Transcript: Ask the UXperts: How to craft language for better experiences — with Kah Chan

Transcript: Ask the UXperts: How to craft language for better experiences — with Kah Chan

Kah Chan
Summary:

After a brief hiatus our Ask the UXperts channel was brought back to life yesterday by my fellow kiwi, Kah Chan.

Kah shared his tips for crafting language carefully to create better experiences for our users.

After a brief hiatus our Ask the UXperts channel was brought back to life yesterday by my fellow kiwi, Kah Chan.

Kah first crossed my path at UXNZ last month and I was both entertained and educated by his talk on the careful use of language in our work. I’m pleased to say that my not-so-subtle solicitation was a success and Kah joined us yesterday to give us his tips and tricks on using language to craft better experiences for our users.

If you didn’t make the session today because you didn’t know about it, make sure you join our community to get updates of upcoming sessions.

If you’re interested in seeing what we discussed, or you want to revisit your own questions, here is a full transcript of the chat.

Transcript

hawk
2017-11-15 22:02
OK… so I will admit to ambushing Kah to do this session after I heard him speak on the topic at UXNZ last month

hawk
2017-11-15 22:02
His talk was my favourite and given the number of questions we get in our community about ‘UX writing’ I thought it would resonate well

hawk
2017-11-15 22:02
So firstly, a huge thank you @kah.chan for your time today

hawk
2017-11-15 22:03
It’s appreciated

hawk
2017-11-15 22:03
For the formal intro:
Kah Chan is the Head of Product Design at Flick Electric Co., which is really just a fancy title for the only designer in the house (way back when).

Since joining Flick, he has worked on everything from designing tools to empower the Flick customer to helping out on the digital ads. As Flick has grown, he spends an equal amount of time on new products, annoying the development team, and drinking coffee.

cdenhaan
2017-11-15 22:04
:clap:

hawk
2017-11-15 22:04
@kah.chan – can you give us a quick overview of the topic and why careful use of language is so important in our work?

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:04
Hi!, First, thank you to everyone here for taking the time out of their day (or night!) to join this session, and thanks @hawk for giving me this opportunity to share some thoughts on writing better for people who use our products and services.

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:05
I think we’re seeing a range of new user interfaces that might not be primarily visual – chat bots, voice-based UI are just two that are rapidly entering the mainstream.

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:06
So the role of a UI designer or someone working on the UX of a product can no longer assume that it’ll be something that is visual.

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:07
We also see companies doing a great job of differentiating themselves in the market through great branding and great copy. MailChimp comes to mind with those great confirmation screens. Outside of the fun illustrations, the _copy_ is what brings a lot of delight and reassurance to that interaction.

frankenvision
2017-11-15 22:08
Q: what is the best way to test the effectiveness of copy? A/B testing?

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:10
@frankenvision – How are you measuring effectiveness? Are you asking if a particular CTA converts better than another with different copy?

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:11
A/B testing is great if you have scale, and is really easy to do now with tools like Google Optimize.

frankenvision
2017-11-15 22:11
I am testing whether the copy is effective for the target user… I guess I am thinking more about designing for chatbots

frankenvision
2017-11-15 22:12
Q: is there a framework to follow as a starting point for building and working out conversation scenarios?

hawk
2017-11-15 22:13
(If anyone else has questions feel free to jump in. I’ll queue them.)

rmenon77
2017-11-15 22:13
Hi All, I’m new to this channel and am located in sunny Honolulu, HI except it’s raining and windy here today.

jacqui_dow5
2017-11-15 22:13
Q: Who should be defining the copy we use? Should it be the responsibility of a UI/UX designer, or should it fall elsewhere, i.e. BA, Stakeholder, etc?

laura_r
2017-11-15 22:14
@hawk – Q: How to gently (but firmly!) cut & edit words that negatively impact the user experience when the author is: 1) senior to you, 2) in :heart: with their words, or 3) has a tendency to downplay data that says “hey – users don’t understand/like those words”

timmoad
2017-11-15 22:14
Q: How do you go about building a tone of voice for a brand and then ensuring it stays consistent across all mediums?

timmoad
2017-11-15 22:14
Q: What are some quality indicators to use for measuring effectiveness of copy and tone of voice? I associate it as similar to brand perception?…

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:15
@frankenvision – I would user test the chat bot copy from a usability point of view. Take a user through the chat flow and see if they can achieve the task they want to do. I don’t know of a specific framework to build out conversation scenarios, sorry. It would depend on the task?

krisduran
2017-11-15 22:15
Q: Have you much experience creating copy for BtoB type audiences? How different would you say the language and tone might need to be for that type of viewer over BtoC UX Writing?

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:16
@jacqui_dow5 – copy is everyone’s responsibility! Here at Flick it starts with me at wireframe level, but I work very closely with the marketing and legal team to get to words right.

jacqui_dow5
2017-11-15 22:17
something we struggle with especially is the copy around error reporting on fields

jacqui_dow5
2017-11-15 22:17
it often gets picked up after a dev has put something very techy

divergentdesigns
2017-11-15 22:17
Q: As someone moving from a UI position (with a writing team) into a UX role that doesn’t have a writing team, how would you go about honing/building skills for writing engaging copy?

frankenvision
2017-11-15 22:18
Q: What type of guidelines do you follow when you write microcopy for ux projects?

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:18
@laura_r – I would start with the data. The users always come first, and if they’re not being successful at the task you want them to do, then you need to find ways help the user. That will mean clearer words in most cases.

laura_r
2017-11-15 22:19
Data double down – got it! :slightly_smiling_face:

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:19
@jacqui_dow5 – error screens are a favourite of mine. Good error screens inform, offer solutions, and never frustrate. Get the devs involved too :slightly_smiling_face:

skorthof
2017-11-15 22:20
@hawk Q: Legal teams tend to add a lot of bulk back into copy. Is this just an unavoidable truth of copywriting, or should we be trying to challenge the legalese?

jacqui_dow5
2017-11-15 22:20
this is more inline errors, for example on a username field informing the user that maybe they are missing a criteria or have entered an invalid character

frankenvision
2017-11-15 22:21
Q: What type of copy would you write for 404 pages?

hawk
2017-11-15 22:21
Ok, hold fire on the questions for a bit while we catch up.

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:22
@timmoad – that depends on the brand – the tone of voice will emerge from the other design collateral with the brand, the brand values, and who the brand is meant to resonate with. Staying consistent is a lot harder – that involves getting everyone on board early, have strong brand guidelines that go beyond the logo and brand colours to include tone and copy as well.

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:24
@krisduran – I don’t have much experience in BtoB, sorry. I would write to user expectations though, so it would depend on whether you can market to BtoB the same way you would to BtoC. I would value consistency over multiple voices personally.

krisduran
2017-11-15 22:25
Thank you @kah.chan I can see how consistency would be very beneficial.

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:26
@divergentdesigns – Have a diverse range of material that you consume – movies, classic novels, comic books, contemporary literature, video games (“Take an arrow to the knee”). Twitter might actually fall outside of this category. I personally listen to a lot of comedy, and they have great techniques for precision in language and the hilarity that ensues when misunderstandings happen.

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:26
Talk to a wide range of people. Different people have different accents, catch phrases, mannerisms, quirks. You quickly develop an ear for their voices when you pay attention.

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:27
@frankenvision – Clarity above all else. Working to space constraints (we’re pretty mobile-centric) can force you to be simple and clear. Try not to be terse, and inject a little personality if appropriate.

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:29
@samantha.dietz – work together with the legal team. What are they trying to achieve by adding the bulk back? Do other, shorter words serve to communicate the same point with the same precision?

hawk
2017-11-15 22:30
Ok, more questions…

hawk
2017-11-15 22:30
thanks for holding your fire

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:30
@frankenvision – it depends on your brand. I would personally always offer at least a search bar to help the user find what they’re after.

krisduran
2017-11-15 22:31
Q: Is UX Writing something that you iterate frequently? Or is it something that’s reviewed more on a quarterly or annual basis (with existing products or websites)

timmoad
2017-11-15 22:32
Q: When and How do you know if your brand’s voice is resonating with your audience? and have you ever deliberately changed a brand’s voice to better suit an audience, or does it just evolve with the business?

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:32
@krisduran – for us it gets reviewed regularly as we move through products iterations. The challenge is then maintaining a consistent tone when you have the same message in different places.

jacqui_dow5
2017-11-15 22:33
Q: Do you have any advice for doing a review of the copy used across a large application/multiple applications in order to check for consistency?

krisduran
2017-11-15 22:33
Thanks @kah.chan, what sort of methods or tools do you like to use in order to maintain consistencies? Do you us a system guideline?

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:34
@timmoad – your audience will tell you! If they’re ambivalent about the things that you’re saying, then that’s a problem. Here at Flick Electric Co, it’s evolved with the business. We have changed terms when we’ve (or our customers) have deemed it insensitive though

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:36
@jacqui_dow5 Print it all out, and color code chunks of copy. Reduce redundancies if you can, and make sure you leave a review with a list that can be changed with someone accountable for it.

hawk
2017-11-15 22:36
We’ve finished the question queue. Who else has one?

hawk
2017-11-15 22:37
OK, I have one. @kah.chan What are good opportunities for copy in my product?

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:38
@hawk – anywhere that “default” text appears is a good opportunity. Is “Submit” really the best word for button at the end of a form, or is there something that suits your product better?

jacqui_dow5
2017-11-15 22:39
In terms of printing it out, I work on a web app that is huge (hundreds/thousands of pages), lots of forms, a mixture of .net code, javascript, and angular

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:39
Empty states are also a great opportunity to good brand and onboarding copy

hawk
2017-11-15 22:39
What about for brands that are a bit ‘dry’ and clever copy doesn’t fit with the image?

jakkii
2017-11-15 22:42
What do you see as the key differences between writing copy for reading, vs writing copy for voice interactions?

krisduran
2017-11-15 22:42
Q: Do you have any insights on common CTA terminology? For instance, for a magazine, would “subscribe” work better than “get started”? Or for a newsletter, would “sign up” work better than “newsletter”? How much does that depend on the audience vs. people just being people on the web today?

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:42
@hawk – as an example, I would dive into the analytics to see where in the conversion funnel the most drop off is happening. What is going on there, and how can we reassure a user that this is where they want to go?

jacqui_dow5
2017-11-15 22:44
we may have instructional copy, labels, placeholder copy, help text, 4/5 error scenarios per field, plus additional ones that relate to the form as a whole, button copy etc

richard
2017-11-15 22:44
Hi. I’m just showing up and haven’t participated before. Can I just ask away or is there a format I should read? I have one question.

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:44
@jakkii – I think you can potentially be a touch less formal with voice interactions. Also there’s scope to be (just a little) more verbose with voice than with copy for reading. That might just be our expectations though.

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:46
@krisduran – I would make sure the CTA is a verb, to denote an action. “Sign up” is far better than “newsletter” for example

victorialynngluch
2017-11-15 22:46
has joined #ask-the-uxperts

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:47
A lot of it is on being clear on what would happen when I click the CTA and that it meets my expectations – “does what it says on the tin” as it were.

hawk
2017-11-15 22:47
@victorialynngluch Feel free to jump in if you have questions. We have ~10 mins left.

krisduran
2017-11-15 22:48
Q: Do you see many similarities in the practice of UX writing on visual products as with voice systems?

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:51
@krisduran – yes, in terms of the writing for both systems needs to be clear. Visual products are constrained by screen size, where as voice systems are not

jakkii
2017-11-15 22:51
You can just ask away :slightly_smiling_face:

richard
2017-11-15 22:51
Q: I design and develop for mobile and desktop. I often come up with a set of screens, and I want to follow a practice something like GV Sprint user interview sessions to validate band learn about my designs. But I do my designs on paper, and it’s hard to give the users an authentic prototype experience. I’ve tried Sketch and keynote. How can I test with my users, given where I’m at? (Example of one of my mockups coming in a sec)

richard
2017-11-15 22:52
That’s not friendly to tap through. Hard to get feedback.

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:54
@richard You could scan the paper design into Invision if you’re after a clickable experience? Otherwise, I would cut the mocks into individual screens and do a user test session where you shuffle the screens around based on where the user “taps”.

frankenvision
2017-11-15 22:55
@richard check out paper prototypes

richard
2017-11-15 22:55
I’ve used invision as an end user, approving designs coming from a design firm. You think it would be good for defining hot spots and make it tappable?

richard
2017-11-15 22:55
Ok @frankenvision will do

hawk
2017-11-15 22:56
ok team, I think that’s a wrap!

frankenvision
2017-11-15 22:56
InVision is perfect for quick, tappable prototypes

timmoad
2017-11-15 22:56
Marvel Pop is very good for this @richard! I do a lot of paper prototypes through it: https://marvelapp.com/pop/

kah.chan
2017-11-15 22:56
@richard – absolutely. Use the app on your phone, its even better for testing.

richard
2017-11-15 22:56
Cool thanks for fitting in my question!

hawk
2017-11-15 22:56
Huge thanks to Kah – those questions came thick and fast. Well played, sir. :slightly_smiling_face:

rittenhouset
2017-11-15 22:56

richard
2017-11-15 22:56
Awesome sounds great

frankenvision
2017-11-15 22:57
thanks @kah.chan and @hawk

hawk
2017-11-15 22:57
Thanks to everyone else for joining us today

Sarah Hawk
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Sarah Hawk
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