Your Users Need Closure: A UX Writing Mini Case Study

What do your exes, favorite Netflix show, and better UX have in common?

Closure. All of them need proper closure.

In 8 Rules to Design Better Interfaces, computer scientist Ben Shneiderman writes:

“Sequences of actions should be organized into groups with a beginning, middle, and end. Informative feedback at the completion of a group of actions gives users the satisfaction of accomplishment, a sense of relief, a signal to drop contingency plans from their minds, and an indicator to prepare for the next group of actions.

For example, e-commerce websites move users from selecting products to the checkout, ending with a clear confirmation page that completes the transaction.”

Lately, I’ve been doing some research on HMO providers in the country and I came across Maxicare’s website.

The website copy and user flow were both okay (from my perspective as the user, I don’t know with other types of users) but not really great. 

In fact, there was a little cognitive friction while I was filling out an application form for one of their plans. I almost called it quits prematurely because I had more questions about the package I chose, and I thought I need to do more research.

However, I decided to stick around and be more patient in filling out the form. cue in some Zen music…

After all the confusion and countless furrowed brows (hello forehead wrinkles!) while filling out the form, I eventually made it to the end.

                    Go ahead, click to enlarge image. Alma Moreno is my alter ego.

Whew! Finally, the sense of closure that I’ve been waiting for. Yet why do I still feel iffy and uncertain about it?

My initial thoughts after reading the page copy were:

a. Oh, so that was it?
b. What do you mean “check your email regularly”? What if user A’s version of “check your email regularly” is checking it 3x a day? What if user B’s version of “check your email regularly” is plowing through her inbox once a week?

Good UX Writing: Simple, Straightforward, and Human

For UX consultant Mario Quintana, well-designed forms are scannable, conversational, provides closure, and gives certainty.

With these in mind, I’m putting my UX writing chops to the test by helping improve Maxicare’s form completion copy.

Here’s my version:

                                               Go ahead, click to enlarge image.

Ultimately, performing more user research such as usability tests, contextual inquiries, and content testing can further help us find the right words and phrases in designing the application form.

As UX writer John Saito of Dropbox says — keep it simple, straightforward, and human. It doesn’t have to be catchy or clever (this is common practice in marketing, my heart breaks into a million pieces whenever someone says “just write something catchy!” ), but bonus points to you if you can make it simple, human, and clever at the same time.

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