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HomeUSER EXPERIENCEEffective Writing For Your UI: Things to Avoid

Effective Writing For Your UI: Things to Avoid

Clear, accurate, and concise text makes interfaces more usable and builds trust. UX writing is essential part of UX design.

Here is a list of 15 things you should avoid in your writing:

1. Jargon Words and Specific Terms

Unknown terms or phrases will increase cognitive load for the user. Do your best to avoid industry-specific terms. A safe bet is to write for all levels of readers and pick common words that are clearly and easily understandable to both beginning and advanced users.

Below is an example of using jargon in error message:

It’s not clear who is the target audience for this message — system administrators or office workers. Image credit: IDW

Sure, this may be situational. If the audience is familiar with this message then fine. Otherwise, avoid at all costs by make it simple and intuitive.

2. Long Content Sections With a Lot of Details

Typically long content section is an attempt to deliver the maximum information to users. Designers strive to describe every single detail all at once. But it ends up in overwhelming users with too many details. Thus, it’s better to reveal the information gradually-provide them to users when they actually need the information.

Practical tips:

  • For every message you write in UI, ask yourself: does the user really need to know this information?
  • Write in small, scannable segments rather than long paragraph. Keep sentences under 30 words when possible.
Original image: dailyrindblog

3. Using the Future Tense to Describe the Action

Use the present tense to describe product behavior. When you need to write in the past or future, use simple verb forms.

Don’t: “Money has been sent”

Do: “Money sent”

4. Mixing “Me”/”My” With “You”/”Your”

It’s weird when the user sees both forms of addressing in the same sentence.

Don’t: “Activate your coupon in My Account.”

Do: “Activate personal coupon in My Account.”

5. Using Words For Numbers

Save screen space — use numerals in place of words for numbers.

Don’t: “You have five unread notifications”

Do: “You have 5 unread notifications”

6. Pronouncing “We”

Focus on the user and what they can do in your app, rather than what you or your app is doing for the user.

Don’t: To get you started, we’re showing you popular posts on Facebook.

Do: “Get started with these popular posts on Facebook.”

However, there’s an exception for this rule — when a user submitted a request and waiting for response from a business. In such case, the use of “we” is appropriate.

Do: “We’ll review your request and respond within a few days.”

7. Capitalizing All Letters

All caps text  meaning text with all the letters cap­i­tal­ized — is fine in contexts that don’t involve reading, such as acronyms or logos. However, when your message involves reading, don’t force users to read it. As mentioned by Miles Tinker, in his work, Legibility of Print, all-capital print greatly retards speed of reading in comparison with lower-case type. Most readers judge all capitals to be less legible.

Text in all caps is hard for users to read

Thus, use sentence-style caps for all titles, headings, labels, menu items.

Don’t: “SEARCH SETTINGS

Do: “Search settings

8. Absolutes and Over-promising

Never say “never” works both in real life and digital design.

Don’t: “We’ll never send you promo emails”

Do: “ You’ll receive only important information”

Don’t overpromise with your product — say what it does, but don’t say how great it is.

Don’t: Amazing deals at places you’ll love

Do: “All your savings in one place”

9. Exclamation Points

Exclamation points should be avoided as they could come across as shouting.

Don’t: “Learn about the features we added in the app!”

10. Common Introductory Phrases

Cut out the wordiness. All extra or common introductory phrases such as ‘you must,’ ‘due to the fact that’, ‘in order to’ should be avoided.

Don’t: Would you like to save your changes?”

Do: “Save changes?”

11. “Are You Sure”

This part rarely adds any value for the question and in most cases isn’t beneficial for the user.

Don’t: Are you sure you want to delete this photo?”

Do: “Delete this photo?”

12. Culturally Specific Idioms

Culturally specific language can be difficult to translate and may be inappropriate in some contexts.

Don’t: “You just killed two birds with one stone!”

Do: “Great job!”

13. “OK” Button in Dialogs

A good dialog box isn’t just about asking users which action they want to do. It’s also about making each button clear. While ‘OK’ button is the standard convention for many dialogs, in many cases it’s possible to use more user-friendly way of communicating action. Instead of providing users generic ‘OK’ button to confirm the action they want to do, it’s more efficient to give users a button that’s labeled with the specific action. Use verb that communicate the action the user is going to complete. This approach also reduces the likelihood of user errors, since not all users read the question or message in a dialog box.

For example, buttons for “Remove photo” dialog

Don’t: OK|Cancel”

Do: Remove|Keep”

14. Vague Error Messages

Error messages are an inevitability. But you should make them a seamless part of user experience. Your error messages sound like they’ve been written by humans and for humans. Each message should clearly state:

  • What went wrong and possibly why.
  • How user can fix the error.
A typical error might state that “the data is invalid” without telling the user why it’s invalid (Is it a typo? Is it occupied?). Make sure the message is clear. Image credit: Material Design

15. Blaming User

Yes, users make mistakes, but don’t point your finger at a user saying “It’s your fault”Image credit: usabilla

Write the message so that the user don’t feel blamed for the error. Focus on the solution for the problem, not the problem itself.

Don’t: “You’ve provided an incorrect email.”

Do: “Invalid email address. Please check the spelling.”

Conclusion

Text in your app should complement your visual UI-it should be plain, concise, and efficient. Users of all groups should be able to understand the meaning of the text and interact with an app efficiently.

Thank you!

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