Do you have a question? Contact us now!

Contact Us

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Back to list of entriesWorking in a UX agency
UX Writer

Ewa Filipiak

UX Writer

27.6.2022
-
5
reading min.

Conversational design - what is it and why should it be implemented? 6 examples from the communication of well-known brands

Customers are abandoning your solution, even though they were interested in it at first? They do not catch the new feature? Or do they keep coming back with the same question, even though everything is described? Perhaps the problem lies in communication. Read the article and find out how to turn "user manual" texts into friendly conversations with someone who knows how to help!

"These texts were already accepted, let's not move them. Besides, if someone makes an effort, they'll understand. It is not a philosophy. 

"Let's write an announcement about it and that's it. I think it's enough that we put it under people's noses?". 

Chances are you've heard some of these texts. But if you want people to actually use your company's offer, sentences like these should set off a red light. 

After all, we all want to achieve our goals quickly and simply. And as customers - if we don't do it with this company, we'll go elsewhere.

That's right. The decision to "go elsewhere" occurs, among other things, when people:

  • They feel lost - they don't know where to find something, where to go and what to click on to reach their goal,
  • they do not understand what is going on - for example when they read long messages written in difficult language that do not fit their situation,
  • are overwhelmed - they see a mass of information and no longer know what to decide.

Rest assured. These problems can be (at least partly) solved with texts.

Today, you'll learn a few rules that define how to design texts so that customers feel like they're talking to a service professional (even though they're clicking on that screen themselves).

Before we get into specifics, a word of explanation:

This article is an abridged and compiled transcript of Mobee Dick's first webinar entitled. "App, speak human!", hosted by Ewa Filipiak and Bartek Sury on 19.10.2021. The theoretical part could not have been written without the work of experts in the fields of communication and content design, but the most cited source (and the biggest inspiration) was the book Conversational design by Erika Hall.

If you feel unsatisfied after reading, refer to the sources at the bottom of the article for more knowledge.

UX writing, copywriting, conversational design - what are they and what are they responsible for?

"Okay, then who will help me with my lyrics?"

Recently, quite a few specialisations have emerged from general 'writing'. I will therefore introduce you to a few terms that should lighten the subject a little.

Copywriting promotes and encourages, UX writing guides and maintains

UX writing is about designing content for interfaces. It is therefore about applications, websites, services or other digital spaces where you are dealing with a process (e.g. you can buy something, book an appointment, send an enquiry).

It is sometimes the case that UX writing is talked about in contrast to copywriting. At Mobee Dick we look at these fields more as two supporting elements.

Imagine it as a relay race.

Thecopywriter is competitor No. 1. On cue, he takes off, and his role is to invite, sell, convince of benefits and values before users even interact with the product. And once he's passed the lap, he passes the baton to the UX writer.

When? 

In fact, when a user logs on to a product for the first time, they are undergoing onboarding. With UX writing, the task is therefore to: 

  • maintain users,
  • smoothly guide them through a process with their texts,
  • give them a rewarding experience (or at least not annoy or disturb them).

This means that these areas should always support each other. 

Conversational design or meaningful conversation

To make it easier for you to imagine what conversational design is, I will refer to Scott Kubi (designer, author of Writing for Designers), who in a conversation with Kristina Halvorson (content strategist) said this:

The whole website experience feels like a pleasant interaction with a smart, competent customer service person. It doesn't feel like you're interacting with a robot. You don't have to have quirky personalities or chat bots, or little things that are popping and asking you questions in the style of an iMessage bubble to do that

Scott Kubie, author of Writing for designers

Can you feel it? 

Scott talks about creating an experience for the user in such a way that they feel they have a good interaction with a knowledgeable consultant. 

The product and the customer in a sense talk to each other, so it is good for the customer to feel and see that this product-consultant:

  • supports him with empathy, 
  • understands him,
  • knows his language and conveys his knowledge simply and concretely.

Scott also points out that you don't need a chatbot or other solution that is supposed to simulate a conversation or actually speak to achieve this effect at all.

This can be done with 'plain' text.

How to design conversations - 4+1 model

"Then what should these text-talks look like? How do you write them?" 

I am in the comfortable position that I can simply give you 5 principles that were developed some time ago in the scientific world. 

So why the 4+1 model and not the 5 principles?

Because we actually owe it to two people - the British philosopher of language Paul Grice and the American linguist Robin Lakoff. 

Of course, they didn't talk about their findings in the context of digital products, but you can use these principles that way and it will be quite effective.

Paul Grice's 4 principles

Quantity

Give only as much information as necessary. That is, without unnecessary background outlines, digressions, anecdotes. As they say: "To the bank".

Quality

Earn trust, place a premium on authenticity and transparency. 

And this is not subjective advice or observation. For example: the 2021 trend map published by infuture.institute shows that consumers simply expect brands to be transparent. This is not a novelty, but slowly a market standard.

Relation 

Adapt the tone and topic to the situation and to the relationship. To make it easier, think of this as an example:

Imagine that a distinguished older gentleman walks into your company building and very shyly accosts you and asks where room 402 is. 

I assume you will not say to him: "Buddy, you're going to walk elegantly down this corridor, catch the lift and get to the other one. And if you can't figure out where the room is, there's supposed to be a Kasia hanging around, hit her up. You got this, right?" 

Of course you wouldn't say that (what a bizarre situation, besides he doesn't even know who Kasia is).

I see it more like this: "Please walk straight down the corridor and take the lift to the second floor. You should easily find a room, and if not, there will certainly be a member of staff there to help you.

Better at once, isn't it?

Businesses can enter into different relationships with their customers (neutral, friendly, partnership in the business sense, etc.). So ensure that the tone of your brand is authentic, 'out there' and simply fits with what you want to build.

Method 

Be concise and logical.

And if it is important for the user to follow the steps in a specific order, present it to him in an orderly (and not chaotic) way. Then he won't feel lost and won't ask himself: "What is actually wrong if I am doing everything as described?".

1 rule Robin Lakoff

Courtesy 

Being nice simply pays off, that's why:

  • do not hide anything from your audience, 
  • Where possible, give them a choice,
  • make them feel good.

So much for theory. In the title of the article I promised you examples - so here we go!

CONTACT US

Conversational texts in your solution? Let's find out what can be done.

Questions? Get in touch with us!

Let's talkLet's talk
Hola, hola, this is not the end! The rest of the article is under the banner.

6 examples of conversational design

1. prompts from Glovo and OLX


Screen from Glovo application - delivery restrictions
Source: Glovo application, Glovoapp23, S.L., glovoapp.com
Screen from OLX application - select parcel size
Source: OLX application, OLX Group, olx.pl/lp/mobile/

In Glovo's case, this is the screen that appears when you place a custom order. The system displays a box telling you about delivery restrictions.

You can probably see that a package can be 8-9 kilograms with dimensions of 40 x 40 x 30 cm. The information is precise, but at the same time very dry, because such values are abstract for the brain. None of us has a tape measure or a scale in our head, so it's hard to imagine how much it is like that in practice.

So Glovo uses a pictorial example and seems to say: "Listen, this is as much as such a decent watermelon" or "Imagine an aquarium, one more square than rectangular".

OLX does the same in its parcel hints. The application gives specific dimensions, but also says that in a package of size M you will send a laptop, toaster or jeans.

And all (or almost all) is clear.

2. the Slack Help Centre

Help centre type pages should be subservient to the product, they are after all an essential part of the interaction with the brand.

They support the user when they:

  • does not understand something, 
  • needs more support, 
  • simply wants to ask you something. 

Notice how precise Slack is when answering audience questions. Let's take a look at the "Join channels" section.

Slack Help Center
Source: slack.com/intl/en-pl/help/articles/205239967-Join-a-channel#mobile-1

If you use Slack, you know very well what channels are. And if you don't use it, you can find out and join the first channel (step by step). 

This screen resembles a helpline call - the consultant refers to what you see on the screen and guides you to your destination, quoting the names of all the items in passing.

Slack does the same thing, just in text form.

3. Subscribe to the Janina Daily newsletter

The previous example was very literal, and now you will see the opposite.

Why am I showing extremes?

Because I don't want to leave you with the impression and template approach that "conversationalism means writing the way Company X does it". Choosing the right words depends on who is on both sides of that conversation.

Take a look at the form from janinadaily.com:

Janina Daily - sign up for the newsletters
Source: janinadaily.com

I don't know Janina Bak personally, but I follow her on social media and this newsletter invitation "Can I come to you on Christmas Eve?" really plays with her image for me.

If you know Janina, you will probably agree that her personality shines through in this text. 

Is it cool? Yes. It's conversational and authentic.

Does this style work for everyone? Absolutely not. 

Here, you could afford to do so because Janina's audience is familiar with the convention (although metaphors are usually avoided in UX writing because they can make people with cognitive impairments or people from outside a particular culture uncomfortable).

4. error message in Vinted application

Now let's assume that you once created an account on Vinted, but it slipped your mind and after some time you try to register again. Then the system displays this information:

Vinted error message
Source: Vinted.co.uk application, VINTED UAB, vinted.co.uk/app

 "This email address has already been used on Vinted platforms. Does it belong to you? Go ahead and log in." 

Such a paragraph is much better than dry and technical: "Email address not available", "This record is in the database" or "Invalid value".

Again, translate this into a situation from the offline world. 

You visit a long forgotten place, although it turns out you even have a membership card there. The person behind the counter enters your details into the system and sees that you already have an account.

Does it say: "Invalid value" and falls silent?

It would get really weird. He would sooner say: "Well, welcome back! I see you're one of our customers, but I don't think you have your card with you. Are we making a new one?".

5. Infoboxes from Google, YouTube and Toggle

Next are infoboxes (also known as tooltips or boarding infoboxes). These are interface elements that appear suddenly and let you know that something has changed in the product or a new feature has appeared.

When to report it?

Preferably when the user is using the product. This is the most natural context in which to receive this information.

Of course - you can try to notify news by email, but this is likely to be less effective.

Not bad, however, are the examples from Google, YouTube and Toggle:


Google Infobox
Source: calendar.google.com
Youtube Infobox
Source: youtube.com
Infobox Toggle
Source: track.toggl.com

When you want to draw people's attention to a change, keep it concise and as precise as possible - as in the attached examples.

Why? 

Because you are interrupting someone's process on behalf of the company.

It's a bit like interrupting a busy person in real life and politely saying, "Excuse me very much, I see you're doing something, but I'll just be a moment. See, if you press this new X, Y will happen. Use this and you'll find it easier, more efficient and more enjoyable. I promise.

"Well - it has to be concise and precise. More specifically?"

Point to: 

  • what has changed and where,
  • how to use the new (or amended) function,
  • why it is worth getting to know this element.

6. Empty state of the Discord

Empty state is the kind of view where you read, for example, that:

  • the system found no results,
  • there are no elements on the screen, but you can add something,
  • no progress has yet been made in the process. 

See how such a state has been planned by Discord.

Discord - system did not find results
Source: Discord app, Discord Inc., https://discord.com/download

Designers could use a very technical message here: "Nothing found" or "No results". (And you, the person on the other side, somehow manage this).

They could, but thankfully they do not. 

Instead, they humanely admit: "We have searched far and wide. Unfortunately, nothing. But please feel free to add a friend or join the server". 

This is an example of good anticipation of needs. 

Discord doesn't have what the user is looking for, but the product development team knows their audience and has an idea of what they are typically trying to find with a search engine.

Also pay attention to the voice and tone the app uses. 

Discord is a platform for communication, which is used among others by gamers. You can feel that the designed texts fit into their language. The product is meant to be a companion for spending quality time together. Other examples show this:

Discord - stream ended
Think you're in a hurry to watch a stream of your favourite game, but you don't manage to get there on time. Discord then invokes the "cricket sound".
Discord application screen shot
When your friend, let's call him John, joins the server, Discord displays a funny message like "Swooosh. John just landed" or "John just showed up. Hold my beer".

The creators stick to that fun, all fiction world convention. And it's fun.

CONTACT US

Conversational texts in your solution? Let's find out what can be done.

Questions? Get in touch with us!

Let's talkLet's talk
Hola, hola, this is not the end! The rest of the article is under the banner.

Summary

Conversational design is the approach that communication in an interface should be like a conversation with a consultant.

Texts can be considered conversational when:

  • are relevant to the context of the users, i.e. take into account different needs and levels of knowledge, ability or concentration,
  • are written politely but plainly, and there are no hidden intentions,
  • convey all important information in a logical sequence so that people feel empowered rather than confused,
  • fit in with the relationship you want to create with your audience - which doesn't mean it has to be loose and chatty, be authentic and fit with your brand.

Now that you understand this, it remains to check how the texts in your product are doing. And even if it turns out that there is something to improve, you already know where to start. 

That's it from me. If you're still feeling hungry for knowledge, I'm throwing up the sources that were the inspiration and basis for this article. Go ahead and use them 👇.

Sources

  • Content Design London (founder S. Winters, was Richards), Readability Guidelines (accessed 14.10.2021).
  • E. Hall, Conversational Design, New York 2018.
  • infuture.institute, Trend map 2021 (accessed 14.10.2021).
  • J. Redish, Letting Go of the Words. Writing Web Content that Works, Burlington 2007.

CONTACT US

Questions? Get in touch with us.

Questions? Get in touch with us!

Let's talkLet's talk