat meme.
My last takeaway from the conference is that cat memes are trending hard. Just about every presentation had at least one, and some presentations featured many. If you want to craft engaging content for the tech crowd, make sure it contains cat memes.