Creative Ideas for Writing Content

by Matt Ward

March 28, 2011 in design Resources

We may, by trade, call ourselves web designers and/or developers, but let’s face it: many of us also have to wear the hat of writer from time to time too. Whether it’s a matter of producing content for our own blogs or perhaps being enlisted by a client to pen some of the copy for their site, I would guess that a sizable number of readers find themselves in the author’s chair from time to time.

But writing in and of itself is not always easy, and sometimes blogging can be even harder. Often, the biggest hurdle of all is just coming up with an interesting and compelling topic to write about.

In this article, I would like to look at a number of different techniques that you can use to help take that first step and come up with a topic that readers will hopefully latch onto, and perhaps even talk about on social media, thereby driving more traffic to your site! Also, while a lot of the examples that I will be pointing to come from the design community, I don’t think that these techniques are necessarily restricted to writing about design. They can be applied to almost any niche at all!

Write the Impossible

One great way to come up with a truly creative post is to look at your niche and then write something impossible that still sheds light on your subject! Sound confusing? It’s really quite simple (though perhaps not easy to execute). It involves looking at your topic from the perspective of something that cannot actually exist, but which will still provide an interesting perspective on your topic.

Want an interesting example? How about discussing how a number of the most popular blogs in the web design niche would smell. Yes, that’s right, smell. Just over a year ago, the site ThreeStyles actually published a blog post in which the author took 10 of the most popular design blogs (including DesignM.ag, based on its design at that time) and actually tried to imagine how each of them would smell.

But, you say, that’s impossible. Websites don’t have a smell! You’re quite right, of course, but it’s still an interesting idea to think about, and while I think the ThreeStyles post could have gone a little deeper, it certainly worked well for them, as the article was posted all over design-related Twitter streams after its initial release.

Just because something is impossible doesn’t mean that people don’t want to think about it as though it were possible. It’s called fantasy, and when done right, it the kind of thing can actually result in truly interesting and meaningful content!

Find A Different Perspective

Instead of always writing from the perspective of your particular niche, try coming at your topic from a different perspective to help keep things fresh and interesting. It’s really amazing the way you can find different parallels and similarities between two seemingly unrelated topics. It can also be an extremely valuable learning exercise for your readers.

One example that I remember reading came from the blog over at Agents of Good, a non-profit based agency based out of the (Greater) Toronto area. This particular post was looking at some of the things that non-profit organizations could learn from the story of the Titanic. Yes, that Titanic—the supposedly unsinkable ship that quickly proved the experts wrong by crashing into an iceberg and sinking to the depths of an icy grave. The article in question uses a number of key elements from the Titanic story (not the movie) and translates them into meaningful metaphors that can actually be instructive on how to effectively work in the not-for-profit fundraising sphere.

Another common example of writing from another perspective is articles that use the 7 deadly sins (you know: envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, pride, sloth and greed) as a framework to talk about some other topic. Just look at some of the design articles that do this: “The Designer and the Seven Deadly Sins”, “7 Deadly Sins Represented with Web Design Colors” and “The Seven Deadly Sins of Design”. Each article makes its own unique points, but does so in the context of this popular cultural motif.

Whatever topic you’re writing about, using a different perspective can result in interesting ideas and a fresh understanding for your readers.

Combine Your Passions

We all have things that we are passionate about. Hopefully what you’re writing about is one of those things, since passion almost always leads to more engaging writing than objective indifference. In my experience however, people rarely have just a single passion. In my case, I am passionate about design, but also about writing, and baseball, my family and even music.

Often, the things that draw us to one passion are also the same things that draw us to another. Given this relationship, it can often be both beneficial and enlightening to bring these passions together, and examine one in the context of another.

Using the music example, we can consider out the article “5 Things Musicians Can Teach Designers”, published over at SpyreStudios. In that article, author Oleg Mokhov—the self professed “world’s most mobile musician”—approaches the issue of design by drawing meaningful parallels with the music industry. It’s an interesting article that provides a unique perspective on the subject.

On a more comic note (pun intended, as you will see), I also have a passion for my favourite caped crusader, also known as Batman. It’s not an obsessive passion by any means, but it did lead me to write the article “If Photoshop Was Batman, Then Illustrator Would Be…”, in which I made different comparisons between Adobe’s two products and the relationships between the Dark Knight and a number of the other characters from his particular universe.

It was a fun, somewhat silly article, but it drew on something that I was genuinely interested in and really cared about. It also proved to be a hugely popular post at the time that it was published.

Draw on Current Events

Different things are always happening in the world, and while a given site may not be directly related, it’s always at least worth considering whether or not you can develop some sort of correlation between current events and your topic. This can help establish a connection between your site and/or niche and what people are already talking about anyhow, thus drawing attention and also providing you with some extra SEO benefits—if people are talking about it, you can be sure that they are searching it too!

Back during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, I was really invested in the games and was spending a lot of time watching the events on TV and following them on the web. And I knew that I wasn’t the only one. The Olympics are always a pretty big deal all around the world. So, I started to think about what kind of parallels there might be between being and Olympic athlete and being a designer. Interestingly, the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that there were a number of parallels. So, I sat down and wrote an article entitled “6 Things Designers Can Learn from The Olympics” and published it around the fourth day of the games.

It proved to be a very well received article, with lots of comments and feedback!

More recently, the world has been overrun with discussions about the infamous Charlie Sheen and his “winning” and apparent “tiger blood”. Irregardless of what is likely a poorly conceived metaphor, the comment has obviously received a lot of press and people have been talking about it. So, the people at Harcos Laboratories (who sell a variety of “potions” for entertainment purposes and no real medicinal value) have capitalized on Sheen’s antics and created a product called Tiger Blood. It’s a brilliant, humorous bit of content, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it became one of their top sellers over the next little while!

Conclusion

Writing content can definitely be one of the hardest parts of running and/or creating a website. With the techniques listed above, however, I hope that you will be armed to work at coming up with unique and interesting content that will offer a new perspective on your subject, and which will resonate with your audience.

Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive, and there are all kinds of other, similar techniques (and probably even different ones). The key is to allow your creativity to run wild. Think about things from different angles and try not to get stuck in a rut, through which all of your content ideas come from the same basic technique.

Mix it up, have some fun, end remember to challenge your standard methods of finding new and creative ways for generating your ideas, posts and articles!

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About Matt Ward

  • Dave

    Mar 28th

    I love this article. I have such a hard time writing sometimes and I don’t understand why. I did great in school but even blogging kills me sometimes. I do have to say blogging is much easier than writing content for a client’s website about a product you know very little about or have any interest in.

    I just started a blog and not to drive traffic to my site but more to get myself used to writing and hopefully getting better at it. I can’t figure out the difference in writing a blog and writing a report for school that I did very well at, yet I don’t feel my blogging skills are anywhere near where they should be. Very nice article, and well written too.

  • Lucas Arnatt

    Mar 28th

    As a Calgary Web Designer who is also a writer, I really felt this article hits home! Great ideas for finding imaginative ways to create article topics. Writing is an ever-increasingly important aspect of the Web and bringing in fresh perspectives can spur other new ideas and make the impossible, possible.

  • WPWebHost

    Mar 29th

    Pondering a new idea for a post or blog may sometimes harder than anyone would think of. We have heard of writer’s block and this might be creativity’s block that we have yet to know.

  • Barb Cooke

    Mar 30th

    I’m to to the blogsphere. . .loved this post–thanks!

  • Steph Skardal

    Mar 30th

    Great tips! I like the 7 deadly sin idea – it’s one I haven’t heard and I’ll try it out.

  • Adrian

    Mar 31st

    hey, good tips for newbie in copyrighting.
    i think blogs need clean and clear content, not shit for seo…

  • du lich

    Apr 1st

    Topics covered by very good! I am a website designer should be very concerned about this issue .thank you

  • David Christian-Woodruff

    Apr 4th

    I find that it’s not so much blogging that can be difficult as there are always topics out there that can be commented on. Anything from tips on how to design to personal opinions that can start a discussion, make for excellent topics.

    What really bugs me is having to write content for a site that I’ve designed and built. Having to labour over information and specific details about a subject that I know nothing about, nor, apart from to complete the site, have any interest in, is extremely difficult and time consuming.

    This post though, is an excellent tool just to spark life into the way that I write content and to provide me with helpful hints on how to make it that little bit easier. I shall certainly be considering the list on my next project to see if it goes any smoother and let you know!

  • Emzquem

    Apr 8th

    I thought I’d give it a shot… 5 Things that 5-a-side Football can teach you about Web Design. A little tongue in cheek but what the hey…!

  • Adward

    Apr 17th

    Extremely good blog post. If there were more authors like you I’d have more websites to visit when I do go online.

  • Carlton Barnette

    Apr 19th

    One thing we should all remember if struggling to come up with content topics or write, is that there will always be someone interested in what we write. With the number of people that exist on this planet and the varying interests they have, there are bound to be a good group of people interested in just about anything you can think of. The reason I say that we have to remember this is because I think we (particularly designers & developers) over-think things when it comes to content. We assume that someone won’t be interested in what we might consider mundane. We assume that it has to be thrilling – the most compelling work out there – to attract readers. This isn’t the case, but unfortunately we waste quite a bit of time due to this or similar thought patterns.

    Once you’re able to get yourself out of that mentality, then you have to tackle the thought pattern that suggests every piece of content has to be formal and perfect. While you do want to pay close attention to spelling & grammar, not all content has to be written in such a formal manner. In particular, blogs allow us to be a little informal, or to speak more conversationally to our readers. It’s not a term paper or legal document. You can afford to speak to your readers in a more human way through blogs.

    Topics shouldn’t really be so hard after that. It is almost a guarantee that I will have knowledge, experience or perspective that others may not. So I can take the same topic that someone else has written about and put a completely new spin on it. In that regard, I don’t agree that we need to try and write the impossible. To me, that’s like trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s unlikely that we’ll have a brand new, never-before-heard-of topic to write about unless we just happened to develop a new method, software or tool ourselves. That being the case, if you can think of it then it’s probably been written about before (several times, in fact). That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about it or that you should spend precious hours trying to think about something all-new to write about.

    My biggest suggestion is to take a page from industry leaders. See what they’re talking about (and what’s getting a fair amount of comments and reactions), put your own spin on it and write away! The next suggestion is to be observant as you go about your day. Almost everything I read or do inspires a potential blog topic. It’s for this reason that I keep a note pad on hand (or some kind of device with Evernote). I can quickly jot down my topic ideas and keep going with my day. If you have a mobile device with a camera, you can even take photos of things you see that inspire topics as you go throughout your day and then you have that much more content to provide to your readers!

    Come across a white paper, list of tips or a “top 10″ list? Find a way to turn it into a multi-part newsletter or blog series. See a few photo-worthy moments or anomalies during your day? See if they relate to design or development and if they can, make a photo blog post out of them! Find a few cool infographics and give a break-down of them from your point of view. Being observant for a reason can inspire great conversation and in turn, great content!

  • Sault Web Design

    Apr 20th

    interesting take on writing, I have a very hard time coming up with new ideas for articles, I am going to have this approach a try

    Thanks

    Trevor Seabrook
    Sault Web Design

  • chris george

    Apr 21st

    As a Web Design Company India CYBERMOUNT is one of the fastest growing web site designing company spreading wings in USA UK and India. Expertise in Web Designing, Web Applications and Online Marketing.

  • Tom Scott

    May 8th

    I am a creative person and not only make a living as a kitchen designer but I invent. I invent so much that my ideas have out-paced my inventing. I have recorded over 180 do-able inventions and business ideas. Inventing is definitely my passion. I have decided to share them with anyone who wants to read them. One at a time. Every Tuesday on my blog http://www.tomthemarketman.wordpress.com. Please spread the word. If I am going to give these away, I’d like there to be thousands of people reading them. Hopefully someone will try them and tell me what a great success they have had. If you like the ideas, you can subscribe to the blog for free and click on Sign me up! and every Tuesday, you will find a new idea. Please record a comment on the ideas. I’d love to have a dialogue about them.

  • Cynthia Kenny

    May 9th

    Matt- Loved your “connect-the-dots” view of inspiration for writers. We often think that, as writers, we should have ideas fresh at hand and produce them on call. But, as you discuss, writing is like any other skill that requires mental or physical exercise. Thanks for your great POV.

  • Hannah

    May 10th

    Hey Matt,
    This article is very helpful. I work in a small design studio that caters to the non-profit world and we have a blog on our website. I look forward to integrating some of these tips in our coming articles. You can find our blog at http://openbox9.com/tipsheets/.

    Thanks for the great post!

  • Pamela Wilson -Bajramoska

    May 12th

    Thanks for the insight on writing. Recently I have been developing my web site for interior design and was surprised at the effort it took to write the text. Now I feel it is typical and justified. For fun at the same time I started writing a children’s book, it was relaxing to imagine the story and to express myself without the seriousness of writing web text.
    Pamela

  • USA website Designers Developers

    May 13th

    Contents writing is very important for website, and for traffic of users.
    beside these, Web designing is also another part to increase the traffic due to its attraction.
    For more please Visit.Here.
    Thanks for post.

  • Jack

    Jul 18th

    As someone who’s getting a design blog up and running recently, this article is right on time. Wonderful advice.

  • vietnam tours

    Aug 2nd

    Oh my god! Wonderful!!!!!

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