What Flavor Is Your Content?

Language is often taken for granted. But, just as culture affects language, the language of content can create a deeper connection with the consumers of your brand, sometimes by creating a language all of its own.

Consider “flavor text”. In classic role playing or trading card games, the flavor text attempts to add depth or background to a character or item, providing a form of context. We can relate this to personas used in UX design. As a persona is developed, flavor text is written to provide realistic context for how and why that user will engage with the product. Shouldn’t the language of your product match the user’s cultural context and communication style? As product owners, we often make assumptions about how our users communicate and rely on our own style by default. But, this style may not speak to the user at all.

For example, let’s say a Website’s goal is to educate users on complex subject matter. However, after persona development, it is clear that the product’s typical user needs to be educated primarily because the subject matter is so intimidating they often refuse to consider learning as an option. The content strategist’s directive then, is to present the complexities of the subject matter in simplistic, digestible chunks in language the user can relate to. If the educational content is so overwhelming to the user that they remain in the refusal-to-learn state, the content and design both fail.

Product owners will invest a hefty portion of a project’s budget in visual design and user experience but the most valuable piece of the puzzle — content — is often overlooked. It is common to work on a redesign project where a product owner is wanting a fresh, modern look and feel but content and labeling is carried over from the old site, creating a disconnect that cannot be overcome with visual branding alone.

A good user experience doesn’t ignore the text. From navigation labels, calls-to-action, story content, form labels, error messaging to email notifications; every word must elicit a response that drives the experience forward. Every touch point is an opportunity to connect with your users and build brand loyalty. Including the user in the language is especially powerful when it comes to personalization. Use the language of your content to manage your customer’s experience. It should never appear to have been generated by a computer, otherwise how will we ever connect with a user on a humanistic level? Just as a user should not have to search for navigation, they should not have to decode the words. Words are often the most relevant part of the experience.

What flow does your content help facilitate? Does the content support the overall product goals for the user and for the business? Does it create the context that your users can relate to? QA often ends as content entry begins, but we can also test and optimize language as much as we do the design and development that leads up to the content entry. A UX designer’s process must ensure that content is a functional piece of the puzzle. A content strategist will also benefit from understanding how content drives the experiential flow.

Language experts are as concerned about the vocabulary used in a set of information as they are about the layout and the appropriateness of the images on the screen. The most inspiring Websites and applications create a joyful play between design and content; where every word and interaction are thoughtfully considered.