Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Yours? Mine? Understanding audience and user perspective and labels

I remember vividly the reader letter that came to one of the magazines I wrote for back in the Pleistocene era. It was aimed at high school students heading toward college and independent living, also an antique concept. "Thank you," she wrote, "for the article on your first apartment in the November issue of On My Own."

A great start--except the magazine's name was On Your Own. To say the reader was taking it more personally than we imagined would be an understatement. And of course, we were addressing millions, but she was thinking purely of herself. She'd internalized the message and reflected it in her language.

In Is this my interface or yours? John Saito of Dropbox dives deeper into that issue in a thoughtful look at what it means today. He works through what the "my" perspective means, as well as the "your" perspective, then turns to what might seem like the easy change: no perspective, as in when Windows changed the label "My Computer" to just "Computer." He notes:
Unfortunately, cutting out “my” or “your” doesn’t work 100% of the time. Sometimes you really do need to differentiate the user’s stuff from someone else’s stuff. For example, in YouTube, you can’t just say “Channel,” because it’s not clear whether that’s referring to your channel, channels that you’ve subscribed to, or channels that YouTube is recommending to you.
If you haven't taken the time to think through why you label things "your" or "my" -- be it a blog post, an app interface, or a sign -- this is a thoughtful read to pass around and discuss with your team.

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both.

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