Do you use an appropriate and consistent tone of voice?

Last updated by Brady Stroud [SSW] 7 months ago.See history

How you or your product speaks to users is integral to their experience and has notable impact. Tone dictates how your content feels in digital spaces that lack face-to-face communication.

Tone of voice is everywhere in UX and content design, from hero banners to button text and error messages. A casual tone on a corporate website may come across as unprofessional, while a formal voice on a social media can feel detached and unengaging.

Know your audience

Knowing your audience is key to good design. Who are your users? What are their expectations? How can you align with them?

Consider the following:

  • Demographics - Analyze the demographics of your audience. E.g. age, gender, location, and cultural background
  • Psychographics - Understand the values, beliefs, and preferences of your audience. Tailor your tone accordingly
  • Preferred channels - Identify the spaces and tools your audience prefers and adapt to suit them

Find the right voice

Think of your product or brand as a person. How does that person talk and act?

  • Formal vs Casual - Official correspondence, or talking to a friend?
  • Serious vs Funny - Solemn and stern, or fun and silly?
  • Respectful vs Irreverent - Dictionary words, or cultural references and made-up phrases?
  • Matter-of-fact vs Enthusiastic - Informative statements, or drama and hyperbole?

Oops! We're in our 404 flop era. Sorry about that!

Figure: Example - Casual, fun, irreverent, and enthusiastic

404 error: We apologize for any inconvenience.

Figure: Example - Formal, serious, respectful, and matter-of-fact

Why tone matters

In a UX study by the Nielsen Norman Group users gave feedback on 4 websites. They saw 2 versions of each site, where the only difference was tone of voice.
Users displayed clear preferences for each product. The right tone felt more credible and trustworthy - key measures of desirability.

The tone of voice that creates that feeling of trust will differ based on your specific audience and their concerns.

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