Twenty-three years ago, British engineer Neil Papworth typed out a simple message that would change the way we communicate for years to come: “Merry Christmas.” It was the first text (SMS) message ever sent and we’ve been furiously typing away ever since.
The ability to communicate without our voices has become a part of daily life. Yet it’s also presented us with some interesting challenges along the way. Without the benefit of visual and auditory cues, we’re forced to depend solely on the words we see on a screen. And similar to how our tone of voice, or body language, can change the meaning of a word or statement, the way we type can also change how a message is perceived. If you have customers that interface with a chat or text interface—or even if you partake in the occasional text or three—there are a few things you need to know.
It’s common knowledge that typing in all caps can make a reader feel like you’re yelling at them. But did you know that finishing a text message with a period can make the author come across as insincere?
Our interactions are no longer ruled by the likes of the Associated Press or the Chicago Style Manual. Our preferred communication method is electronic, instant (relatively), and open to interpretation by the reader. So how do you assure a great user experience with so many variables?
The answer lies in remembering who you’re talking to—a human. While Emily Post may have some advice on texting, there’s a bit more to it than social graces and polite conversation. Texting and instant messaging have their own special rules, especially when it comes to user experience.
1. A human needs to read your copy
This might sound obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Computer-generated communication is scalable, efficient, and sometimes even gives your customer what they want. But let’s be honest. When you get an automated chat or text, you know it’s from a machine. But when you get a message that’s sincere, you let yourself believe it’s from a real person—even if it’s not. That’s what you want. No matter where your copy comes from, it should feel like a real person wrote it—not a chatbot.
2. (Some) rules go out the window
The fun and interesting thing about humans is that we don’t always follow the rules. Sure, we may have been taught not to end a sentence with a preposition. But is that how we really talk? It may seem weird if you’re typing it out over a chat window or text message, but if you don’t type like you speak, things will quickly start to feel insincere. When it comes to texts and chats, traditional rules of grammar and language don’t necessarily apply. Just make sure you use textspeak sparingly, and keep your message friendly, but professional.
3. Emoticons aren’t all bad
I’ll admit, I haven’t been the biggest fan of emoticons. But when it comes to rapid-fire communications, they do serve a purpose. With just a few words or images, you can elicit an emotional response from your audience. When you’re communicating textually, you’re also communicating visually. Which means your reader will be translating your message both verbally and emotionally. It isn’t just the words on the page, it’s what they imply—and how your readers will interpret them. So if you just aren’t feeling a full-stop, a simple might be the answer.
Human interaction is complicated. Typically we require both visual and aural stimulation. But we’ve moved to a textual form of communication that makes our traditional forms of dialogue nearly impossible. But that doesn’t mean we still can’t communicate. The things you think you know about written communication may not necessarily apply to text and chat interactions. The chances are pretty high that your customers are chatting or texting—right now. Interact with them in the same way that you would with a close friend, and you’ll connect.
Source: User Testing