Respect the user

Every alert in software might as well be saying Hey, idiot.’ John Hull

Treat humans with dignity and respect. Behind the abstract label of user” is a flesh-and-blood human with hopes, dreams, feelings, and ambitions, none of which have a thing to do with your OKRs1. The user isn’t a character in your story. You’re a (miniscule) part of theirs.

Some mantras to aid in your quest to respect the user:

The user isn’t stupid

Users don’t want to deal with complexity and they shouldn’t have to. If they can’t use your software, your software is too complex. A content designer tackles complexity, wrestles it to the mat, breaks it into bite-sized chunks, and makes cookies out of it.

The user doesn’t want to think

Users doesn’t want to learn your software, but they have to. So make it easy to learn, and dare I say it, fun? Folks’d rather play than think. A content designer teaches without teaching. Like the technicians who light a stage play, you illuminate without being seen yourself. If this sounds hard, it’s because it is.

The user doesn’t want to read

Users don’t want to read your tooltips or play moguri taiji with endless pop-ups designed to further your marketing goals. A content designer doesn’t get paid by the word. Go easy on exposition and provide instruction only when needed. Users scan, they don’t read.” Design accordingly.

The user can do what they want

Your user doesn’t care that much about your business goals. (Sorry!) They are using your software for their own selfish, weird, or unpredictable needs. A content designer must let the user be the hero. Regard them as whole person with autonomy (not a dollar sign), and your experiences will shine.

Other principles of content design

  1. Objectives and Key Results↩︎

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