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How do you get people
to read your style guide?

While detailed style guides are important content governance tools, these guides can have an overwhelming amount of detail that causes many people to put it on their "read later" worklist.

To jump-start team buy-in and understanding, I created a short overview chart for EveryAction of our most important guidelines and underlying content design thinking.

Colorful Notebooks

Style Chart Origins

When I joined EveryAction, I was asked to create a style guide that could be used by the team creating user-facing content. This team creates help articles, in-app product release announcements, videos, emails to users, and ghostwritten content for our brand leaders. To create our first guide, I researched some best practices and then sought input from our design team, Product team, Marketing team, and brand experts. 

The first version of our guide was a basic MailChimp type style guide that was both comprehensive and detailed. It aligned closely with the existing design guidelines and included some of the lessons learned from the other disciplines.

Team Feedback

As we started to roll this out to other team members and people we were onboarding, I discovered that most people just skimmed the style guide. Many people preferred to Slack me directly to ask about the rules or I would catch places where content going out wasn't meeting our guidelines so I would need to redirect writers to the place in the document that should have been guiding their work.


What we had wasn't really sustainable for a very small team with heavy workloads and tight deadlines. So I knew we needed something our team members could look at quickly and understand. 

Changing Course

I decided to try a simpler visual layout for our style guide that used the three main design pillars from the UDT team and then mapped as many of our content guidelines as I could to each key value. They were then broken out by surface to help the team see how their vocabulary, grammar, and other content decisions would map into these key values.


The chart was presented at a team meeting and the positive response was immediate. It was the first time that team members could really understand the underlying thinking that was driving particular content decisions. They began to think about how they could improve their content and they offered valuable feedback on how the guidelines could be improved even more, based on their new understanding.

For now, we consider this effort a success in creating more team cohesion around our content guidelines. Like all style guides, this is a living document that will change as we add new types of content and new team members.

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