Chapter 3. Conversation for Content-First Design

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Conversation for Content-First Design

The role of the designer is that of a good, thoughtful host anticipating the needs of his guests.

—Charles Eames, American designer

Writing from scratch is daunting when the page is blank, the sky is blue, and the task is described only as “make something entertaining.” But that’s not what UX writers are for. Our words aren’t there to be read, savored, and appreciated, but to pass unremembered while they help get somebody to the thing they want. When we approach UX writing, we know where we start: the goals of the organization and of the people who will use the experience, and the work we’ve already done to determine the voice.

In this chapter, I share an exercise based on the primary way humans interact with others: the conversation. It’s a method of designing an experience that starts before the diagrams or screens. (For existing UX text, try Chapter 5.)

Conversation is somehow in our genetic makeup. Humans take turns speaking and responding in ways that cross languages, continents, and cultures.1 Conversation is a lot older than responding to pixels on screens and sounds from speakers, so it still governs how we respond to those pixels and sounds.

Throughout this book, when I write that UX text should be conversational, I am not specifying a voice or tone, like “casual conversation” or “folksy.” I mean that it is recognizable to humans as an interaction they are having with the words. ...

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