Portrait von Andrea Ringli
Andrea Ringli
Interaction Designer @Gridonic
May 14, 2019 2 min read

The Subtleties of Language – Why It Is so Important

Oftentimes underestimated, considerable success for a product lies in written words. UX writing establishes the relationship between user and product. And as in every relationship, it is important to pay careful attention how to talk to each other. If one talks too much or too little it starts to get complicated and that’s where the difference lies between a mediocre product and a great product. That's why finding the right words is essential.

Good UX writing is the base, the heart which leads the way, builds confidence and makes you feel good. I would go as far and claim that a product becomes more human with the right choice of words. When trying to find the right tone, the target group is stepping into the spotlight. And with it, the impression that should be facilitated, if it is ok to incorporate humour or to be seen as serious and reliable. Toggl, a time tracking tool, is doing the splits between seriousness and playfulness very well. In combination with the bold colours and funny 3D Illustrations, Toggl conveys a very motivational feeling.

example of Toggl, a time-management tool using playful communication
The communication of Toggl, a time-management tool, is playful without having the effect of being untrustworthy

Think about someone whose interest lies in art, probably has a different vocabulary compared to someone who has a passion for music. Using the language of the user is key to a great product. Along with the target group, cultural distinctions should be considered as well. Therefore, it really does matter what we write on a button or in an error message.

Another example is Social Print Studio, a digital photo printing service, who does a very good job with their tone of voice. Along with the visual design of their brand you feel like a friend is talking to you and has just the right balance in terms of humour and seriousness.

Example of the Social Print Studio website that uses informal language
The copy from the Social Print Studio website makes you feel like a friend is talking to you

Positive side effects of good UX writing are better user guidance and better ranking in search engine results. What more do you want? To conclude, I listed three areas which can be used as starting points for good UX writing for your next project:

Explanations
Provide appropriate explanations. But don't over do it, the user should never feel dumb or underestimated. A Website should be usable without any explanations, if not, the concept needs to be revised.

Spelling
Spelling mistakes are a substantial sign of a lack of quality and reliability. Make sure the copy gets reviewed before releasing it to the expanse of the internet.

Error messages
Good error messages should explain the mistake and offer possible solutions so the user immediately knows how to solve the problem.


Do you feel desperate and want to become a UX writing guru? Here's a list of great articles:

Examples of useful or useless copy
https://uxdesign.cc/fighting-techniques-of-ux-writing-ca94632f754c

The importance of good copy for a product
https://blog.prototypr.io/building-better-product-with-ux-writing-775b205806ae

About the dimensions of tone of voice
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/tone-of-voice-dimensions/