The Power of Words.

power of wordsProduct management is all about connecting the dots between business and product, strategy and execution, the big picture and the small details. I focused some earlier posts on the former two and will devote this post and some upcoming ones to the later — the importance of attention to detail.

With the rise of UX design you’d expect that the importance of the written word would be recognized as an integral part of the design process — from the conceptual stages where you consider whether, where and how to use text vs. graphics all the way to detailed design where actual text is incorporated and reviewed. Unfortunately, I’ve rarely seen that happen in practice.

Here are a few tips to help integrate text in your design process:

Just say it.

Yes, people don’t really read and real estate is expensive (especially on mobile), but a straightforward sentence in plain English (no marketing lingo, please) goes a long way towards providing context and addressing concerns that may prevent users from taking action.

ZenPayrollZenPayroll (left) wisely chose to go beyond a “Run Payroll” button and provide important details regarding the pay period. They also added a playful yet important message clarifying they’ll take care of both employee and tax payments. Setting that playful tone helps deliver the message and reinforces ZenPayroll’s brand identity.

Use text as a design element

Text can be a great visual element complementing graphics and icons.

EchoSignThis example from EchoSign’s pre-Adobe days (a personal favorite) uses text for secondary actions with simple text links instead of buttons, clearly presenting secondary options to the user without creating visual overload.

Simplify experiences with text

Providing users with clear understanding as to how your product works or what to expect next can be quite challenging, especially when your product needs to be able to do that for hundreds or thousands of possible use cases.

For example, see how JIRA and Fogbugz — both powerful and popular bug and issue tracking systems — have taken different approaches toward presenting filters.


JIRA (top) took the more traditional approach using drop down lists to present filter elements. Fogbugz (bottom), on the other hand, generated this user experience using text. Some would prefer JIRA’s approach, but I believe FogBugz did a great job making complex filters more accessible, especially for less technical audiences.


Using text is not always the right answer, but adding it to your UX design toolbox and giving it the same level of attention to detail as graphic design would provide you greater flexibility to address design challenges.

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