Content Design: Your tone of voice can attract or drive customers away

March 31, 2021 • 3 min read

404 Pages are an example of good and bad tone of voice uses

The tone of voice refers to what you make your users feel or think about your product. It influences people’s perceptions on your content. So it affects metrics as interactions, conversions and even sales.

Often, stakeholders want to use a “friendly” tone. But that’s not clear, and irreverent content hardly communicates trustworthiness and professionalism.

As UX Designer, you must advocate for a tone of voice based on the user’s context and concerns. You need to guide your team to tailor the content as if it was a person who your users will be attracted to listen to.

1. Identify your audience context

Cartoons of different types of people usign different type of devices

  • Role. Note what makes them different: Why do they need your content? Where are they going to use it? What is their context like?
  • Experience. Check if they have some special knowledge or expertise degree: How familiar are they with the content? Are they beginners?
  • Vocabulary. Consider if there’s any term that may cause confusion: How do they talk to each other? Are they fluent in the language?
  • Commitment level. Observe how much value they give to your information: Are they willing to invest time in it? Is it for emergencies?

2. Highlight your business purpose

Start with why, as Simon Sinek suggests

People want something that solves the problem. But they don’t buy what you do, they buy something that makes them feel they are better. However, stakeholders want to focus the message on features, technology or pricing plans. They forget the business heart as a storytelling tool.

  • Why did the company or project start?
  • Why should people care about it?

3. Choose the correct tone of voice

4 metrics to identify the tone of voice of a content

Gather your team and some company’s content (website, blogs, or emails). Read them aloud and classify them in groups of tone. They may sound casual, technical, informative, etc. Then select those that match your business purpose and audience context to experiment.

  • Consider how to use pronouns: using the third-person (Company Name) is distanced and even abstract about who is speaking. But using the first-person (We) is warmer and gives the perception of a group of people instead of a faceless company.
  • Writing about your audience using the second-person (You) is direct and engaging, while using the third-person (Customers) is more detached. Similarly, use contractions to make your tone more conversational or avoid them to sound more formal.

4. Test and iterate your content

Collection of adjectives for tones of voice

Something I love to do is humanizing the piece of content. Ask your users, if this content was a person, what would it be like? To overcome the confusion, ask about clothing, hobbies, favorite places, etc.

  • Does the person described match your selected tones?
  • Do users percibe the business purpose?
  • Have you found the correct words and pronouns?

5. Spread the news

Creative team at the meeting room

Publish a guide within your organization. It must include:

  • Definitions of the correct tones of voice
  • Specify which tones are incorrect (i.e. We are casual not formal)
  • Provide some example sentences using both cases

This document should also quote the business purpose and explain the target audience. It will help stakeholders to communicate a clear, meaningful and aligned message to your users.

Remember, you can keep users engaged by offering a trustworthy and professional experience. You only need to prove that the business cares about their needs. Because as in any relationship, loyalty comes after trust.


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