Change is something that we fear or resist. However, with change, we discover and innovate many great things like the Readability guidelines project.
Have you heard about it? Well if not, you are definitely missing out. The project was set up by the “Queen of Content Design” aka Sarah Richards (nickname given by my team) and also co-led by the amazing, Lizzie Bruce who has been keeping us on track and is doing a lot of great work.
Before I tell you about my own contribution and experience, let me tell you a little bit about the project.
Purpose of the project
Whether you are a content designer, technical writer or UX writer, I am pretty sure that you are often told to write things a “certain” way because people assume they “know” what is best for the readers or users.
With this initiative, we are looking at pulling together some universal guidance and evidence around why we use certain styles and also to develop some inclusive and clear language tips to help you demonstrate to your stakeholders the value of writing with your users in mind.
Who we are
We are a group of content savvy enthusiasts from around the world that saw Sarah’s post on social media and were curious enough to sign up on Slack for this epic adventure. If I had to give us a name, I would say we are evidence hunters. I often felt that I was on an expedition looking for those hidden gem articles that support what we do on a daily basis.
Have I sold you on it yet? Too early … I can tell by the odd stare you are making at the screen.
Maybe I can convince you by telling you about my journey.
In the beginning
On a beautiful summer morning (sometime in July 2018), I read about Sarah’s post on LinkedIn. At first glance, I thought what a brilliant idea but I was a bit uncertain as I was not sure what were the expectations, how much work that would entail or do I even have anything to contribute. Then, I thought even if I have nothing to bring to this project, I can still try and learn a few things here and there.
Once I got to work, I signed up for it and shared the post with my team encouraging everybody to join. Given that I was fairly new to the Ontario Digital Service (ODS), I was still learning the ropes of the job and finding my bearings.
Was it the right time to join? Looking back at it, I think it was just perfect as we were also revamping our style guide at work and my team was very supportive throughout this whole project. It was a great opportunity to learn and leverage what was being discussed in the Readability guidelines project.
Slack is the tool we use to discuss different topics and communicate with everybody. We had scheduled discussions and I always looked forward to them as it was interesting to hear about what other professionals were doing, bounce ideas off each other and test some of our own theories. The discussion would not end just because our time was up. You can always go back to add your comments and ask questions.
To document all our findings, we used a wiki where people wrote about the guidelines for each topic and have discussions about their findings. I even found myself looking at some pages and made suggestions about the architecture about each page since I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to organization and consistency. I was having fun writing up the pages and trying to put some structure here and there.
During the Beta phase, we had super contributors. They were volunteers who were assigned or chose a topic to host a discussion and write up a summary of what was discussed. I thought it was super cool as it felt more and more like a huge collaboration work where everybody could pitch in. I didn’t even think of becoming a super contributor. Let’s just say I got asked and as usual, my passion to learn overruled my shyness and I partnered with Rachel Johnston to lead the discussion on specialist terms. It was a great experience and lots of interesting information came out of it.
The past 7 months that I spent on this project went by very fast and I feel that we have accomplished so much together. There is still a long road to go but I can’t wait to see the final product.
The work we are doing, at least for me, did not feel like work. I enjoyed the interactions, the research and the work. It is very rare to get the opportunity to participate in an international project like this and to work with so many great minds to create a universal style guide for all writers around the world.
It started out as a project but it has now grown into a community of content professionals from different fields that are supporting and helping each other to keep the users at the centre of our work.
So, are you ready to join us on this journey?