This third session is about the textual elements of an interface, focuses on the engaging power of the font hierarchy and information architecture. To express meaning in a written channel, we have word choices and font style options available. We also have emoticons to express emotions; although, need to keep in mind that in case of e.g. a productivity tool, bringing emotions into a cognitive work flow would not necessarily be helpful. What we do not have in the textual content, however, is gestures, voice pitches, and facial movements. For that reason, everything that requires personal context to be interpreted properly is better to be avoided in writing, including irony, contextual jokes, and wittiness. Without personal context, such writing, unfortunately, is often interpreted as questioning the users capabilities and evokes negative emotional responses, decreasing the chance of becoming a returning or habitual users.
Please check some of the most common issues and their explanation below. Click on the numbers to load the related image.
The copy of an interface can be engaging, even with consideration for the above limitations, when adopting the font hierarchy according to a live conversation.
In this font hierarchy, using a distinctive font family provides a very big contrast, especially when used with a larger font size. In terms of strength, doing so is equivalent to shouting. If the font family is kept consistent, but the font size is increased, it's similar to dialing up the tone but not changing the pitch (changing the pitch would be made by changing the font family), which is close to calling and used as a header in the UI; often accompanied with a sub-header that introduces the topic.
After the header and sub-header, there is usually a big breath (increased white space in writing), then one starts to talk normally (the body of the text). Applying font styling within this body text has a very important function, i.e., it structures the message. One may use a bold style on what would be articulated in a live conversation, italics when quoting someone, and underlining when one is pointing the audience somewhere. Bear in mind that interchanging these styles can cause fall-back in terms of the engagement with the topic since, for example, using italics doesn’t draw attention or increase the tone; hence, it's not useful for highlighting important features. Also, applying bold style for a quote can come across as pushing others’ opinion too hard on the users. Further, underlining the text traditionally makes it look clickable, which directs the user attention out of the conversation, hence, not useful for engaging them in the topic at hand.
After the main message is conveyed, one may attach a couple of comments. Attaching comments in writing can be done through the use of brackets, indentations, and decreasing the font size or fading the font. In the font hierarchy these are the counterparts of side mentions, whispered comments, and mumbling, respectively, in live conversation.
Despite all of the above, the most engaging aspect of the copy is the conversational nature of the message. System messages are not simply worthless when they do not explain the consequences of the users' action, but on the emotional level they deliver a sense of abandonment. Even a simple deletion confirmation needs to clearly explain what will be lost and how can it be retrieved or where the user will be redirected or can go by themselves after completing the deletion. Providing this information gives the impression of a two-way communication stream that will encourage the visitors to explore the platform further, feeling guided and safe.