Seeker-focused copy

Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users posts here about making the culture of a large company more customer-focused. I thought a lot of her comments were helpful in thinking about how to write web page copy for seekers. Here are a few ideas I found particularly interesting …

Language matters. Frame everything in terms of the user’s experience.

In meetings, phrase everything in terms of the user’s personal experience rather than the product. Keep asking, no matter what, “So, how does this help the user kick ass?” and “How does this help the user do what he really wants to do?” Don’t focus on what the user will think about the product, focus everyone around you on what the user will think about himself as a result of interacting with it. Study
George Lakoff for tips on using language to shift perceptions.

Capture user stories.

Keep a notebook or hipster PDA with you always and whenever another employee, blogger, (or user) tells you something good or bad about a real user’s experience, write it down. Build up a collection, and make sure these stories are spread. Be the user’s advocate in your group and keep putting real users in front of employees (especially managers). Imagine that you are the designated representative (like the public defender) of specific users, and represent them. Speak for them.

Look for first-person language from users about their own experience. Challenge others to solicit first-person, user-as-subject language.

Do everything you can to get user feedback phrased in first-person terms. Rather than feedback that talks about what the user thinks should be in the product, try to solicit feedback that gets the user talking about himself. Users tend to want to tell you what you should add/subtract from the product, but what you need is feedback where the user tells you about himself in relation to the product, even if it’s negative.

Useful: “I tried to use the XYZ feature, and I couldn’t figure out how to make it work.”
Not useful: “The XYZ feature doesn’t work properly.”

Useful: “I was able to make a really cool image as a result of your app.”
Not useful: “The app does a great job of image processing.”

Set it up as a challenge for yourself and others you work with to figure out ways to generate first-person feedback where users talk about themselves. Make it a game or a contest to see who can get the user to use the “I” word the most often. What kind of questions could you ask that would lead to the user talking about himself rather than YOU or your PRODUCT?

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