Has it ever happened to you?
You get a cool online tool and really look forward to kickstarting it. But then you’ve to go through a manual with instructions that just doesn’t inspire you. Or worse, they aren’t clear. And after struggling, you give up on it deciding to pick it up later? Which never happens.
I know what that feels like.
Once customers buy your product — you, as the product owner, should feel even more responsible. Because it’s your job to ensure that customers get onboard smoothly and also use your product with ease.
Lots of things help in this: onboarding processes, emails, manuals, help docs, support forum postings — you name it. What’s undeniably common in all this is writing. In fact, it takes the center-stage in defining the user experience in all these critical pieces of content.
So here are 7 handy writing tips to take your user experience to the next level.
Wouldn’t it be strange if a 150-page manual accompanied a 2.96 pounds Macbook Air? Seriously, won’t it will feel a bit out of place?
I bet you think so too.
But if you’ve noticed, Apple’s product copies are seductive — before you know it, you’re reading the whole thing. And luckily, that’s the case with their manual too. It’s a slick and teeny-tiny one-pager. And it looks natural and irresistible like that (just like their products if I may add).
How difficult do you think it might be for the Apple team to crank out copies with thousands of words in instructions. Not a big deal, right? But then it won’t feel like coming from Apple.
Another great example would be that of MailChimp. Right from their features, support docs, to customer support responses, you can see MailChimp’s personality shine through.
Do you think such a remarkable user experience can be an afterthought?
No. It’s planned. So plan yours. Decide how you want your users to perceive your product.
Simply put: “Youify” your copy.
When you start talking about how to use your product, it’s natural that you’ll fall into the “we” and “our” trap. While you’re only too kicked about explaining how your product works, repeated references to yourself can turn users off.
It’s easier to lose them than you think. But if you sprinkle a couple of “yous” here and there, they’ll act like internal cliffhangers in your content. Every time there’s a chance that your users could leave your copy, they’ll catch an instance of the term and stay a little longer.
Spot instances of we’s and our’s and try to replace them.
It’s not just about explaining how to do a particular thing using your product, or how to use a certain feature.
It’s about creating the right experience.
How: Follow your user’s journey closely. Plan your content such that it doesn’t make users spend their time on things that they are likely to know at whatever point they’re in exploring your product.
For example: If a user is referring to an advanced feature of your product, don’t repeat basic terminologies. The user probably knows them already.
So offer only what’s relevant.
Another benefit of following the user’s journey is that you don’t end up with disjoint segments of how-tos. Everything is where the user would expect it to be.
Remember this is your chance to show the user how useful or easy your product is. So make the most of it and prompt users to take action.
When users refer to your help docs, they’re looking for some quick help. Perhaps they’re stuck somewhere while using your product or maybe they’re finding a feature difficult to understand.
Value each second of your users, and give them just as much information as will serve their purpose. Any more than that, and you’re only stating the unnecessary. Also, if you cut corners too much here, it could be that you might not be as helpful as you’d like. Use discretion while structuring and writing.
Be careful about how much to give away. When in doubt, go with less.
It’s simple: a user who reads 2 pages of content to find the answer to their question will get more and more impatient if you start filling them up in with irrelevant details.
To follow this rule at the most granular level, write each instruction using the least possible words. Even better, instead of telling users how to do something, show them. With tools like WhatFix, you can handhold them through your product and its functionality using interactive workflows.
There’s no doubt that a person who designs a system knows it best. However, the same person may or may not be the most appropriate choice to write the help docs.
Ideally, you should have a writer do that. One mistake that organizations often make here is that they don’t let the UX designer and the creative writer work together, and the writer joins the party a little too late.
The UX designer-creative writer pair is ideal for creating the documentation content. UX designers give inputs about how the system works and the general workflows while writers work their magic on the copy.
Ask writers to work alongside designers.
A user will excuse almost everything that’s not great about a help doc but not jargon. The more technical a writer is, the higher are their chances of including niche-specific words that users don’t encounter so often and perhaps don’t even understand.
Moreover, if you start expanding your jargon terms, you will exasperate your readers.
If you’ve seen any of the iPhone/Mac launch presentations by Steve Jobs, you can’t help but enjoy how he talks of ground-breaking technology that the product is inventing. While there’s a lot of technical nitty-gritty in the background, you don’t feel overwhelmed even once.
Use simple terms that users understand.
Every time users refer to your content, try to make them more independent. The idea is that gradually they know the product so well that they can find their way around if they face any hiccups.
Use simple, friendly, and actionable instructions to reach this state quickly.
I hope these tips trim a lot of fat from your content and enrich your customers’ user experience. If you know of any more, do share them in the comments!