Smashing Conf: UX Writing with a Point of View

by October 10, 2023

In his Designing a Product with a Point of View talk at Smashing Conf Antwerp, Nick DiLallo described the role of writers in defining a unique product personality and brand.

  • With placeholder content, it's hard to evaluate the interface. Words help make products simple and clear but also provide a personality.
  • The first step to writing is defining your audience. This helps inform more than words.
  • When creating an audience, don't been too broad: "people who watch movies" vs. "film obsessives" helps you more more decisions.
  • Another way to focus an audience definition is to add "people who.." The point is provide focus for designs.
  • Say something interesting. Start with a sentence to plant a flag or establish a point of view.
  • A lot of companies use words like "fast, simple, or fun". But this sounds like everyone, so it's not interesting.
  • Sometimes we define a feature but instead of "Keep track of your runs." consider "Compete with thousands of runners". The sentences can help guide a lot of design decisions.
  • Write out words to describe features and content in your product. This communicates a perspective on what you are doing.
  • Think really deeply on what words to use in the interface and why. There's many ways to frame the same action.
  • Not all parts of an interface need to be creative, some require conventional labels to be clear like: add to cart.
  • What you include is what you care about. "we think this is important..." What you include communicates a point of view.
  • Bigger means more important. What you emphasize communicates what you care about.
  • Writers look for opportunities to communicate in an interface. Even tiny moments (like the footer) can say a lot about who you are and how you think.
  • You can also overdo it. Be careful about adding brand voice in places that don't need it. Places like maps, calendars, might not need a lot of brand voice.
  • It's not just words but the entire interface that communicates with users.
  • When you work in UX you have to make hard decisions about how to surface potentially offensive issues: gender, race, nationalities, etc.
  • Do what you write. For example "free trail" with a credit card screen. Clear and simple words should not kick complexity down the can.
  • Writing can show what's broken with the UX.