I’m speaking at Future of Web Design London

Ok, the secret’s out (even if it wasn’t ever really that secret in the first place). I’ll be speaking at the Future of Web Design conference, a well-established, super-cool event run by the maestros from Carsonified.

It all happens in London from 16 – 18 May. I’m on the conference’s ‘Rising Stars’ track, which is both flattering and rather nervewracking, as there are some first-class speakers on the bill – giving me a hell of a lot to live up to.

No pressure then.

As the event is meant to be all about the future of web design, I’m giving a talk called Copywriting is Design. Here’s what it’s about, pulled straight from the blurb I wrote for my bit on the FOWD website:

Copywriting is web design. And it’s about time someone stood up and said so. Because, all too often, the text for a web project ends up being shoehorned in at the last minute. And that can ruin everything.

In this talk, John explains how great copy can make the difference between a design which works, and one that doesn’t. He describes how designers and writers should collaborate to build great web interfaces. He shows how every bit of copy matters – especially when it comes to forms and complex web app interfaces – and highlights some common mistakes.

I’m up just before lunch on 18 May. If you’re coming to FOWD, it’d be great to see you there. Do say hello, even if you don’t make it to my session.

In the meantime, I’m off to do a lot of rehearsing – and some panicking.

Coming in August: great IT advice for businesses

Regular readers (both of you) may recall that some time ago I hinted at a new project I’ve been working on. I’m pleased to report that the wraps are off: The IT Donut, a new website for small businesses, will be launching the week of 23 August.

The IT Donut will be the fourth in a family of websites. You might already have seen the Marketing, Law and Start-Up Donuts. Its aim will be to demystify every aspect of business technology.

Expect heaps of advice about choosing, using and generally not getting totally frustrated with IT in your business.

I’ve taken on the role of editor (the next few months are looking to be very busy), but thankfully there’s a whole team of great people from BHP Information Solutions working hard on the site too. And because you can’t substitute for first-hand knowledge and experience, we’re on the hunt for experts who know all about IT at the sharp end of business.

You see, when businesses use IT, there’s an ideal world, and there’s what actually happens. The two often differ quite considerably.

The IT Donut isn’t going to live in the plain sailing, smooth running and largely theoretical ideal world. It will acknowledge the situations and challenges businesses face every day with their IT.

Although the team behind the website is packed with experience (I’ve been writing about small businesses and IT for years now), we need people who’ve been there and done it to help us cover every area. These IT experts are the people who’ll really bring the site to life.

So if you know a bit about IT in business, I want to hear from you. You might be an expert in web hosting, networking or accounting software. Or you might be a business that’s experimented with cloud computing, open source software – or gained some other knowledge that you’d like to share.

Whatever your expertise, give me a shout. It’s your chance to be involved in one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on – and to get some great PR while you’re at it.

Rage Against The (X Factor) Machine

As you’ll have seen if you’ve been near a TV, radio, Twitter or Facebook, sweary activist rock group Rage Against The Machine have pipped the X Factor’s Joe McElderry to this year’s Christmas number one.

Like many people, I’m pretty pleased about this. And I’m also a bit suprised, because had you asked me a week ago, I’d have said the Facebook campaign to get the song to the top of the charts had about as much chance of success as the Monster Raving Loonies have of winning the next general election.

Why the scepticism? Well, joining a group on Facebook only takes a couple of seconds but it’s getting people to do more that has always seemed like the tricky bit. There are thousands of well-meaning Facebook groups and online petitions that have plenty of supporters but achieved nothing else of note.

So why did this campaign succeed – and make such a big impact – where others have failed?

  • It tapped into something people feel strongly about: frustration at the X Factor’s dominance of the Christmas number one slot.
  • It went huge on Facebook and Twitter. The sheer amount of support indicated that maybe it could actually happen.
  • Mainstream media picked it up in a big way. That lent credibility to the grass roots campaign and fostered a real belief it could work.
  • It wasn’t asking for a huge commitment. Sure, downloading the track cost a few pence, but it was easy and cheap to make a difference.

I think a lot of it came down to credibility. It wasn’t until Thursday, when Rage performed live on 5 Live’s breakfast show (swear words and all), that I seriously thought there was a possibility we’d see them at number one. And it was only at that point that I was willing to purchase the single myself. (more…)