Today, Episode 46 of the MS Cloud IT Pro Podcast was published. I was the guest and our conversation included some discussion of UI Text Design. UI Text Design was new to me a year ago and it’s something you don’t hear about every day, so I thought I’d share some more on the role.
The screenshot above shows the list view drop down in SharePoint. Even as I look at it now, I see UI text that doesn’t follow our design guidelines. Addressing those issues is part of the role.
Recently, the word “as” was added to this menu. That two letter change, from ‘Save view’ to ‘Save view as’, had a measurable, positive impact on the number of views saved. As a new UI text designer, I was very happy to learn the role could have such a strong effect on the product usage.
UI Text Design References
UI text design is something that happens in all software with user interfaces. However, it may be that only large development teams, like OneDrive and SharePoint, have specialists in the role. I’d never heard of the role before joining Microsoft and that may be one reason why. In many development teams, including work I’ve done in the past, it’s left to the programmer to write the text that shows on the screen.
If you look closely on the web, however, you can find signs that others are doing the role as a specialist and have been for awhile. Here are a few things I’ve found:
- Cheryl Lowry, a former Microsoftie, who’s also done UI text design for Amazon and now Facebook, wrote this post in 2011: 6 things I’ve learned about writing user interface text
- OpenStack, cloud software I learned about at Rackspace, has published UI Text Guidlines
- Microsoft’s Fluent Design System includes Accessible text requirements, which pair well with Tone and Voice guidelines from Microsoft Design
- Google’s Material Design includes Writing Style Guidelines
I’ve found UI text design is a natural extension of my other current role at Microsoft, content development for help, learning and training about SharePoint. If you’d like to get involved in content development, check out docs.microsoft.com where anyone can contribute to improving Microsoft IT Pro and Developer docs.
Docs.microsoft.com includes a great summary of the Microsoft voice principles, with the following main points:
- Focus on the intent
- Use everyday words
- Write concisely
- Make your article easy to scan
- Show empathy
If you’ve got more to add or questions to ask, add them in the comments below or @ mention me on twitter @resing.
I’m always fascinated by claims like this:
“That two letter change, from ‘Save view’ to ‘Save view as’, had a measurable, positive impact on the number of views saved.”
Do you guys ever consider giving us insights into the actual metrics? It would really help us out here as we have conversations about words on screens with our clients. If we could point to measurable examples, we could build better solutions.
Plus, we might finally believe the “Telemetry!” cliams. :-p
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
Have you seen the Ignite 2016 session from Russ More? I can’t remember if you were sitting in that one with me live, but I really enjoyed it. There is a recording available, if you didn’t: https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Ignite/2016/BRK3026 It doesn’t answer all your questions, but Russ does spend some time talking about telemetry and how it has been used to improve the service.
If you’d like to use telemetry to improve the performance of your applications, there is some guidance available. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/dev/solution-guidance/portal-performance#general-performance-guidelines-for-client-side-web-applications is a good summary with a link to setting up some Azure services.
I guess I shouldn’t have brought up telemetry – I derailed my own question!
I was more interested in the specifics around individual tweaks you guys make. Something like…
When the screen said ‘Save view’, we saw x uses per month. Once we switched it to ‘Save view as’, we saw y uses per month. We believe this mattered because…
I’m learning a lot about UI Text Design. I’ll think more about I can share in the future. For this particular change, a cue was taken from Office. When you “Save as” in Word, PowerPoint or Excel, a copy of the file is made. The hypothesis is that adding the word “as” would indicate the same for a view and make it more safe to click.
I can confirm it helped one of our users who screwed up a view because he saw ‘save view’ instead of ‘save view as’.
It doesn’t have to be metrics, usability testing can also help a lot to detect these issues.
Hi Bart, Thanks! So glad to hear it helped. I agree. Real stories, from real customers are very valuable.