Convincing your team that words matter

I think copy is an intricate part of product design. Getting everything else right, and product copy wrong would still be a disaster. But in most organizations, product copy falls through the cracks. It’s the last thing anyone worries about, and it isn’t seen as something that influences user experience. When not well thought-out, unclear copy doesn’t just make your product look unprofessional, but also frustrates and annoys users.

The hardest thing to do is convincing designers and engineers – the entire product team that words matter. The best way to go about it is to show, and not tell. When we got on calls talking to Freshdesk users, we realized many of them were confused by something we thought was very simple to understand.

We had three tools that allowed customer support teams using Freshdesk to triage and organize questions coming in to their inboxes. They were called Dispatch’r, Supervisor and Observer. Dispatch’r ran on existing tickets – allowing support teams to act on any incoming ticket matching a certain keyword or a condition. With Dispatch’r, for instance, you can set up a rule that says: if a ticket has the word ‘refund’, assign it to the Billing team. The Observer ran on any event that happened (not just on new tickets), and Supervisor ran every hour checking tickets for certain conditions and executing some actions.

When our customers went looking for a way to prioritize and organize tickets, they completely missed these options, although they were right in front of their eyes. A customer even told us that they were looking for something called ‘Automations’, and the names ‘Dispatch’r’, ‘Supervisor’ and ‘Observer’ – didn’t make much sense to her. This was a recurring theme in almost every conversation we had (and we’ve had loads of them). We’re finally going ahead and fixing this in the product – Dispatch’r, Supervisor and Observer will be unified under ‘Automations’.

When I’m working with an engineer (or sometimes a designer) on changing the product copy, this is often the story I narrate to them. I show them a video of this customer struggling to find automations, and it makes them instantly see for themselves how much words make a difference. Once people realize this, it gets a lot easier: you are no longer fighting the “is this important?” question in their minds, you’re only helping them with “how can we make this easy for our customers to comprehend?”.

Another tip: Having done this, I know that there are always words that might miss your eye. It’s in these situations a little bit of process comes in handy. Every software product has a file that contains a list of all the words used in the screens (en.json, in our case), and we set up a review process in GitHub to notify copywriters when changes are made to this file. So they can jump in and edit words, much before something new and shiny gets in front of our customers.

This post was also published on Product School communities.

Published by shankarganesh

Product manager. I solve problems that matter, make mistakes along the way, and learn from those mistakes. And then a year later, I come here to share what I've learned :)

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