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The importance of tone of voice in design

The importance of tone of voice in design

When I’ve said something mildly amusing, my sister has a really confusing habit of stating “That was funny” - but with a poker straight face! We’re Scottish so I recognise sarcasm when I hear it, and that’s not it. She means it, but in not teaming it with a laugh, the moment is completely lost while I sit frowning trying to figure out what just happened.

With written web and app content you only have words to work with. No facial expressions, no audible tone, no laughs (!) so you are relying purely on language to create a tone of voice to represent the personality of your brand or service. A tough task but when done well it can be really powerful.

Multiple studies have shown that tone of voice is measurably influential. From this alone users make assumptions around trust and competence, which in turn affects their loyalty to you.


Pick me, pick me!

Your tone of voice can be the sole reason a user chooses you over anyone else.

Informal, relaxed language is perceived as friendlier and more trustworthy, making users more likely to recommend your brand. You may be surprised to find this applies to more serious industries too, like banking. When writing for web it helps to picture how a face to face interaction would be perceived. Less stern people are more approachable and you believe they are representing themselves honestly. A formal voice may come across as intimidating so users can struggle to interact with the brand or relate to it.

I’m not suggesting you need to be a comedian, cracking jokes in every paragraph. If this ran throughout, users would start to question professionalism. Injections of humour now and then are successful as they provide a momentary lift.


Consistency is key

Consistent language with a tone that matches your brand’s other elements persuades users to believe in the service and the intelligence behind it. It gets the message across much more clearly and convincingly too.

Now for the science bit… human beings seek to create a well-founded image of whoever we are communicating with. When we can’t do this we become confused and suspicious which in turn puts us off pursuing a relationship with them.

So there’s no use having a site showcasing an exciting new service available and supporting it with language that’s uninspiring and flat. They may not realise why but it is unlikely to ‘sit right’ with the user and they’ll move on. Much like how I felt about my sister’s response (not that I then proceeded to source an alternative sister).


Seal the deal

Design a voice and tone that will give your brand a likeable personality that is consistent, genuine, reliable and compelling.

Consider the user’s emotional needs at the time of visiting your website or app and alter your language to suit. Really consider why they might be on there in the first place. Tone can be used to reassure them that they are in good hands and what you have to offer will help them to achieve exactly what they set out to do.

It is a good idea to create a well-defined voice and tone and outline this within a guide. You can then arm those providing written content with it. That way your brand will speak in a consistent and well-recognised voice whether this be on your website, social media or newsletter.


Jordana Jeffrey

Created on Wednesday September 11 2019 12:05 AM

Tags: web-design tone voice

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