Information & User Experience: Language & Content Make or Break UX

I’m about to start doing my taxes on my own for the first time. How hard can it be? All I do is put a bunch of info on a form and send it to the IRS. Oh no!

Oh, what a mess. I wonder who’s watching me now? Who? The I.R.S.? (80’s flashback, thanks to Rockwell). What if they audit me? What if I forgot to enter some information or entered it incorrectly? Wait a minute! Maybe I don’t want to do this after all.

Well, those were my thoughts when I decided to do my own taxes for the first time. I found Turbotax and started to browse around to see if I could manage this daunting task. The web page showed, “Taxes done smarter, together™”. OK, that’s nice, they’ll help me. Then I spotted the words “guaranteed” and “start for free.” They seem so nice and helpful. What harm could I really do? A lot, but at this point, they convinced me.

User Experience language invites and connects

User Experience language invites and connects

You talked me into it

The language on the TurboTax website was reassuring to me. Giving me the freedom and confidence to try it out, no obligations, and they’d even help me through it. I felt a connection. Like I could trust Intuit. Language in a user interface is important to make users feel comfortable, confident, and successful.

So, what the heck, I hit that Start for Free button. I didn’t have an account, but they said it was “No problem.” They were so nice and said they’d help me find the right product. Just like a friend making a suggestion to me.

User Experience language creates connections

User Experience language creates connections

Start simply and gradually

I simply had to answer a few questions to get started. I first noticed the clutter free icons and text that were inviting and simple to understand. It wasn’t very invasive, just a few clicks!

User Experience language builds trust

User Experience language builds trust

 I made a few selections and check marks showed up to confirm my selections.  They recommended a product for me, and it was free to start. I chose their recommendation, and was feeling good about my choice. These Intuit people sure are nice!  And I didn’t swear even once, yet!

User Experience language relies on knowing the audience

User Experience language relies on knowing the audience

Empathy and comfort along the way

The first page comforted me and convinced me that I made a great choice. They began with a few simple questions. I’ve never used Turbotax, but I did use a CPA. I quickly created an account, and off I went. I’m feeling a bit nervous still, this is a big responsibility.

turbotax-lastyear

Ok, this seems manageable, they just want my name and birthday. Wait, when’s my birthday? Why do they need my birthday? Well, I selected the help link and found out! Ok, that’s fine. So they asked me how I felt about doing my taxes. I felt like saying “Don’t ask!” But I chose “Not so good.” They poked a little fun and told me they’ll make it “less taxing!”. A friend with a sense of humor, too.

User Experience language guides with empathy

User Experience language guides with empathy

Humor and levity

I quickly went through a few more pages asking me in plain English for more information. Throughout the process, they always help text to let me know what was going on and what I should do. I was amused at the “It’s complicated” marital status choice! Ha! They thanked me for all the info I put in.

User Experience language uses a light touch of humor

User Experience language uses a light touch of humor

I was unsure of what to pick in a few of the options, but they told me “It’s OK to pick something even if you’re not sure if it applies. We’ll help you figure that out later.” Ok, that makes me feel less pressured for the right answer. All along, I enjoyed the simple language, humor, and icons. It wasn’t cluttered or confusing at all.

Now I’m ready to really get started on these taxes. It’s about to get really complicated….right? Nope, the language in the user interface and in the user assistance (help) was just right for me to get through my taxes without quitting. I don’t need no stinkin’ CPA! If I wanted to take a break, they saved my work and told me “You’re doing great! Keep going!” They displayed my refund so far on each step of doing my taxes. Thanks, friend. I appreciate your help.

Friendly language and interface

Each question had it’s own clean looking page and I answered the questions very quickly. I got a kick out of this question. Worth every penny? Well, maybe.

User Experience language enhances the human connection

User Experience language enhances the human connection

And then I got some good news. My kid qualifies me for a tax break! Wooo! Maybe he IS worth every penny. This gives me confidence to continue working. Even if I didn’t have all the information, I could come back later and finish. Any user assistance (help) they had was in simple English, “How do I print a copy of my tax return”. Like a friend sitting next to me, helping me with my taxes.

User Experience language builds the user’s self-confidence and the relationship with the product

User Experience language builds the user’s self-confidence and the relationship with the product

So, this daunting task I began 10 minutes ago, turned out not so bad after all. How did I feel?  I had the confidence and trust in Turbotax to finish both my State and Federal taxes. Turbotax guaranteed that everything was correct or they’d stand by me in an audit. Yay!

Do you see how language in the user interface and in the user assistance can help users be successful? Like the folks at Intuit,I work closely with the user experience people to integrate useful language and help into the interface to make the user experience pleasant and successful. Here are some best practices I’ve found crucial  to getting started in creating a better user experience:

  • Build trust: If users can trust that the user interface does what it says, that the information is accurate, and that they can successfully do what they need to, they will continue to use your product.
  • Build a relationship: Use language and humor to connect with users. Make them feel emotionally connected. Focus on creating content that connects personally, with empathy, friendly language, and humor.
  • Know your audience: Be familiar with the types of users and their experience when using your product. If you don’t know, ask them! What stresses them out? What are the common mistakes users make? When do they need a little encouragement, or a lot of help?
  • Use humor: Not too much, sprinkle it here and there. Make sure most audiences will understand your references and not be offended. Humor can be challenging, since it needs to be culturally appropriate for the audience. Avoid formal, robotic language. Instead, use casual, human language, like talking to a friend..

Stay tuned for more in this series of articles on user interface language and user assistance as part of the overall user experience, including some practical tips on writing and testing content as part of the user experience.  

By the way, Intuit didn’t pay me for my praise, but I was so happy when I finished my taxes on my own, with confidence, that I had to tell the world about it!

Related Information

Intuit TurboTax

LavaCon 2016 Summary: Creating Content Bits that Connect with Users

LavaCon 2015: Video Game Lessons for Content & UX

Sophia Marx

Sophia is an Expert User Assistance Developer at SAP who works closely with Development and User Experience professionals to create information experiences for SAP software users that ensure usability, simplicity, and clarity. Sophia is a passionate user advocate, and makes it her mission to ensure an enjoyable user experience for all.

Read more articles from Sophia Marx