Can a software product have poise?

We overlook, minimize and outright ignore the value of poise in developing relationships and earning trust. Poise is a complicated word that means different things to different people, but it is a core attribute of the leaders that we follow innately and the people in our lives that we tend to listen to. I would argue that as a society, we have all but forgotten about the importance of poise in how we communicate and build trust. Poise has become a differentiator.

Pervasive technologies like smart phones, watches and other distractions are arguably making the problem worse. Considering poise in how our technology interacts with people can cause it to stand out and earn respect.

If we are building software products that act as leaders and create a positive impact on our environments, we should consider what poise means and how to apply it to the systems that we build.

Poise is an attribute that we generally use to describe people in real life situations. When a leader has poise, she is:

  • Confident and trustworthy
  • Graceful, especially under pressure
  • Calm and thoughtful in her approach
  • Intelligent and purposeful in her communications

If we consider people that we do not consider poised, they are generally fidgety, nervous and clearly lack confidence. Even worse are those who consistently gossip or brag and waste our attention on triviality and irrelevance. When I look at many of the systems and online tools that I use regularly, I see evidence of a lack of poise in many places. Here are some examples:

  • Overactive email chatter: When we get too many communications from a site that we’ve signed up for, we feel it. They seem desperate for our attention.
  • Completely irrelevant content and offers: When we get communications or advertisements that demonstrate a clear lack of knowledge and concern for who we are and what we are interested in accomplishing, I fell less valued and I perceive the system as mechanical and subversive.
  • Cluttered user interfaces: When we see screens that aren’t well organized for the task at hand and that don’t help us just get in and get out as soon as possible, we get frustrated.
  • Pompous marketing speak: When we are spoken to from the perspective of a marketer with buzzwords and a lack of depth, we sense it and we lose trust.
Natural leaders innately exhibit poise because they are more focused on the audience than on themselves.

Poise is subtle and it is nuanced, but it makes all the difference in how we feel about the systems that we use. We are much more likely to trust a system that exhibits poise. So how might we use poise as a lense to uncover and analyze better ways of interacting with our customers and users in real time? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Get to know your users better. Personalize and invest in understanding what they care about and more importantly, what they don’t care about.
  2. Communicate only when you can provide real value. Minimize the number of communications to only those that are valuable to your consumer, not to you.
  3. Minimize your communication to only what is necessary and valuable. Minimize what is inside of your communications to only what is relevant to the person receiving it.
  4. Be extremely thoughtful of poise when you are designing your user experiences. Ask about each element on the screen: is it necessary?
  5. Watch your language. Choose your words carefully and make sure each word is necessary. Avoid marketing speak and buzzwords.
Use the simplest language possible to make your point.

How your users feel about the systems that you produce makes a difference to your brand. Each interaction is an opportunity to move them up or down the loyalty ladder.

Don’t waste your customer’s attention, treat it with poise.
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