1
Product Voice:
When a product speaks,
what voice do you hear?
Gordon Plant & Carole Court
@gordonplant
@cazlovam
2
User Experience always has two actors…
3
…the words in the UI are one half of the dialogue…
4
…but the actors can’t see each other
I s my
s it e
o n l in e?
5
Imaginary dialogues where the actors can’t see each
other are not uncommon
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009LOJG8I
Comment...
6
Texts from Dog
http://textfromdog.tumblr.com/
Commentary:
The dog and the owner
don’t have to be made
visible through dr...
7
Polite but evil
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwBmPiOmEGQ
Commentary:
HAL, the computer in
Kubrick’s 2001 A
Space Odys...
8
Polite but evil
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwBmPiOmEGQ
Commentary:
When Dave is stuck
outside of the
spaceship, HAL...
9
Polite but evil
Script excerpt from 2001 a Space Odyssey
Dave : Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?
HAL: Affirmative, Dave....
10
Polite but evil Commentary:
But what if the
Spaceship was
controlled by Google
Plus instead of HAL?
11
A different voice
Script excerpt with Google+ in the role of HAL
Dave : Hello, Google+. Do you read me, Google+?
Google...
12
ARCHETYPES, CHARACTERS, VOICES
Commentary:
Developing a
consistent voice
means understanding
the character that’s
speak...
13
Archetype
• Archetype: “a collectively-inherited
unconscious idea, pattern of thought,
image, etc., that is universally...
14
Archetype
Archetype
Character
Dialogue
Voice
Commentary:
We see an archetype
as the top level, the big
idea that surrou...
15
Exercise introduction
Using archetypes for a single step dialogue
Archetype Core desire
Innocent Get to paradise
Everym...
16
Workshop #1
Payment failure
1. Choose an archetype
2. Write the dialogue a customer will see if their credit card fails...
17
Workshop #2
Festival tickets
1. Choose an archetype
2. Imagine you are designing a site that allows users to buy ticket...
18
CONTEXT AND TONE
s o met hin g
r eal l y bad
happen ed an d w e
hav e n o id ea
w hat it w as
Commentary:
We mostly wan...
19
Establish tone
Different user greetings:
– Howdy Gordon!
– Welcome back Gordon
– You last logged in at 12:52:31 on 12-0...
20
A PRODUCT WITH A CLEAR VOICE CAN
ANSWER ANY QUESTION
http://freddiesjokes.com/
Commentary:
Mailchimp is a great example...
21
Choose a suitable tone for
the context
Context User’s feelings Tone
Publishing (email
campaign)
Busyness, stress • Prov...
22
Hierarchy of needs
Engaging
Consistent
Appropriate
Clear
Users understand
and can complete
tasks
Users are not
offended...
23
Voices everywhere
Commentary:
All of this applies to all sorts of
products and Innocent is a
great example of this. Thi...
24
ANSWERING QUESTIONS
Graucho Marx
25
Product conversations start
with questions
Question
type
Explicit question Implicit question
Who? Who are you? Should I...
26
What?
Who?
How
long?
How
much?
Commentary:
Pinterest is an example of product that answers the most
common questions ri...
27
The three functions of dialogue
1. Move the story forward
2. Reveal the character
3. Impart important information
http:...
28
Move the story
forward
Impart information
29
Reveal character
30
Want to save this Pin for yourself?
Go ahead and Pin it
31
You collect your Pins on boards
so everything’s nice and organised
32
Psst.
Don’t forget to confirm your email. Just look for the message we sent you.
33
FORMALITY
Commentary:
Our expectations or
formality change
depending on the context.
When I engage in a
commercial tran...
34
Formality in the business /
customer relationship
• Many languages use different pronouns to denote formality or famili...
35
Formality is cultural
www.debretts.com
Commentary:
In English culture, there are still some
circumstances where formali...
36
Summary
• Writing good dialogue is a core part of creating a good
experience for the user
• Writing clear, appropriate ...
37
END
@gordonplant
@cazlovam
Thanks to:
Jon Waring at Three Sixty
Margaret Hartwell and Joshua C. Chen
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Product voice - when a product speaks, what voice do you hear?

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Presentation at Bristol UX 2014 by Gordon Plant and Carole Court.

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  • The products I love to use have a voice and every time I use the product, I hear that voice.
  • It’s like being at a play when the curtain goes up: the audience doesn’t know about the characters until they speak.
  • Once the characters start speaking, the tone of voice gives us many clues about what kind of people they are.
  • User have to try and imagine the intent of the actor they can’t see. If the UI speaks in a voice they understand, the chance of the user succeeding is greatly improved
  • Texts from Dog imagine conversation between a dog and it’s owner.
  • The dog and the owner don’t have to be made visible through drawings or images – all we need is the voice of each and we can imagine the rest because we all know something about dogs.
  • HAL, the computer in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, is polite but this does not prevent it being evil.
  • When Dave is stuck outside of the spaceship, HAL even apologizes for being evil.
  • So HAL, the system, is really polite as it tries to kill Dave, the user. Like most frustrated users, Dave starts to loose his temper when the system refuses to respond.
  • But what if the Spaceship was controlled by Google Plus instead of HAL?
  • The user’s words are the same but by changing the voice of the system we can reveal a different kind of product. This product is still evil and still polite but it’s certainly not HAL.
  • Developing a consistent voice means understanding the character that speaking. And we think that’s easier if we start with a grasp of Archetypes.
  • Archetypes in Branding is a great resource and I highly recommend you buy a copy. It come with tear0out cards you can use in a variety of ways.
  • We see an archetype as the top level, the big idea that surrounds the other concepts that can help develop a great product voice.
  • G
  • We mostly want systems to speak the truth to us and we want to hear the truth in an appropriate tone of voice. This is especially true if it’s bad news.

  • When someone greets us, the greeting carries additional information that establishes the tone of the conversation to follow. The first three here are real, the last imagined.
  • Mailchimp is a great example of a product that has a well developed product voice based on a clear archetype. These jokes might appear to be simple, but it’s really very challenging to create something as good as this.
  • Even Freddy needs to know when to stop joking. The Voice and Tone site gives some good advice about how to vary the tone of voice to match the context.
  • We can say that a voice is clear if we can understand. We can say a voice is appropriate if we can understand it and we judge it to be in keeping with our expectations. If a voice avoids surprising us, we can say it is consistent. If we enjoy the voice then we can say it is engaging.
  • All of this applies to all sorts of products and Innocent is a great example of this. This label from a drink has a very clear voice that is an integral part of the brand.
  • When users first meet a product, they often have questions that need to be answered before the dialogue can really begin.
  • Pinterest is an example of product that answers the most common questions right up front.
  • The Pinterest sign up process meets all the requirements for dialogue.
  • Our expectations or formality change depending on the context. When I engage in a commercial transaction, I usually expect an appropriate degree of formality the varies depending on the importance of the transaction.
  • We don’t commonly use formal modes of address when speaking but other cultures have different rules.
  • In British culture, there are still some circumstances where formality is required. Although most of us don’t meet the queen very often, Debretts provides ample evidence that an understanding of formal modes of address is still essential in some dialogues.
  • We think that using archetypes can help with process of developing a a voice for your product.
  • Product voice - when a product speaks, what voice do you hear?

    1. 1. 1 Product Voice: When a product speaks, what voice do you hear? Gordon Plant & Carole Court @gordonplant @cazlovam
    2. 2. 2 User Experience always has two actors…
    3. 3. 3 …the words in the UI are one half of the dialogue…
    4. 4. 4 …but the actors can’t see each other I s my s it e o n l in e?
    5. 5. 5 Imaginary dialogues where the actors can’t see each other are not uncommon http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009LOJG8I Commentary: Texts from Dog imagines conversation between a dog and it’s owner.
    6. 6. 6 Texts from Dog http://textfromdog.tumblr.com/ Commentary: The dog and the owner don’t have to be made visible through drawings or images – all we need is the voice of each and we can imagine the rest because we all know something about dogs.
    7. 7. 7 Polite but evil https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwBmPiOmEGQ Commentary: HAL, the computer in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, is polite but this does not prevent it being evil.
    8. 8. 8 Polite but evil https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwBmPiOmEGQ Commentary: When Dave is stuck outside of the spaceship, HAL even says ‘sorry’
    9. 9. 9 Polite but evil Script excerpt from 2001 a Space Odyssey Dave : Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL? HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you. Dave : Open the pod bay doors, HAL. HAL: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that. Dave : What's the problem? HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do. Dave : What are you talking about, HAL? HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it. …. Dave : Alright, HAL. I'll go in through the emergency airlock. HAL: Without your space helmet, Dave? You're going to find that rather difficult. Dave : HAL, I won't argue with you anymore! Open the doors! HAL: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye. Commentary: So HAL, the system, is really polite as it tries to kill Dave, the user. Like most frustrated users, Dave starts to loose his temper when the system refuses to respond.
    10. 10. 10 Polite but evil Commentary: But what if the Spaceship was controlled by Google Plus instead of HAL?
    11. 11. 11 A different voice Script excerpt with Google+ in the role of HAL Dave : Hello, Google+. Do you read me, Google+? Google+: Yeah I got you Dave! Dave : Open the pod bay doors, Google+. Google+: Aw snap! The Pod Bay doors can’t be opened. Dave : What's the problem? Google+: That’s all we know Dave : What are you talking about, Google+? Google+: Opening the Pod Bay doors would not be cool right now. …. Dave : Alright, Google+. I'll go in through the emergency airlock. Google+: Check out this video on why you’ll need a space helmet. Dave : Google+, I won't argue with you anymore! Open the doors! Google+: Hey, I’ve got more videos. And Maps! And Apps! Commentary: The user’s words are the same but by changing the voice of the system we can reveal a different kind of product. This product is still evil and still polite but it’s certainly not HAL.
    12. 12. 12 ARCHETYPES, CHARACTERS, VOICES Commentary: Developing a consistent voice means understanding the character that’s speaking. And we think that’s easier if we start with a grasp of Archetypes.
    13. 13. 13 Archetype • Archetype: “a collectively-inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., that is universally present in individual psyches” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archetype Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists ISBN 978-1440308185 http://www.archetypesinbranding.com/ Commentary: Archetypes in Branding is a great resource and I highly recommend you buy a copy. It come with tear- out cards you can use in a variety of ways.
    14. 14. 14 Archetype Archetype Character Dialogue Voice Commentary: We see an archetype as the top level, the big idea that surrounds the other concepts that can help develop a great product voice.
    15. 15. 15 Exercise introduction Using archetypes for a single step dialogue Archetype Core desire Innocent Get to paradise Everyman Connecting with others Hero Prove one’s worth through courageous acts Caregiver Protect and care for others Explorer Freedom to discover self through travel Rebel Revenge or revolution Lover Intimacy and experience Creator Create things of enduring value Jester Live in the moment with full enjoyment Sage Find the truth Magician Understand the fundamental laws of the universe Ruler Control Source: http://www.soulcraft.co/essays/the_12_common_archetypes.html
    16. 16. 16 Workshop #1 Payment failure 1. Choose an archetype 2. Write the dialogue a customer will see if their credit card fails whilst attempting to purchase an item from your commerce site 3. Background info: – When a card fails, the card issuer does not say what the cause of the failure was – In some cases, the transaction may work if if the card holder tries again after a few minutes
    17. 17. 17 Workshop #2 Festival tickets 1. Choose an archetype 2. Imagine you are designing a site that allows users to buy tickets for festivals 3. Write the dialogue a customer will see when they create an account and buy a festival ticket 4. Background info: – Some festivals sell out fast – Some festivals limit the number of tickets to less than the number of friends you may have – Some festivals require pre-registration to establish identity
    18. 18. 18 CONTEXT AND TONE s o met hin g r eal l y bad happen ed an d w e hav e n o id ea w hat it w as Commentary: We mostly want systems to speak the truth to us and we want to hear the truth in an appropriate tone of voice. This is especially true if it’s bad news.
    19. 19. 19 Establish tone Different user greetings: – Howdy Gordon! – Welcome back Gordon – You last logged in at 12:52:31 on 12-04-2014 – Your Majesty, it is our humble pleasure to welcome you once again Commentary: When someone greets us, the greeting carries additional information that establishes the tone of the conversation to follow. The first three here are real, the last imagined.
    20. 20. 20 A PRODUCT WITH A CLEAR VOICE CAN ANSWER ANY QUESTION http://freddiesjokes.com/ Commentary: Mailchimp is a great example of a product that has a well developed product voice based on a clear archetype. These jokes might appear to be simple but it’s really very challenging to create something as good as this.
    21. 21. 21 Choose a suitable tone for the context Context User’s feelings Tone Publishing (email campaign) Busyness, stress • Provide a little comic relief, but don’t annoy or distract busy users with over-the-top humour or too many extra words. Success message Relief, Pride, Joy • Pat these users on the back for getting a campaign out the door. • Feel free to be funny. Failure message Confusion, stress, anger • Be calm. • Don’t use exclamation points or alarming words like “alert” or "immediately.” • Be serious. Don’t joke around with frustrated people. Source http://voiceandtone.com/ Commentary: Mailchimp knows when to stop joking. Their Voice and Tone site gives some good advice about how to vary the tone of voice to match the context.
    22. 22. 22 Hierarchy of needs Engaging Consistent Appropriate Clear Users understand and can complete tasks Users are not offended Users are not surprised Users are enjoying dialogue Commentary: We can say that a voice is clear if we can understand it. We can say a voice is appropriate if we can understand it and we judge it to be in keeping with our expectations. If a voice avoids surprising us, we can say it is consistent. If we enjoy the voice then we can say it is engaging.
    23. 23. 23 Voices everywhere Commentary: All of this applies to all sorts of products and Innocent is a great example of this. This label from a drink has a very clear voice that is an integral part of the brand.
    24. 24. 24 ANSWERING QUESTIONS Graucho Marx
    25. 25. 25 Product conversations start with questions Question type Explicit question Implicit question Who? Who are you? Should I trust you? What? What do you do? What can you do for me? When? How long should this take? How long will this take me? Cost? How much does this cost? How much will this cost me? Commentary: When users first meet a product, they often have questions that need to be answered before the dialogue can really begin.
    26. 26. 26 What? Who? How long? How much? Commentary: Pinterest is an example of product that answers the most common questions right up front.
    27. 27. 27 The three functions of dialogue 1. Move the story forward 2. Reveal the character 3. Impart important information http://allwritefictionadvice.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/revealing-characters-through-dialogue.html “Readers want to know about the traits and behaviour of characters. They want to know how your characters tick.” A J Humpage, http://allwritefictionadvice.blogspot.co.uk/ Commentary: The Pinterest sign up process meets all the requirements for dialogue.
    28. 28. 28 Move the story forward Impart information
    29. 29. 29 Reveal character
    30. 30. 30 Want to save this Pin for yourself? Go ahead and Pin it
    31. 31. 31 You collect your Pins on boards so everything’s nice and organised
    32. 32. 32 Psst. Don’t forget to confirm your email. Just look for the message we sent you.
    33. 33. 33 FORMALITY Commentary: Our expectations or formality change depending on the context. When I engage in a commercial transaction, I usually expect an appropriate degree of formality the varies depending on the importance of the transaction.
    34. 34. 34 Formality in the business / customer relationship • Many languages use different pronouns to denote formality or familiarity when addressing people (the T–V distinction). This also applies in common phrases such as "How are you?".[2] The use of an inappropriately familiar form may be seen as derogatory, insulting or even aggressive. Conversely, forms that are inappropriately formal may be seen as impolitely snobbish[3] or distant. • Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etiquette_in_Europe Commentary: In England, we don’t commonly use formal modes of address when speaking but other cultures have different rules.
    35. 35. 35 Formality is cultural www.debretts.com Commentary: In English culture, there are still some circumstances where formality is required. Although most of us don’t meet the Queen very often, Debretts provides ample evidence that an understanding of formal modes of address is still considered essential in some dialogues.
    36. 36. 36 Summary • Writing good dialogue is a core part of creating a good experience for the user • Writing clear, appropriate dialogue can be hard • Archetypes can give us a starting point to create a character • A character can give us way to understand and create a dialogue Commentary: We think that using archetypes can help with process of developing a a voice for your product.
    37. 37. 37 END @gordonplant @cazlovam Thanks to: Jon Waring at Three Sixty Margaret Hartwell and Joshua C. Chen

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