Prototype your words

Jerry Cao in his article, How Words Are the Foundation of Interaction Design, comes to the very valid conclusion, in this technical communicator’s humble opinion, that good designers need to include the words in our wireframes and prototypes. As we iterate and test our designs, we should iterate and test the words that will play a key role in our users’ feelings about our product.

Cao includes a venn diagram (it seems like the thing to do these days), showing content at the center of our design work:
Venn diagram showing the overlap among information design, interaction design, and sensorial design, with content overlapping all three designs

Cao then includes two lists about the importance that words play in our designs. The first list is presented from the designer’s point of view — words as greeting, words as navigation, words as an action, words as a services. As an example of words providing a service, he uses error messages, and presents an awesome new way to think about how to design and present error messages to fit your overall tone and design. The second list is presented from the writer’s point of view, or at least helping the designer think like a writer to help come up with the best words to use. For every interface label, and for every piece of text in the interface, ask these questions: who will read it? when will they read it? what do they need to know? what’s the next step? what’s the format? and what’s the best tone?

In the final slide or info graphic in the article, I found two fascinating statistics quoted:

  • Just by changing the words (…), we saw an increase in paid signups of nearly 30%.
  • Professional copy led to 35% increase in social shares.

Words matter. Prototype your words!

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