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One of the many Jason Foxes. Content designer at Chime.

The following post was originally published in the December issue of the newsletter. Subscribe here.

There’s a bone-chillingly odd video on YouTube called What am I? What am I? In it, a young boy blows out his birthday candles and wishes for his stuffed dolls to come to life. He gets his wish, but the newly self-aware dolls can only slap themselves in their faces and scream “What am I?! What is this?! What am I?!”

And that’s more or less how I felt during my first few months as a content designer on Atlassian’s Growth Team. It was…

The world will forever scrutinize your errors and their messages

Error messages are written on ever-changing ground. They’re one of the most common requests for writers. And they require constant communication across disciplines and product areas. So if your users are Tweeting at you about a disappointing error message experience, consider it an opportunity 😁

The building blocks of an error message

So long as you write for digital products, you will never stop writing error messages. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend all of your time debating, defending, and revising these troublesome moments of communication.

These core syntactical building blocks may help you establish…

How to design content that helps people adopt products

Samuel Hulick says that “user onboarding is the process of radically increasing the likelihood that new users become successful when adopting your product.”

That’s the essence of onboarding. And over the last several months, I’ve been exploring the process part of Hulick’s definition. Specifically, I’ve been diving deep on the written word within onboarding experiences.

But it’s not always easy to look at the words within onboarding experiences and know if they’re helping or hurting.

Here’s an example from Google Hotels:

Point of view in conversational interfaces.

Our world is full of things. People, wild animals, chairs, Florida man.

When we observe and interact with all of these things, we’re able to judge our position relative to them and their positions relative to each other. We’re able to establish our point of view.

An illustration of a person staring at another person staring at a robot. White lines indicate lines of sight.

Living with no point of view would be difficult. Imagine having a conversation with a bank teller. But instead of standing at a counter talking to a bank teller, you’re floating in a colorless void where time, physics, and matter have ceased to exist. From out of nowhere, nothing happens and you hear nothing.

Writing apocalyptic fiction before work, every day

Photo by Sean Mungur on Unsplash

I was on my honeymoon when I decided to write a novel about the apocalypse. I’d always wanted to write something novel-length but doubted I could. As we drove along on our road trip, ideas on structure, character, and plot kept bubbling up. It felt right. And I spent many hikes stumbling over rocks and tree roots while typing notes into my phone. When we got home, I started writing.

I’ve signed a contract with myself to write at least 1,000 words a day and to keep a daily writing log. I’ve also decided to share my writing log on…

Microcopy’s role in UX upsells.

Imagine that you’re hanging out with Bob Ross.

And Bob Ross tells you, “Hey friend, mind fetching a new tube of my favorite hue of blue? It’s behind the door with the ‘Blue Paint’ sign.”

So you stride toward the “Blue Paint” room, eager to learn what you might create with with Bob’s favorite hue. But as soon as you swing that door open, you’re confronted with an all-too-familiar reality. How did you not see this coming?

Writing microcopy for destructive actions.

One of the marvelous things about UX writing is that you’ll inevitably write yourself into some torturous and impossible-to-fathom linguistic corners.

One day, your mind boggles over whether to hyphenate or not hyphenate a lesser-known phrase. The next, you forget what sanity feels like when someone asks you to write microcopy for unknown errors.

I went to a 5-day UX training and all I got was my mind blown.

Baymard UX Training in Copenhagen. January, 2018.

I recently started working as a UX Research Analyst and Writer at The Baymard Institute, an independent usability research group that conducts large-scale research studies and publishes the results as articles, reports, and benchmark databases.

Part of my onboarding involved attending the firm’s 5-day e-commerce UX training workshop in Copenhagen. The workshop’s content, gleaned from over 28,000 hours of UX research, was extensive, eye-opening, and occasionally hilarious.

Below, I’ve shared a selection of of what I learned during my week of training.

Disclosure: I currently…

Lessons learned from when words suddenly don’t make sense

For me, listening either comes easily or it doesn’t come at all. And the context doesn’t seem to matter. I could be meeting someone interesting for coffee, trying to sell an idea or service over the phone, or talking to one of my best friends about a topic that I’m passionate about. Regardless of the scenario, I’m haunted by waves of linguistic disorientation.

In his article How to be awkward and still win at selling, Paul Jarvis writes:

To sell well, I had to do three things: Ask questions, shut up and listen, then repeat the answers back.

I love…

The jig is up!

It was a tough call deciding to cut this one loose. We’re just starting to feel bad that you haven’t caught on yet. Every time we propose a voice and tone style guide you say “yes”, and sometimes you say “wow! You can do that?!” Though, to be honest, the thrill is beginning to wear thin.

So the jig is up, got it? You can stop burning resources on voice and tone style guides. Spread the word.

Don’t get us wrong, these style guides are a bit of a windfall for us writers. But you’ve recently taken this trendy deliverable…

Jason Fox

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