Writing UX messages to alleviate user error
In order to challenge myself, I signed up for the Daily UX Writing Challenge. Each day for 2 weeks, I received a content problem to work out.
I set a timer for 10 minutes to complete each of these screens.
Scenario: The user entered the wrong email address to sign in to their account.
Challenge: Tell the user to enter the right email.
Solution: Instead of a blunt “invalid email,” I went with more accessible language and a clear action.
I also tried for a softer tone with “our records” rather than “our database.”
Scenario: The user is trying to rent a car using an application but the credit card on file has expired.
Challenge: Write them an error message so that they can correct the problem.
Solution: Failed financial processes can be stressful. The user may be in a vulnerable state, so a message that begins with “Your credit card is expired” might sound accusatory. Instead, I’ve chosen to make the message more impersonal.
Scenario: While critiquing a design, the user’s computer abruptly turns off.
Challenge: Write a message that the user will read immediately upon opening the program.
Solution: I’ve always disliked when an error focuses on the program not being shut down correctly-as oftentimes it’s not the user’s fault. The computer may have crashed or the program may have frozen. This is a high-stress situation, and the user would want to know what happened to their data immediately. They also may feel helpless, so I’ve included two buttons with direct actions.
I learned a great deal from these exercises. While microcopy and expired payment methods may seem trivial, without clear, purposeful language, these friction points can lead to frustrating user experiences. I greatly enjoyed thinking through these little puzzles of language.