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Product managers have 8 arms, right?

That’s what it takes to interact with their many audiences, from investors to users, from developers to marketing and salespeople. Since all these audiences have their own specific needs and mental models, communicating clearly with all of them is a huge, complex job.

By placing each audience on the center of the communication process, the Clarity Method, supported by a clarity checklist, is likely to become one of their best writing tools.

Checklist

Are you communicating effectively with all your audiences?

Our clarity checklist helps you make sure you will.

DOWNLOAD THE CHECKLIST

Success depends on good communication with all

Success relies on the enthusiasm of many people. Thus, the mission of assuring a product’s success must be accomplished at the eye of a hurricane made of different expectations, needs, interests, abilities and responsibilities.

Product manager

Product managers must therefore be able, among other things, to:

  • persuade users to let them into their lives and share their knowledge and their wishes at the beginning of each project; later, they have to persuade users to actually use their product
  • seduce investors or their board and convince them to part with money; then they need to keep the money-people informed and involved to keep the money flowing in
  • inspire their designers and developers to make the product’s vision their own and help them understand the many pressures project managers are under
  • show marketing and sales the awesomeness of the new product and the bits users value the most
  • advise and support the people who advise and support customers to keep them happy: their customer support team.

 

Without clear communication between everyone, performing all those different tasks (managing so many different mental models) becomes a much harder mission. What kind of tool could help product managers write efficiently to all their stakeholders?

The Clarity Method

The Clarity Method can help

How can you know whether you’re being clear? Well, how do you know whether your product works in the first place? Your users will show you or tell you, right? It works exactly the same way with any sort of writing: your “users” (that is, each of your specific audiences) determine whether it is clear, because it is only clear if each reader is able to find it, understand it and act on it.

So, the Clarity Method takes into account not only what makes all audiences alike but also what makes them different. Five basic thumb rules should then be considered:

  1. Start with a purpose
  2. Know your audience
  3. Grab your key messages
  4. Use their words
  5. Keep it short

1. Start with a purpose

Bear in mind from the start exactly what you want
Whenever you write to someone belonging to any of your multiple significant audiences, it’s crucial that you know from the beginning why you are writing. What do you want to come out of that particular written document? Think: cause-effect. Your document is going to be a cause – so what do you want the effect to be?


Write down your purpose

Be specific: what exactly needs to happen so that at the end you can smile and say: mission accomplished?

Don’t settle for vague outcomes such as:

I want the designer to save the user some time.

Instead, specify:

I want the designer to cut down the number of clicks from 5 to 3.

Defining your purpose so sharply will make it easier for you to:

  • remember exactly what you want throughout the entire writing process, so you don’t get lost (your purpose will always be there for you, like a lighthouse guiding your writing)
  • understand the nature of your purpose: are you trying to persuade someone, informing them, or asking for information?
  • go straight to the point with maximum simplicity, avoiding the pitfalls of prolixity and ambiguity.


Identify what you have to do in order to accomplish that purpose

What information must you provide so that your audience can understand what you have to tell them? Does your audience have to do something to meet your purpose? How can you be sure they’ll be willing to do it? And how can you be sure they’ll be able to do it?

For them to do what you want you may have to:

  • provide a context
  • justify a decision
  • display alternatives and their consequences
  • give instructions or specify next steps
  • show advantages
  • make recommendations.

2. Know your audience

Consider your audience’s mental models
Of course you have an idea (often a clear one) of who those people are. And you will automatically adjust the way you address each of them. But you will be all the more effective if you bring that knowledge explicitly to mind – and deliberately shape your communication according to each person’s needs, skills and interests.

While sketching your audience profile, consider specifically:

  • who they are: their age, background, education, profession,…
  • their area of expertise (and, therefore, the jargon they’re used to)
  • how well informed they are about the topic you want to bring to them
  • what their mental models are
  • what’s at stake for them: what do they have to gain or lose
  • their personality.

(You may even find you need to do some research on the people you’ll be addressing.)

Knowing your audience well will help you:

  • give them all the information they need (and no useless information)
  • adjust your language to their ability and preferences
  • find the tone that best suits their feelings.

3. Highlight your key messages

Know what your audience must remember
When planning what to write, it pays to draw a list of the main points you want to make. Let’s call them your key messages. This is the information that you want your audience to retain after reading your email or presentation, or whatever you’re writing.

Key messages should be short, strong, specific sentences that resonate with your audience.

For instance, instead of…

Payment encryption

or

Payment safety is a paramount requirement and should therefore be met by high standard product safety features

… you should write something like:

Your payments are encrypted to be extra-safe


You may have one key message or several

But try not to overdo it. More than three and your audience might start to struggle to remember them.

1. One of your key messages will be your main message. One easy way of picking your main message is to imagine that instead of an email or presentation you could only write a tweet. What would you say if you could only write 140 characters? That would be your main message! Display it ahead of all others (don’t keep your audience waiting for it).

2. Present your key messages in an order that is most significant for your audience:

  • What are the most important ideas for them?
  • Does any of your key messages include information that your audience will need in order to understand another key message?

3. Finally, you should turn your key messages into headings that catch your readers’ eye and help them skim through your text.

Make anonymous paragraphs stand-out with informative headings:

Before

The original Keds Champion lace-up sneakers provide the perfect blank canvas to express your unique style. Cute and comfortable, these shoes are a true wardrobe essential. Choose from thousands of designs or create your own. Note: Sizes shown are Women’s Sizes.

Found in the girls store category in the marketplace at Zazzle, the remarkable “ladies” sneaker above was added by the highly talented designer, forbes1954. With the title, “ladies, girls striped keds shoe lace up kedsshoe”, this ladies personalized shoe represents just a small sample of the many amazingly awesome shoe designs that are offered in the online marketplace at Zazzle. While forbes1954 justly called this shoe the “ladies, girls striped keds shoe lace up kedsshoe”, you’ll find other similar products by searching for the following tags: ladies, girls, and up. There’s no doubt that you will find other wonderful customizable Keds sneakers before you know it.

Source: 10 Compelling Product Descriptions

 

After

Choose a design or create your own
The original Keds Champion lace-up sneakers provide the perfect blank canvas to express your unique style. Cute and comfortable, these shoes are a true wardrobe essential. Choose from thousands of designs or create your own. Note: Sizes shown are Women’s Sizes.

Plenty of other customizable sneakers online
Found in the girls store category in the marketplace at Zazzle, the remarkable “ladies” sneaker above was added by the highly talented designer, forbes1954. With the title, “ladies, girls striped keds shoe lace up kedsshoe”, this ladies personalized shoe represents just a small sample of the many amazingly awesome shoe designs that are offered in the online marketplace at Zazzle. While forbes1954 justly called this shoe the “ladies, girls striped keds shoe lace up kedsshoe”, you’ll find other similar products by searching for the following tags: ladies, girls, and up. There’s no doubt that you will find other wonderful customizable Keds sneakers before you know it.

4. Use their words

When in Rome, speak as Romans do
Would your developers understand you if you talked to them in investor-speak? Would your users understand you if you talked to them in developer-speak? Maybe. But they would struggle and resent you for it. And you do want them all to be enthusiastic about your product, right? So why not make things easier for them?


Jargon may be OK

1. It is true that no words are clearer or more precise than jargon – as long as both sender and receiver master that specific jargon. So don’t mix your jargon when picking the right technical words to address different specialists, even within the same team.

A sentence like this, for instance, can be perfectly clear to some audiences:

With CPM where they are at the moment in this market, I know on advertising alone we’d break even.

And this one can be clear to some other audiences:

Based on a quick and dirty heuristic evaluation we think the current UX will be lacking in consistency. Also, based on our user profiles we think that skeuomorphic is the wrong approach.

2. Never assume that users will understand your jargon. So find really simple, everyday words when speaking to users.

When writing to customers, maybe this would not be a great sentence:

Our solutions reduce storage costs with de-duplication technology.

Why not write it like this instead:

Our solutions save space on your disk by checking for data that is already backed up and ignoring it.

Adapted from User-centric vs. Maker-centric Language: 3 Essential Guidelines

3. Keep in mind that specialists are common people on their spare time. Most common words will also work pretty well with investors, developers and the like. This is particularly important when you have to communicate with people of different audiences at the same time (common words are safe ground for everybody).


Everyday words are probably better

A good way of finding simple, everyday words that common people will understand is to get inspiration from how people speak – not from how people write. So imagine a casual conversation with your neighbour and the best words will naturally be there for you. And keep your ears open when doing user research — the words people use when describing their problems and their current solutions are the words they’ll expect to find when using your product.

And, of course, steer clear of words that don’t mean anything, like:

The search for excellence in developing disruptive solutions shall meet the evergrowing needs of today’s modern consumer.

5. Keep it short

Respect everybody’s time and effort
The people on whose enthusiasm the success of your product depends are really busy making it happen, you know? Short stuff respects their wish to get on with it and is easier to understand. So keep it all as short as possible (as long as your shortening fury doesn’t end up cutting any relevant piece of information). They will read you faster and understand you better.


Short documents

If there is really a lot to say and so you can’t produce a short document, at least make it look short:

  • Offer good outlines and summaries.
  • Make your headings and key messages visible at first glance.
  • Leave plenty of white space.


Short paragraphs

Try not to write paragraphs longer than 5 lines.

You can chop big, scary paragraphs into smaller ones:

Before

Oracle’s latest database cloud innovations help more businesses than ever leverage industry-leading enterprise capabilities while simplifying access for IT and developers. New data management capabilities enable companies of all sizes to confidently and easily migrate workloads to the cloud. Its massive cloud scalability and rapid analytics help deliver faster time to insights, greater agility, and real cost savings advantages. Whether you are developing applications or looking to migrate data management to the cloud, you now have instant access to enterprise-grade database capabilities. Oracle Database Cloud drives real business value with its ability to support a true hybrid cloud deployment strategy: 100 percent compatibility. Count on the same experience, whether on-premises or in the cloud.

Adapted from Oracle Beats Amazon Web Services

 

After

Oracle’s latest database cloud innovations help more businesses than ever leverage industry-leading enterprise capabilities while simplifying access for IT and developers.

New data management capabilities enable companies of all sizes to confidently and easily migrate workloads to the cloud. Its massive cloud scalability and rapid analytics help deliver faster time to insights, greater agility, and real cost savings advantages.

Whether you are developing applications or looking to migrate data management to the cloud, you now have instant access to enterprise-grade database capabilities. Oracle Database Cloud drives real business value with its ability to support a true hybrid cloud deployment strategy: 100 percent compatibility.

Count on the same experience, whether on-premises or in the cloud.


Short sentences

Try not to write sentences longer than 25 words and never go over 40.

Any 47 word sentence like this can easily be chopped into smaller ones:

Before

ASICS Running clothing features iconic design and high performance running jackets, running tops, shorts and tights made with the latest ASICS technology including MotionDry to keep you cool when running in the heat and our waterproof and windproof MotionProtect technology protects you when running in cold weather.

Adapted from Asics website

 

After

ASICS Running clothing features iconic design and high performance running jackets, running tops, shorts and tights. / All are made with the latest ASICS technology including MotionDry to keep you cool when running in the heat. / Our waterproof and windproof MotionProtect technology also protects you when running in cold weather.

Or, even better:

ASICS Running clothing features iconic design and high performance running jackets, running tops, shorts and tights. / All are made with the latest ASICS technology including:

  • MotionDry to keep you cool when running in the heat
  • MotionProtect to waterproof and windproof you when running in cold weather.


Short words

Why waste everybody’s time and patience writing “visualize” when you can simply use “see”?

Checklist

Are you communicating effectively with all your audiences?

Our clarity checklist helps you make sure you will.

DOWNLOAD THE CHECKLIST
Por | 2017-01-24T22:53:11+00:00 18, Outubro, 2016|Categories: Português Claro, UX Design|

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