How user testing can show you how to write clearly to users and customers
Lessons learned from testing content with users
Many people who are not specialist content writers now find themselves in the position where they have to write to users and customers. If this is you, I know how you feel and I have some suggestions that could help, based on all the UX writing testing that we have conducted over the years.
Here are three reasons why writing to users and customers can be difficult - and three tips that may help.
Writers and readers want different things
When you write to your users or customers, you want them to do something after they have read your content.
For example, you may want customers to use your self-service options, or to get vaccinated, or download an app. That is not what readers are expecting. They expect letters for example to give them information - full stop. If they are being asked to supply information - to fill in a form, say - they expect to be able to do that there and then. They expect the content to be ‘all there is’, and typically do not expect to have to take a second step.
You probably use your work voice without thinking about it
If you have been working for a few years in the same industry or organisation you will have adopted the style and lexicon of the people around you. This is your 'work voice'. You use your work voice in meetings, in internal discussions, and in documentation. So it's not surprising that when you start to write to customers, the words in your head are in work voice, so the words you type are in work voice too.
Tip #2: I suggest that you write your first draft in whatever style you are comfortable, and then read it back as if you are talking to a friend who is not in your industry. Then rewrite it as if you are talking to your friend.
It is hard to write to people you don't know
When you write something for your work colleagues, you have a good idea about what they already know and how they think. You also often receive feedback from them, to help you express yourself differently the next time. That's not usually the case when writing to users and customers. It's hard to know what they already know or expect - and feedback is rare.
Tip #3. This is when user testing can help. At Susan Bell Research we specialise in testing written content with users. We do this for people in organisations who are not specialist content writers.
Here's to making it easy to write to customers and users!