SND 2014 had many amazing speakers, touching on topics from the integrity of journalism to the challenges of redesigning websites.

The biggest lessons I learned from these sessions, though, all support one main theme: Put users at the forefront of your process.

Here's some of what I took away from the conference.

1) "Yes" is more powerful than "no."

Jan-Eric Peters is the editor-in-chief of the WELT-Group, which recently went through a massive change in its structure that breaks the newsroom into three sections. People in different sections either focus on news to be published right now, tomorrow or Sunday.

This change came in part from one important mindset:

A newsroom needs to be capable of changing quickly to address the ever-changing needs of the audiences. Danke, Jan-Eric Peters.

2) Public feedback should help websites evolve. Constantly.

OK, so I work for Ted Irvine, but that doesn't diminish the point. Vox.com was built in nine weeks; dedication to iteration made this possible.

But launching as an incomplete product allowed Vox.com another advantage, and that's the ability to make changes based directly on user feedback.

3) People who make the content use our creations, too.

People clicking our links are not the only ones interacting with the products we create. The tools we make need to be intuitive to use from a content production side, as well.

If it's difficult for producers to use a storytelling tool, they they simply won't.

Alex Breuer of The Guardian hammered this point into my head when talking about his redesigned website's method of arranging and changing up the homepage layout. It's a complex knot of code, but will be easy for users to navigate on all ends.

(Fun fact, he said 30% of theguardian.com's users access content through the website.) 

4) We need to stop making decisions based on the limitations of technology.

We make technology. We friggin' make technology. How many times have reporters said, "This would be a really cool way to tell a story!" and how many times have we in turn said, "We don't quite have the tools to do that."

That's part of a point Sarah Sampsel of The Washington Post made.

Of course, there are times when we have to make decisions based on resources and humanpower. But this reminds me that the "Yes, and..." attitude of improv applies to news environments, too.

So there it is, in a nutshell.

Many folks made great points. It was great to hear people like Greg Manifold of The Washington Post talk about bridging print and digital design.

Regardless of what the design is, though, it is important to remember one thing: Users are the purpose.

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Comment by Tim Frank on October 8, 2014 at 8:25

Great posts, Adam.

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