As software has become more prominent in our lives, there's no denying that its role has changed along with our expectations of what it does and how it works. Users expect to be delighted by a User Interface, intrigued by the content, and intuitively guided through the application. Still, many modern applications fall short of expectations and fail to engage users.
If you've ever interacted with an outdated or poorly designed web application, one thing you've probably noticed is that it puts pressure on you as a user to know what to do and where to navigate. It shows you all kinds of superfluous information and gets in the way of your unique user journey. The tone of this kind of software is what I like to call "computery" - it's cold, impersonal and feels like you're interacting with a database. The error messaging and forms are painful to interact with, requiring specific formatting for phone numbers or data entries. It's astonishing how prominent this approach to building applications still is today when such a high premium is placed on personalizing the user experience.
Many marketers and product designers don't realize that adding a unique voice to software and web copy can have a significant impact on the experience of an application and the way users interact with it. I recently came across a great example of this.
I'm a big fan of Louis C.K. and recently purchased Horace & Pete, which, if you haven’t heard or seen, is like a real life version of Cheers. With an All-Star cast including Alan Alda, Steve Buscemi and Edie Falco, this show is hyper-realistic and at times very moving and thought-provoking because the characters have such deep flaws and checkered pasts.
When you go to Louis CK’s website and click on Horace and Pete under “shows,” here’s what the purchase screen looks like:
Louis C.K. has been very grass roots in his promotion over the years, electing to interact directly with his fans through his website for specials and shows. What I’d like to share today is how, when ordering Horace & Pete through his website, I actually signed up for a newsletter! I can’t remember the last time I willingly said ‘Yes’ to a newsletter.
However, this was no ordinary newsletter signup. Along my path to purchase the show, this popped up:
There wasn’t any trickery. I’ve seen companies reword a newsletter signup to trick you into saying yes. The form itself was defaulted to ‘No’ - don’t sign up. I can’t remember ever seeing a newsletter defaulted to “no.” From a user’s perspective, doesn’t it seem like newsletters should always be always defaulted to no?
The form was written with Louis C.K.’s voice:
“Enter your email (We will NOT bother you).”
“Watch the show, download the show, ignore the show. Whatever you want. After that, you never, ever have to hear from me again. Unless you want to.”
“No, leave me alone forever, you fat idiot.”
The form is written like Louis C.K. is speaking to me.
Too often the “Voice” of software or a brand is overlooked when it comes to forms. Forms feel “computery” or completely separate from the marketing message and voice of the site. This was one of the best uses of carrying the voice over I’ve ever seen. In the heat of the moment, laughing, I clicked Yes!
Remember a user’s experience isn’t just the marketing message on a home page (which seems to get the most attention in the design process) but it’s also the form validation, error messaging, and the overall voice and feel of the software.
Next time you’re evaluating the user experience of an application, pay close attention to how the voice of the copy portrays your brand. In the era of personalization, it’s not nearly as much about what you say as how you say it.
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