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Interface Writing: Code for Humans31:05 with Nicole Fenton
We build systems to help real people. But honestly, are we being that helpful in our interfaces? Or are we treating the copy as an afterthought and letting people fend for themselves? Instead of debating the latest design trends, let’s reflect on something that isn’t going away: the text on your website. In this session, we’ll look at how strings, labels, forms, and flows shape the user experience. You’ll learn how to write clear copy and guide your readers through multipart interfaces in a friendly way.
[MUSIC] 0:00 I'm Nicole Fenton, I'm a writer, editor, author, 0:02 speaker, strategist, all those things that US people are. 0:05 And you know, we, we talk a lot about content strategy. 0:09 We talk a lot about content creation. 0:14 But I like to call the gray area between those things and interface writing. 0:16 So, we're gonna talk about that now. 0:20 I have saved sometime for Q & A cause I don't want to talk [INAUDIBLE]. 0:23 So, here we go. 0:27 The web and the world are full of instructions. 0:31 Everywhere you go signs and people are telling you what to do. 0:34 Walk, don't walk, follow me, please. 0:39 Stop, hang on, please stand clear, 0:42 fasten your seat belt, read this, do this. 0:48 This is a pretty bad one. 0:54 My husband found this, notice to credit card customers. 0:55 When prompted enter location number. 0:57 Please enter the zip code of your credit card's billing address. 1:01 Buy this, take this, find us on Facebook, please enter your name. 1:08 Basically, the world is really bossy, right? 1:14 It's always telling you what to do. 1:16 You get the idea. 1:17 So think about what you're building right now. 1:20 It may be an app, it may be a website, 1:22 it may be a bunch of microsites, I hope it's not. 1:25 [LAUGH]. 1:30 >> What actions can people take, you know? 1:31 What, what are you asking them to do? 1:33 What are the boundaries of the system? 1:35 What are you allowing them to do? 1:38 And what are the rules in the dead ends? 1:40 What sort of language do you use to describe things in your little universe? 1:42 Whatever you're building, 1:51 you need to think about the content in the database and the content around that. 1:53 And that's what I call that, interface writing and. 1:57 Some people call these things micro-copy because their usually short like 2:01 a button label or, a heading or [nave/g] label but, they don't have to be short so 2:06 when I talk about interface writing these are the things that I mean, 2:11 buttons, errors, alerts, everything from your navigation to product tours. 2:15 Forms, flows and error messages. 2:21 These are strings if you're an engineer and 2:25 they're your sign posts if you're a user. 2:28 They tell your reader what to do or they grab your attention. 2:29 [BLANK_AUDIO] 2:33 You know, I believe as writers and designers and 2:37 developers we have a lot of power. 2:39 Your user wants to do something or 2:42 they need something and you're kind of the thing that's standing in their way. 2:43 Right? Maybe they need information, 2:47 maybe they're looking for cat videos or chocolate chip cookies. 2:49 But with the language that you choose you can make that easier or 2:51 you can make that harder. 2:56 And with the warm tone you can make that a little bit more friendly and 2:57 a little less creepy. 3:02 So, I'm gonna tell you a story. 3:04 This is my dad, he is a test engineer, he works on semi-conductors and 3:06 batteries and, you know, the kind of stuff that makes our computers possible. 3:12 When growing up we always had the latest in PC technology. 3:20 I, I'm a Mac user but I know it doesn't matter. 3:24 So we used to have this DOS program back in the days of cue basic 3:27 called Doctor Spatso, have any of you heard of this? 3:32 Or Eliza, it's similar to that if you're familiar with that, okay. 3:37 So if you don't know what it is, it was a computerized psychologist. 3:41 Artificial intelligence program that talked to you but it was 3:46 actually designed to show off sound cards, it wasn't designed to be your therapist. 3:50 But I thought it was a game when I was like nine years old, and 3:55 I used to play with it a lot. 3:58 [LAUGH] So this is what it looked like, Doctor Spatso sound blaster. 4:00 And you would just load it up and it would say, please enter your name. 4:06 And it was really robotic, and 4:09 if you'll bear with me I'm gonna do some variation of the voice. 4:11 So here's a little demo to show you how it worked. 4:17 So I type in my name which was Nicole, and still is. 4:20 [LAUGH]. And it would say, hello, Nicole. 4:25 My name is Dr. Sbaitso. 4:28 I am here to help you. 4:30 Please say whatever is in your mind freely. 4:30 Our conversation will be kept in strict confidence. 4:33 Memory contents will be wiped off after you leave. 4:36 So [LAUGH] tell me about your problems. 4:39 [LAUGH] So he would tell me what to do and 4:41 I would tell him about my nine-year-old problems. 4:45 [LAUGH] And at the time I was usually hungry, tired, or bored. 4:47 So I would answer in one of three ways. 4:55 [NOISE] Sorry about that. 4:57 And then Doctor Spatso would come back 5:03 with some sort of Zen cowan like this [LAUGH]. 5:09 You think I'm kidding? 5:16 I found an emulator and ran it and this is what it said. 5:17 [LAUGH] And I remember being a little kid and 5:21 this give me this tiny little existential freak out. 5:23 Because I didn't know what to say next. 5:29 But the whole fun of Doctor Spatso was actually like, if you started to get 5:32 frustrated with it, the program was smart enough to know you language was changing 5:36 and if you started cursing or something like that he would warn you and then if 5:41 you really pissed him off he would do this parody error and like spew a bunch of 5:46 numbers at you and go [NOISE], you know, and then you're, you're game over, right. 5:50 Well the reason I bring this up is that it shapes the way I 5:56 think about interface writing. 6:00 Dr. Spatso is pre-programmed with all of these strings or 6:02 responses for the user and. 6:07 You know, some of them are like do you believe it is normal to be bored? 6:11 Or, what makes you bored? 6:15 Or, Nicole don't be so defensive, right? 6:16 Cuz he knew my name and he could plug that in there. 6:19 So while most of these responses were cold and poorly punctuated and 6:22 kind of, you know, hilariously impersonal. 6:26 I think the model was actually a pretty good model, 6:29 this kind of prompting the reader and a call and response to them. 6:32 It felt like a conversation. 6:36 I mean, I was nine but I thought I was having a conversation with a computer and 6:38 it was awkward but it was a pretty good start. 6:42 So, my point is when you're writing to the web, you're 6:46 having this sort of conversation with the reader, you're telling them what to do or 6:50 you're asking them for information if you're giving them a form field and, 6:54 you know, you want that to feel natural to them, you don't want to creep them out. 6:59 So I think that our strings or our interface writing. 7:03 It, it needs to be useful. 7:06 It doesn't need to be funny or clever. 7:08 It just needs to help the reader along on their way. 7:10 And yeah, just you know make it easier to show people around. 7:13 And if, if you take the time to help them there it's much easier to 7:18 get them to do what you want them to do later in the flow. 7:22 So Tim Maly is a writer. 7:26 He says, I love this article. 7:27 It's all about the history of programming. 7:30 He says, it is no coincidence that many women have compared weaving code to 7:32 instructing a child. 7:37 With both kids and computers, you must carefully think through what you want to 7:38 do, and then carefully phrase your commands. 7:42 And my point is not that out users are stupid or that we need to 7:46 talk down to them or treat them like you know, animals or like they don't get it. 7:49 The point is actually that we need to think about them first and 7:53 foremost, right? 7:56 We need to think about what they need before we start punching words into 7:57 a computer. 8:00 So these are my goals when I'm writing strings. 8:02 They're relatively simple. 8:05 I wanna be clear, I wanna be kind. 8:08 I wanna focus on the reader's needs. 8:12 Not the system or, or the company, right? 8:13 And I wanna think about the implications of what I'm asking. 8:17 Especially when I'm asking them to put information into the system. 8:20 And be honest about what you're doing with the data, that's really important. 8:24 I think everyday we see another company or 8:28 organization mess this up, and it, it's really sad. 8:30 The, there are ways around this, right? 8:33 It's by being honest. 8:35 so, if you think about all of the things that you ask for 8:38 in your interface or your app. 8:43 You know, what are the questions? 8:46 Like what are you asking? 8:48 And how can you make those questions more generous? 8:49 My friend Frank Chimero, who is a pretty famous designer. 8:52 He says, every forum is a question, you know. 8:55 So, what are, what are those questions for each of you? 8:57 Here are a few examples of things you may be asking without realizing it. 9:02 Just to kind of get you in the mood for that. 9:05 How can we help you? 9:07 What are you interested in? 9:09 What do you think about this product? 9:10 Do you need this in a hurry? 9:14 Where do you live? 9:16 Are you married or not? 9:18 Where are you right now? 9:20 Are you willing to pay for this? 9:21 Are you planning to go to an event? 9:25 Is it okay if we share this information? 9:28 What do you tink about, or who do you think about when you're alone. 9:31 Right? 9:34 We ask very intimate things without thinking of them that way. 9:35 We may just put like a marital status box, but 9:38 these are actually really personal questions that we're asking people. 9:40 And I don't think you'd go up to a complete stranger and 9:45 just be like, what is your credit card number. 9:47 You know, like, you would have a little bit of a conversation there. 9:48 And I think each of [LAUGH], I think each of these interactions really needs to feel 9:53 like a consensual conversation between two people that trust each other. 9:59 Like it can't be this one side thing that we expect people to trust us, but 10:03 we don't take the time to think about what they need. 10:07 So, unless you want a be like Dr. Spatso or 10:12 kind of creepy like Hal or one of those, you know, machines or AI systems. 10:15 You need to take the time to think about these instructions and prompts. 10:21 So not going to get real practical and then, we'll do Q&A. 10:26 So I'll take you through these five tips, 10:30 start with questions, be a good tour guide, turn your chair. 10:35 Show you care, I'm not trying to rhyme there. 10:40 And, write iteratively. 10:42 So number one, start with questions. 10:45 This is especially for the engineers in the room. 10:48 I love you guys, I work with you guys. 10:50 It's easy to ship something out in a hurry, 10:53 especially if you're trying to solve a problem. 10:55 But if you just take a few minutes to ask yourself some questions it 10:57 will really save you time and keep the user from then emailing you and 11:00 costing more money of the entire company to support the thing that you're building. 11:05 So here's some questions. 11:10 And these are also on a website I'm gonna share with you later. 11:12 So you don't have to write em down. 11:15 But I don't mind if you want to take a photo or whatever. 11:17 What is the user trying to do? 11:20 What might they be feeling? 11:23 How did they get here? 11:25 What happens next? 11:26 So thinking about kind of the life cycle of these steps. 11:28 What do they need to understand? 11:32 And why does this matter to them? 11:33 Right? Not why does this matter to us. 11:35 So if you're looking at a particular interface label or 11:38 bit of copy, try to keep it short and focus on these things. 11:41 Short is not always better. 11:46 Especially if you're dealing with emotions. 11:47 Especially if you're dealing with a reporting flow or 11:49 something like that, longer actually does better there. 11:52 But it just depends on the situation. 11:55 Be a good tour guide. 12:00 So think about like what you would do if a friend came to visit your office, right? 12:02 Or if your parent came in from out of town. 12:07 Both of my parents live far from me. 12:09 So, I would probably, you know, show them some of my favorite things. 12:11 Take them to a favorite restaurant. 12:15 I wouldn't just be like go see Town Square, I live in New York. 12:16 You know, I wouldn't, I wouldn't expect them to just do the tourist stuff. 12:19 I would want to give them a little bit more of a, you know, 12:22 experience of like here's my version of New York or whatever. 12:24 So, I think that you can give the reader that same sort of care and, 12:29 you know, you know your app or your website better than most people do. 12:33 Probably even the people we work with,. 12:36 So you can use that to your advantage, and kind of make it easier on everyone by 12:39 taking that extra time to think about like, what are your favorite things or, 12:43 you know, what are the things you wish every user knew about. 12:46 Like what are the best articles on your site? 12:49 Like pull that stuff up out of the, you know, darkness basically. 12:51 And if you're not sure where to start. 12:57 I do want to be specific here. 12:58 Make a map for yourself. 13:00 And the way that I do this is, 13:02 if it's an existing site I take screen shots of every step in the flow. 13:03 And I take screen shots of the forks off of that. 13:07 So I know exactly what the options are. 13:10 And what an error message looks like. 13:13 And what it looks like if I decide not to check out or whatever it is. 13:14 so, depending on what you do, maybe a finance flow, or a check out flow, or 13:19 a sharing flow, or donations, but the main point is to look at 13:23 the most important flows on your site and try to think about like, 13:28 not only the path you want the user to take, but the other things around that. 13:32 And try to add concrete details. 13:37 So I'm gonna show you some UI examples now. 13:39 And I'm gonna read the parts that are important to me cuz I know you can't 13:41 all see it. 13:44 So, if you can't see it don't worry. 13:45 And also this'll be up online. 13:47 This is an example from Pinterest. 13:50 This is a cocktail my friend Tom pinned. 13:52 And it's it says. 13:55 Come on in. 13:57 Join Pinterest today. 13:59 It only takes a second or so, right? 13:59 So I can see the thing, which is, like, the main piece of content. 14:01 They're asking me to sign in or sign up. 14:05 It only takes a second or so is really specific. 14:08 Like, they're kind of giving me a little bit of an incentive. 14:11 On the right there are more things in this bucket of 14:15 stuff that my friend Tom has collected, namely delicious cocktails and food. 14:18 And then below it is, the source of this particular piece of content, which 14:23 is from a site called, I think it's Gravel and Gun, which some of you may know. 14:28 And right under that, come on in, line. 14:33 It says, more like this grapefruit juice, Indian summer or grapefruit, right? 14:34 So the reason I'm showing you this, 14:43 is there a bunch of different paths on this website. 14:45 You can look at pins. 14:47 You can look at boards. 14:48 You can look at friends. 14:50 You can like, lose your mind wanting all of these things. 14:50 But, the point is, is Pinterest is making those paths very clear to me, and they're 14:54 kind of giving me some hierarchy of what they think I should look at first, right? 14:58 The pin is front and center, but they really want me to sign in. 15:03 I like to think of this as a choose your own adventure approach to web design. 15:07 There's not just one flow. 15:12 There aren't any dead ends. 15:13 They're kind of, like, inviting me in in a bunch of different ways. 15:14 And this is really just good product design. 15:18 But I think that when you're writing interfaces, 15:19 you should be thinking this way, too. 15:22 [BLANK_AUDIO] 15:24 And another thing they're doing that I really like is that they're remember we're 15:28 working on the web, right? 15:31 They're using hypertext, they're using links. 15:32 They're not saying we have other stuff about grapefruit. 15:35 Do you serve cocktails ,are you interested in that? 15:37 They're just actually giving me links to those searches so I could go and 15:40 see more of that stuff. 15:44 So, here's another example everybody know based camp and 37 signals. 15:47 They do a really good job of talking about interface writing. 15:52 But, you know, nobody's perfect. 15:55 This is what I would call like you know, 15:59 in the content strategy world we call this like a nomenclature audit. 16:02 You just make a list of the actual words in your interface and 16:04 your buttons and your navigation. 16:09 And the main things you're asking people to click. 16:10 So on the home page for 37 Signals, this is log in. 16:14 It all says, sign up today and then, later on, it says, 16:18 sign in, edit my identity, edit your info, settings and sign out. 16:21 So the reason I list this, first of all, you can see some inconsistencies, right? 16:27 They are using log in and sign out, like I will just say, let's choose sign in and 16:32 sign out because they're already using sign out and. 16:36 It sounds more secure, you know, people may like that. 16:39 The other examples, like edit my identity and 16:44 edit your info, everybody makes this mistake, where they use both. 16:46 It's really a style choice I think. 16:51 You know, there's lots of articles about which one to use. 16:53 I generally refer to the reader as you, because it puts me in that conversational 16:56 mindset, it's easy to talk about we and us as the company and you as the user. 16:59 But I would just say pick one, right? 17:07 The reason that this is important is it's not only easier for 17:10 your user to not have that cognitive load of figuring out which thing is what, but 17:13 also it's cheaper for translation. 17:18 So if your [ app or website is ever gonna to be translated, 17:19 the more consistent things are, the cheaper it's gonna be on your company. 17:22 And that's really great for every one, basically. 17:25 Another example, you know, if you call something notifications in one place, 17:28 don't call it real time alerts or messages or 17:33 any of those like ridiculous things, like, just use language consistently. 17:36 The point is not to be consistent, 17:41 it's just to make it easy on your user to understand your little world. 17:42 You know, it's like you're making a map of it and 17:46 you want them to be able to get around. 17:48 Okay. 17:51 So next, turn your chair. 17:53 What I mean by this is shift your focus to your readers. 17:56 When you're writing, when you're actually putting words down, it's really easy to 17:59 get into the computer and like the system and be typing and I do this too. 18:03 And to forget that we are writing for an audience, right? 18:07 So, instead of talking at people talk to them, talk with them. 18:12 Use positive language. 18:17 Don't yammer on about the system. 18:18 The system isn't the point, right? 18:20 Your company isn't the point,. 18:22 You're, you're trying to solve a problem, right? 18:24 So here is an example. 18:27 For these next two, I have like zooms in, but I'll show you the wide shot. 18:31 And then, so this is an email from Square Cash, 18:35 does everybody know what Square Cash is? 18:40 It's kind of like PayPal, but there's no fees. 18:42 So, you can just send your friends money without dealing with the fees. 18:44 So, I sent my husband 50 bucks. 18:47 This is a confirmation message, or a notification. 18:51 And, it says you sent 50 bucks to Max Denton. 18:54 Great. 18:57 The cash will appear in his bank account within one to two business days and 18:58 then there's a link to report a problem. 19:02 It doesn't say thank you for 19:04 using Squarecash, the best way to send money on the internet or thank you for 19:06 using this thing that we, you know, like, we recently, blah, blah, blah. 19:10 Like, they're not even really talking about themselves. 19:14 There's a logo there but 19:16 it's kind of like ignorable, they're actually just getting to the point. 19:17 Like, hey you sent Max money, he's gonna get it, sweet. 19:21 Next one is, an e-mail from Oyster, which is a reading service. 19:31 This came out before Kindle Unlimited, but it's a similar kind of thing. 19:37 And it says, download Oyster now. 19:43 So this is like, I signed up for their beta or, or 19:44 a free trial and they send me an e-mail. 19:47 It says, download Oyster now. 19:50 Great. So I have to 19:52 download an app to use the thing. 19:53 There's a button to download it, it says hello Nichole, 19:56 here's you link to download Oyster and there's a link, shocking. 19:58 Why are you still reading this email? 20:01 Download the app and dive into your first book. 20:03 Right? They're not like telling you about how 20:05 great the features are or how amazing it's gonna be once you finally download 20:07 the app, they're actually just telling you go get the app and get into it. 20:11 And I think that, that product experience is really what they're trying to 20:15 get you into, not this e-mail all about how amazing it is. 20:19 And this is kinda what I mean by turn your chair. 20:22 Like, get out of your little bubble and 20:24 actually get the user into the thing they're trying to do. 20:26 [BLANK_AUDIO] 20:29 Show you care. 20:34 So this is where I tell you what not to do, 20:35 because its funny and some people like anti-patterns. 20:37 Like, sometimes it's useful. 20:40 And this is the best I could do with the emoji. 20:42 So, first of all, don't assume you're the core audience. 20:48 You know, most of the time we're not designing and writing for ourselves. 20:51 I think most user experienced people know that, 20:54 but word choice is extremely important. 20:59 You know, you hear a lot of people saying it's just copy like we'll do it later. 21:01 I don't know why people do this [LAUGH]. 21:04 You know, you want to avoid jargon and catch phrases. 21:07 You wanna cut the bullshit, tell the truth, kinda the basics. 21:11 Like, get it down to the simplest, most honest thing that you can. 21:15 In other words, you really don't need to be clever, 21:20 you just need to show that you care and be nice. 21:23 And this is a really big personal peeve, 21:28 but don't assume dichotomies will do the trick. 21:30 Don't assume that like, everything's gonna fit in a binary, you know. 21:34 Not everyone is male or female. 21:38 Not everyone is married or divorced or single, you know. 21:40 Like, there are some grey areas in that. 21:43 Real life is pretty magical and amazing and 21:46 it doesn't always fit in a radio button. 21:48 And I like that and I think we should take the time to really be considerate of 21:50 other humans and think about that. 21:54 Every time we're building something. 21:57 Don't interrupt, I couldn't get a bigger one of this, but I'll read it you. 22:02 It's really bad. Application needs to be 22:07 updated please authorize yourself. 22:09 [LAUGH] And then the button choices are abort or update. 22:11 [LAUGH]. 22:17 So am I gonna authorize myself or 22:19 am I gonna update the, like, it's just terrible. 22:21 This is actually an interupty kind of message, like it comes up when you're 22:26 opening the application which is fine, but it doesn't really make any sense and it's 22:30 like, it doesn't say anything about why it needs to be updated right now, right. 22:35 So think about timing. 22:38 Don't be a robot. 22:40 One way to avoid this is to read your work aloud. 22:41 And it may sound funny if, especially, like, I've worked in big offices like 22:44 Apple and Facebook, where there's lots of people around and everyone's very serious. 22:48 you, you know, it may sound funny to mumble your work aloud to yourself. 22:53 But it's a big deal, it's really useful, and it's free. 22:59 [LAUGH]. 23:01 So just make sure it's not too stuffy or formal. 23:03 You really wanna sound like a human being. 23:06 And here's some good examples! 23:07 [LAUGH] This is from GitHub. 23:09 This is actually, now they've changed it. 23:13 But I like this better so I'm still gonna show it. 23:15 This is, like, their 501 or 23:18 502 error, where the server isn't quite responding quickly enough. 23:19 And it says. 23:24 This page is taking way too long to load. 23:25 Go it, right? 23:26 It sounds like a human being wrote it. 23:28 And then it says, sorry about that, please try refreshing or 23:29 contact us if the problem persists. 23:33 Super simple. 23:36 Got it. 23:37 And I get extra bonus points because they give me a link to support, so 23:37 the GitHub SAS page engine or 23:41 Twitter account, which is where I can actually go find more information. 23:43 So they're not just giving me an error and saying, oops right? 23:47 It's not the, that ugly white like, word press error. 23:49 That's just like 501 sorry, you know. 23:53 You're shit out of luck. 23:55 They're actually telling me what to do. 23:57 Here's another example from Mail Chimp I recently. 24:00 Co-wrote a book with Kate Kiefer Lee. 24:04 And she works at MailChimp. 24:07 So, I am a little soft on them, but 24:08 I actually think they're a great example of UX, just all around. 24:10 So this is a very simple one. 24:14 It says, get started with a free account. 24:16 Sign up in 30 seconds. 24:18 No credit card required. 24:20 If you already have a MailChimp account, log in. 24:22 Right? So, super simple, straightforward. 24:24 Then when you get to the password fields, these little bullets show up. 24:27 And they tell you how to make a good password. 24:31 So you don't have to, like, guess. 24:33 You don't have to type in a password and hope it's gonna work out. 24:35 They're actually giving you instructions before you even get to that 24:38 Create Account button. 24:42 Which I think is really rad. 24:44 They're not wasting my time. 24:46 They're actually trying to prevent that. 24:47 You know, I did say, I recently co-wrote a book, you know, I think the truth is, 24:49 as web designers and developers, we have more readers than most published authors. 24:55 We really do. 25:00 [LAUGH] Like, the numbers, people are like, 25:01 I'm gonna write a book, I'm gonna get famous. 25:03 The numbers are more in our favor, and 25:05 I think that we should be really proud of that power, and, careful too. 25:06 There's a wonderful talk, and 25:13 it's an essay on Contents magazine by Paul Ford, called 10 Timeframes. 25:15 And he says, the only unit of time that matters is heartbeats. 25:18 The time you spend is not your own. 25:24 And he goes on to talk about how all of the little, you know, 25:25 abstractions and fiddly bits that you put on your website that waste people's time, 25:29 or error out, or, you know, take extra time, like those multiply. 25:34 And I really believe that. 25:38 Like I think that we need to be careful with every second of our user's time. 25:39 Su, our time is expensive, 25:44 but it's really their time that matters in this job, right? 25:45 And lastly, write iteratively. 25:49 I think if you talk to most writers, they'll talk about content like it 25:56 goes through this magical kind of, like, assembly line process. 25:59 But the creative process doesn't really work that way. 26:04 [LAUGH] And we write code iteratively. 26:07 We talk about lean UX. 26:10 We talk about all these things. 26:11 But I'm still not really hearing people talk about writing iteratively and 26:13 that's what I think we should be talking more about. 26:17 Like working together on the content. 26:19 Actually like figuring out the words together because that's really what 26:22 the base of your website is. 26:26 So, I just want to say, it's okay, if your interface writing is not perfect. 26:28 It's okay if your content sucks. 26:33 But the point is to keep working on it, 26:35 not to ship it at the beginning of the project. 26:37 Or to hope that the client would figure it out at the end and 26:40 then you just walk away, right? 26:42 Like, the fact that we treat code as this thing that goes like this, 26:44 and design as that goes like this, but 26:48 we still treat copy as this thing that's like [UNKNOWN] it just really bums me out. 26:50 [LAUGH] I just don't think it's true. 26:56 And as long as your company is in business or your organization is working on 26:57 this thing, your communications need to be in line with the rest of it. 27:01 So if your recorder, one way to do this, 27:07 is to actually keep all of your things organized. 27:09 So for example, I work with a lot of ruby shops. 27:12 And you can have like a translation file with all of your error messages. 27:16 Or you could have a folder with all of your emails and, 27:20 in Ruby they call them mailers, you know. 27:22 Depending on what you're programming in, or using as CMS, or whatever. 27:24 The point is just to like keep this stuff organized. 27:27 With smaller clients I keep all of my emails in one long Google doc. 27:30 So I can edit them, and see them all at once. 27:34 You know, make sure the footer is consistent, 27:37 if there, if there have to be different footers, that sort of thing. 27:39 So, take that extra time when you're starting to turn this 27:43 stuff out to think about how your writer is gonna, you know, maintain it. 27:47 Because it's gonna save you and your stakeholders or 27:51 your writing team time later. 27:54 And most of us don't have writing teams, let's be honest. 27:56 [LAUGH]. 27:58 Here's another example. 28:02 I've been working with a client recently, and they do a lot of QA testing. 28:03 And that's great, they're a big organization. 28:06 They need to make sure their stuff works before they ship it, 28:08 you know, work stuff before they ship it. 28:10 But every time we do a little experiment, or 28:12 change the copy, or change the label of something. 28:15 Jenkins goes crazy and they, like, have all these error messages in the chat room 28:18 because their copy is hard coded into tests, right? 28:23 Like, this is a bad idea. 28:26 Like, you wanna assume the copy is gonna change, so that you're not, 28:28 like, breaking a test every time you change something. 28:31 Here's another example of, kind of how I work. 28:36 So this is like, if I was working on a little web shop. 28:39 This is an illustration from my book. 28:43 You know, I make a sketch. 28:46 I'm not a visual designer, I, you know, I'm more of a like, IA, CS kinda person. 28:48 And I just make a sketch, and then I go back and write a draft. 28:52 But I can share this with a designer early on, 28:55 and then we can kind of be on the same page of like what we're working towards. 28:57 From here I would write a few variations. 29:04 That helps me figure out the tone. 29:06 Kind of be a little bit more creative. 29:09 I'm not just like writing one variation and hoping the client goes with it. 29:11 It kind of gives me, a way to figure out, like, what might be best and 29:14 what they might hope for, and, and, 29:19 be able to kind of figure out the options before I present them. 29:21 So, for example, if I was just working on something like a button, 29:25 I would write a few of these, keep this as a longer list, I might write, like, two or 29:28 three depending on the situation, and then figuring out, like, which one is best. 29:33 And of course you could AV test it if you're that kind of organization. 29:37 Don't be afraid to AV test call to action, [INAUDIBLE] labels, interface writing. 29:43 I think these little details can make a huge difference, 29:48 like I said I've worked at places like Apple and Facebook and I've really seen 29:52 the changes especially when you're working with global audiences like. 29:55 A little bitty detail change can make a big difference. 29:58 But I do wanna, kind of say a few things about AV testing before we do the Q and A. 30:03 You should never test something you shouldn't ship. 30:09 You know, a reader doesn't know the difference between a test and 30:12 a normal piece of text. 30:16 I really want to say that again because it really frustrates me. 30:18 llll A reader doesn't know a difference between a test and a normal piece of text. 30:23 So whatever you put out there, 30:26 your reader is gonna think that that's the thing that you were happy with, right? 30:28 So if you're not comfortable with a particular phrase, or 30:32 it might be untrue, you really shouldn't ship it. 30:35 Don't let your marketing team ship it either. 30:38 [LAUGH] Lastly just remember that your text can change a million times, you know, 30:42 make it clear than make it clearer. 30:46 Show it to someone who doesn't think the same way you do and 30:48 try to see if they understand it. 30:52 Keep the testing going and all that sort of thing. 30:54 And just, you know, find a way to make the system work for you. 30:58 Thank you. [APPLAUSE] 31:02
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