How to make software human and relatable

How to make software human and relatable


Laura Parker

March 19, 2020


  1. @LauraParkerUX Hello How to make software human and relatable

  2. @LauraParkerUX Housekeeping • Laura Parker 
 — Content Designer at

 — UX Writer • Questions
 — Use the BlueJean chat box moderated by Rachel 
 — Post your questions after the talk in the Write The Docs slack channel #north-england
 — Tweet me @LauraParkerUX • Please mute your microphone • All research is linked so you can explore in your own time • Slides will be posted on speaker deck afterwards

  3. @LauraParkerUX Problem: how do you make software human and relatable?

  4. @LauraParkerUX

  5. @LauraParkerUX Keep a beginner’s mind Don’t assume the user knows

  6. @LauraParkerUX What’s a beginner’s mind? • We create new things

    all the time 
 — but we forget what it's like to be a new user • A new user might be anxious about using your product 
 — give them everything they need and nothing more • We know too much (curse of knowledge) 
 — the more you know, the further you are from the beginner’s perspective • Users have existing expectations and behaviours
 — don’t assume users will find your product intuitive if they do the same thing differently on other apps/websites

  7. @LauraParkerUX How we read • Our cognitive load (mental effort)

    increases 11% for every 100 words • Some people bounce around when they read online and anticipate words and fill them in • Your brain can drop up to 30% of the text and still understand • People with some learning disabilities read letter for letter, they do not bounce around like other users • People with moderate learning disabilities can understand sentences of 5 to 8 words without difficulty so keep sentences short • GOV.UK recommends you write for a 9 year old reading age
 — Jakob Nielsen, How Do Users Read — Sarah Richards, Content Design
  8. @LauraParkerUX Our eyes don’t see every letter in a word

    or every word in a sentence. Our eyes skip along the text in small jumps called saccades. After each saccade, our brain takes a snapshot and arranges the letters into words. Those pauses are called fixations. — Jost Hochuli, Detail in Typography
  9. @LauraParkerUX Empathy v humour Writing with flavour

  10. @LauraParkerUX Why you should get to the point • Make

    it easier for everyone to read your content • People with poor internet connection • Busy people • Physical injuries • People with children • Roughly 11.9 million people are living with a disability (1 in 5 people or 20%) “Getting to the point quickly has less to do with intelligence and more to do with time and respect.” — Sarah Richards, Content Design
  11. @LauraParkerUX Not all disability is visible

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  13. @LauraParkerUX

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  15. @LauraParkerUX Balancing empathy and humour • Have a moment with

    the reader 
 — use empathy to find when a user is having a moment, and be a part of it • Keep a beginner’s mind
 — skip the what and go directly to the why • Use simple, everyday language 
 — it helps everyone, especially those with a visual impairment, dyslexia or anxiety • People don’t find the same things funny
 — humour is risky
  16. @LauraParkerUX What is information anxiety? • There are lots of

    moments of doubt and anxiety to deal with, especially when using a product or service you’re not familiar with • “Do I remember my password? Did that web app really save my changes? Was my shared document sent? Where did that notification disappear to? How do I get it back?” • It's our responsibility to make this process easy to understand and delight users, as long as it doesn't get in the way of clarity
  17. @LauraParkerUX What is information anxiety? • Some examples 

    time limits and countdown timers (Netflix and BBC iPlayer provide options to disable the next episode countdown timer)
 Monzo spending alert Hermes chatbot
  18. @LauraParkerUX Know your audience

  19. @LauraParkerUX Who are you talking to? • To understand your

    audience you should know: 
 — how they behave, what they’re interested in or worried about - so your writing will catch their attention and answer their questions 
 — their vocabulary - so that you can use the same terms and phrases they’ll use to search for content • Check Google Trends and forums to see how people are talking about your product or service
  20. @LauraParkerUX Writing for specialists • Use plain English 

    according to GOV.UK research, people understand complex specialist language, but do not want to read it if there’s an alternative • Technical terms
 — technical terms are not considered jargon but you should explain what they mean • People with the greatest expertise tend to have the most to read 
 — make sure your content is helpful and easy to scan
  21. @LauraParkerUX Working with designers Your most important working relationship

  22. @LauraParkerUX Because… • You share the same problems 

    “I need answers to this, this and this before I can start.” • You ask (roughly) the same questions
 — “Who am I writing/designing for? What’s the purpose? Brand guidelines?” • And, you make things together

  23. @LauraParkerUX Most designers have never worked with a writer. It’s

    down to us to get the ball rolling.
  24. @LauraParkerUX How to work with designers • Give designers your

    copy in advance 
 — think about the design deadline too • Try using a different word processor 
 — most designers don’t use MS Word every day, look for alternatives • Ask for feedback (content crits and design labs)
 — feedback can only improve your work • Celebrate their moments of greatness 
 — some designers can write well 

  25. @LauraParkerUX Problem: how do you make software human and relatable?

  26. @LauraParkerUX • Keep a beginner’s mind
 — what’s obvious to

    you won’t be the same for your audience
 — make your audience feel less anxious by using high frequency words • Be empathetic and cautious with humour
 — be inclusive and write with plain English 
 — humour is risky, especially if it gets in the way of clarity • Know your audience
 — understand who is reading your content 
 — use words they use, not words you think they use • Work better with designers 
 — it’s not them and us, we’re in it together
 — pair up, host design clinics and content crits The answer
  27. @LauraParkerUX GOV.UK standards • Use specific verbs 
 — ‘Connect’

    or ‘save’ are more meaningful than ‘set up’ or ‘manage’ • Check your language
 — use Google Trends and forums to check for terms people search for • Use ‘today,’ ‘yesterday’ or ‘tomorrow’ instead of a date
 — people don’t use the date when they refer to the day before the present day • Avoid long blocks of text
 — look at your work on a mobile to check spacing • Use inclusive language 
 — words to use and avoid when writing about disability
  28. @LauraParkerUX People to follow
 Andrew Schmidt (senior product writer at

 Jared Spool (UX genius): @jmspool
 Craig Wright (tech writer):
 Erika Hall (designer): @mulegirl
 Caio Braga ([product designer) @caioab
 Paul Boag (UX expert): @boagworld Links to click 
 Readability Guidelines:
 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines:
 Rules of Effective UX Writing:
 The Unusable podcast:
 Content Design London:
 Microsoft accessibility kit:
 UK Home Office accessibility posters:
 UX Collective:
 UK disability facts and figures:
  29. @LauraParkerUX Thanks!

  30. @LauraParkerUX Web