Michael Metts: Take My Money – Building Trust During Transactions

Michael Metts, Lead UX Writer at Wolfram, talks about how to build trust with content.

What’s A Transaction?

  • Transactions affect everyone
  • A transaction
    • Is an interaction with your user
    • Involves giving and receiving
      • E.g., get personal information and give access to a product/service; email address to get access to a newsletter
  • Transactional content
    • Shopping carts
    • Account management
    • Error messages
    • Sign-in pages
    • Order forms
    • Order confirmation emails
  • All about trust
  • Customers want you to pay attention to them

Start with the Words

  • Transactions = conversations
  • 2 privacy policy notification emails
    • “AuctionLand”
      • Legalese, jargon
      • Feels like a robot wrote it
      • Super vague: “you’ll notice changes in Section X and Section Y”
    • “SuperStream”
      • Very relational approach
      • Gets specifics
        • “We have updated our Privacy Policy to clarify what information from or about you we collect, use, and share”

Framework for Approaching Transactional Communications

  1. Believe in your product.
    • If you don’t believe your product is valuable, how will you convince customers to buy it?
    • Think your product has weaknesses? Be the change! Help improve the product.
    • “You are directly responsible for what you put into the world. Yet every day designers all over the world work on projects without giving any thought or consideration to the impact that work has on the world around them. This needs to change.” – Mike Monteiro
  2. Audit the experience.
    • Consider the content that’s hiding behind the scenes
    • Think through all of the nitty-gritty steps of an experience
    • Tools
      • Doesn’t always have to be a spreadsheet
      • E.g., visual inventory that’s numbered and also color-coded for different teams
  3. Fix broken policies.
    • Don’t lose your humanity or soul in pursuit of sales
    • Do what’s best for customers
    • In the words of Macklemore: “Make the money. Don’t let the money make you.”
    • Red flags
      • “We don’t want our customers to do that.”
        • You can’t make it hard for people to do things like unsubscribe.
        • If you hide it or make it hard, people will get mad. And they will tell others.
        • Don’t make it hard to unsubscribe –> change the things that make people want to unsubscribe
      • “That should be required.”
        • The more hoops you make people jump through, the more time you take away from them…time they could be spending with family, using your product, getting work done.
      • “I don’t think we really need to explain that.”
        • Make sure you’re being clear about policies.
        • Confusing people will only hurt you in the long run.
    • Be annoying
      • Keep bringing issues back in front of stakeholders.
      • Tell that customer’s story and help stakeholders realize a policy-level change needs to happen.
  4. Design with words.
    • Writing is design.
    • Create guidelines and make sure they work for your team
      • Voice and tone guidelines
        • Wolfram’s voice and tone
          • Professional, but not stuff, stale, or dry
            • Wolfram’s voice is businesslike and qualified
          • Intellectual, but not belittling or exclusive
            • Wolfram’s voice is smart, educated, and scholarly.
          • Direct, but not rude or demanding
            • Wolfram’s voice is straightforward, honest, and efficient.
          • Informative, but not telling or authoritative.
            • Wolfram’s voice is explanatory, instructive, and teaching.
          • Empathetic, but not affectionate or emotional.
            • Wolfram’s voice is understanding, encouraging, and supportive.
        • Use voice and tone as rationale for why you wrote something the way you did
        • Tone in transactions – need to be clear, straightforward, honest, serious – this is highly personal, sensitive information – respect it and the people who shared it
      • Communication guidelines
      • Topical guidelines
        • UX recommendations: word/character counts; words and phrases to avoid; do/don’t use personalization
      • Read copy out loud and teach others to do it as well
      • Don’t be misleading
      • Clarity over brevity
        • Brevity not always the path to clarity
        • Trying to go too short and sweet can lead to confusion –> being too short (and unclear) can hurt the customer experience long-term

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