UX Writing: The Case for User-Centric Language

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If I asked you what is one of the biggest problems on websites today, I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t say it has anything to do with words.

But what if I told you it does?

Let’s talk about user-centric language.

One research group describes the usability problems that result from something as simple as using the wrong words on websites:

“Writers often use the language they are most familiar with when describing offerings on websites, without realizing that those terms are unknown to their readers. Unfortunately, site visitors often don’t understand those company- or industry-specific words and phrases.”

In fact, a repeated challenge on websites is that words (“terminology”) and even how the content is organized (“content structure”) reflects the organization’s internal understanding of their own products and services, rather than an external user’s understanding of that company’s products and services.

This problem happens frequently, rearing its ugly head when:

  • companies use feature-laden language to describe their products and services instead of talking about how these products and features benefit customers;
  • websites use nomenclature on navigation menus that’s recognized by internal audiences but not external ones; and
  • navigation menus use an audience-based navigation scheme—confusing, because not all users on your website know or realize what audience they fall into—rather than a task-based one.

When there’s limited time to do UX research, examining the language on your website can be a last priority. But no website—or digital product—can meet its goals without considering whether the language in its interface is user-centric.

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Now That We’ve Captcha’d Your Attention…

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The other night I listened to my friend swear his way through the online purchasing process for concert tickets. He knew who he wanted to see, how many tickets he wanted, and his budget. All was going well until he got to a point in the journey that kept tripping him up, and the longer it went on the more frustrated he became.

As UX practitioners, these are the types of experiences we try to avoid; we would never knowingly place an obstacle in a user journey that would cause such frustration. In the end, he managed to purchase the tickets but not without some undue stress caused by not being able to read the distorted text in a plain old captcha.

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Book in Brief: Orchestrating Experiences

Collaborative Design for Complexity by:   |  Posted on

Editors’ note: This “Book in Brief” feature here on Boxes and Arrows is from
Orchestrating Experiences: Collaborative Design for Complexity by Chris Risdon and Patrick Quattlebaum.

We’ll publish an excerpt, up to 500 words, of your book. The catch is that we’ll only publicize one book a month; first come, first serve. Other rules will certainly occur to us over time. Hit us up at idea at boxesandarrows.com.


Defining experience principles

If you embrace the recommended collaborative approaches in your sense-making activities, you and your colleagues should build good momentum toward creating better and valuable end-to-end experiences. In fact, the urge to jump into solution mode will be tempting. Take a deep breath: you have a little more work to do. To ensure that your new insights translate into the right actions, you must collectively define what is good and hold one another accountable for aligning with it.

Good, in this context, means the ideas and solutions that you commit to reflect your customers’ needs and context while achieving organizational objectives. It also means that each touchpoint harmonizes with others as part of an orchestrated system. Defining good, in this way, provides common constraints to reduce arbitrary decisions and nudge everyone in the same direction.

How do you align an organization to work collectively toward the same good? Start with some common guidelines called experience principles.

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How Large and Boutique Consultancies Can Partner for Better Design

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Which is the better athlete: the marathoner or the sprinter? Both focus on hitting the finish line but possess far different skill sets. Yet any successful track and field team needs both types of athletes to win awards and recognition. Having a collection of overlapping and complementary skill sets makes any group better able to confidently achieve desirable outcomes.

This same principle holds true when contemplating partnerships between giant management consultancies like Accenture, McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., or Boston Consulting Group, as well as boutique design consultants like my own, MU/DAI. Although both types of entities have their niches, they gain tremendous value from working in tandem to move projects forward.

Management consultancies often employ rapid design sprints, driving immense value for their clients. But these sprints can be more effective and less risky overall by partnering with a smaller design consultancy. Whether the major consultancy white-labels or acknowledges its smaller partner doesn’t matter; what matters is that both organizations, as well as the client, gain valuable benefits from the relationship.

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Changing Minds

A Conceptual Framework for Relational Cognition by:   |  Posted on

Changing Minds - A Conceptual Framework For Relational Cognition - Clifton EvansAs you are reading this, how many times will you check your phone for a text, an email, a shared link, or photo? Some of these moments of attention will be based on alerts, but how many are habitual, simply checking the device for potential updates?

Our minds are continually looking to continue earlier conversations or to start new ones. We have sometimes dozens of ongoing conversations, not to mention the long list of open tabs and draft emails containing trains of thought we intend to follow up on.

We are living in a continual shift of focus, and this article aims to provide some understanding on how our minds are adapting to constant changes in train of thought.

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