Talk like a person

“A conversational tone provides an opportunity for your site’s visitor to respond as if really being spoken to by another person. This receptive state of mind permits the reader to enter into a dialogue with the site and reinforces the feeling that the site is made by people and not machines.”

I today stumbled on to a interesting section in the Yahoo developers site (via).  It is a set of principles mostly from Flickr that have been used to develop Yahoo services.  Bravely it states

“These high-level principles have proven to help make social experiences work online.”

Some seem very useful and intersting, and good to remember:

“The easiest way to talk like a person (in the user interface copy of your site or application) is to adopt a conversational tone.

People reading impersonal text on a screen will remain disengaged.

Resist the urge to write like a grad student or a bureaucrat. Ask yourself if that’s really how you talk. Read any copy out loud and strike out anything that feels awkward to say. Try speaking the text out loud to another person to see how it feels in your mouth, hear how it sounds aloud, and observe how the other person responds.

Be careful to avoid obscure slang unless you have already established confidence in the minds of your users to the extent that they are willing to rely on context and gist to follow your meaning.

Don’t mistake being cute for being real.”

Some are dreadfully basic, and simplistic:

“It may be useful to develop a number of ‘first-time’ achievements (e.g., ‘First Review posted’, ‘First Recipe Written’, ‘First Comment Received’.)

  • Make these achievements worth less than other, more difficult ones
  • Don’t continue to reward more of the same behavior. These ‘first’ achievements are useful for encouraging people to try new and novel features, but don’t reward them for gaming those features repeatedly.”
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