Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

Is This Your First Time Here

Readmill released a brand-new iPhone app today and it’s the talk of the Internet (or at least the corner I find myself). Already available for the iPad, many have eagerly awaited an iPhone edition. The app is beautiful and has been widely praised.

The blog post announcing the release is masterful. The writing is succinct and friendly (I like the “Stick it on your homescreen…” line). There are raves from influential people. The images are enticing. The post has a sense of “We built this for you and us”, which is invaluable. The talented people creating Readmill clearly love the app and what it makes possible.

But what does Readmill make possible?

Reading, obviously, but reading what? The post includes a reference to what you might read with it, “the latest page of your book”, but that leaves a few unanswered questions.

Can someone:

  • read Kindle books, iBooks, PDFs, or mobi files?
  • read articles, similar to Instapaper?
  • purchase books?
  • add previously purchased ebooks?

Without browsing the site or visiting the app page, it’s unclear.

Writing for multiple audiences is one of the hardest and most common content challenges. A company is telling an ongoing story to what feels like a consistent audience. If the company is doing interesting things and people are talking about its products, though, new people are regularly stopping by, especially when there is significant news. These visitors are starting with hardly any context, most likely just a link from a friend.

I think about content like hospitality. If you’re having people over to your house, there is a familiarity with those who’ve visited before. “Grab something from the fridge and relax on the porch. We have that drink you liked so much last time.” Much goes unsaid.

You go out of your way for people who are visiting for the first time, though. “Let me show you around. The restroom is down the hall and to your left. Oh, that’s Pixel. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite.”

Try to read your content, especially announcements, from the perspective of someone who hasn’t heard of your company or product (or better, find someone like that to provide feedback before its published). The people who are already part of your story don’t mind a short paragraph that bring visitors up to speed. Go out of your way to make everyone feel at home.

Note: Readmill is awesome. This is simply an illustration of a common content dilemma, one I struggle with often.