Product content design

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The product content world is all about designing and building our products, as opposed to educating people on how to use our products (Help), or raising awareness about our products (Marketing). 

We align to the One Intuit voice and tone system and style guide, and those elements are applied in a specific way when we build products. We approach product design from the perspective of the conversation we’re having with our users. We work hard to convey meaning with as few words as possible, while still offering a bit of personality and brand character.

This is what differentiates our products in the marketplace, and ladders up to higher NPS, adoption, and retention. Hopefully.  

Understand the audience

In detail. Lots of detail. Who uses this tool? Who sees this messaging? 10% of new subscribers? QuickBooks Plus subscribers with more than 5 employees who have used the product consistently for 6 months but who don’t use our Payroll product? People who use a certain feature? People who have never used a certain feature?

We really want to understand who is exposed to the interaction and messaging. What’s important to them? What are they thinking? What are they feeling? We want to know what they had for breakfast that morning.

This is a dry test exposed to 10% of randomized QuickBooks users in the construction industry who have more than 10 employees and who have been on the platform for more than 12 months and don’t use our Payroll product. Ethnographic research shows that this cohort typically skips breakfast and just has a cup of coffee, so by the time they arrive at this part of the task flow odds are good that they’re pretty cranky from low blood sugar.

It’s for everyone.

Keep ’em focused

Give users only what they need, only when they need it.

We keep our users focused on their task by asking, “Is this the right place to surface this particular concept? Will reading this help my user finish what they’re working on right now, in this moment?” If the answer is no, we work to find a more appropriate place to surface that concept. 

Basically, we don’t ask users to remember something to use later. That puts more burden on their working memory and increases cognitive load. And that leads to a poor user experience.

Keep going?
Yes/No

Before you continue with the next step in your tax setup, check out this list of features that you might find helpful once you finish registering.

Get to the point

Guide people through their tasks quickly, easily, and pleasantly. 

Humans only have 1,440 minutes in a day. Most of that time is spent on living and doing things like eating, sleeping, and spending time with family and friends. We don’t make our customers spend any of these precious minutes reading words that don’t carry meaning. Nothing should slow them down.

Headline:
Let’s set up your sales tax center.

Body:
Just 2 steps and you’re all set.

CTA:
Get started

Headline:
Let’s set up your new and improved sales tax center.

Body:
You’re just 2 steps away from an awesome experience.

Subhead 1:
Double-check your business address

Sub body 1:
It provides the most accurate rates and reports.

Subhead 2:
Tell us who collects your tax

Sub body 2:
Connect your old tax center agencies to their new agencies.

CTA:
Get started

We’re stronger together

We work in close partnership with interaction and visual designers to design our products. All three craft skills work together, all the time. Exploration, iteration, and collaboration get the best results for our customers. 

We also work closely with product managers to understand the business, developers to understand technical capabilities or limitations, researchers to understand customers and pain points, and legal to understand risk and compliance. Everyone working together to solve the same customer problem results in awesome.

We decided to shorten the page header to allow more whitespace in this part of the screen, keeping the user’s focus on the action. 

We changed “can” to “may be able to” to take into account legal parameters and our risk model around what certain users are allowed to do.

This small bit of in-flow messaging helps bridge our technical gap of not being able to automatically populate the next field.

Research showed that this is our user’s #1 pain point. This screen title wording addresses that specifically.

We thought it looked nice.

Test

A final design we think is cool is irrelevant. Test everything with customers in some way. We are not our users.

We ran an intercept test over 3 days, exposing all users who logged in during that time frame to the same 2-question survey. 400 accountants responded. Of those, 75% preferred label A. The other 25% were spread equally between the other 3 label options.

We thought it sounded nice.

Make it accessible

Since we tend to work on more than one project at a time, product content designers are uniquely positioned to help their partners lean in to accessibility and create smooth experiences throughout our product suite. The UI is expressed in words for people using screen readers, and keeping screens uncluttered, simple, and logical help reduce cognitive load. 

We watch out for accessibility issues in all parts of the UI, not just content:

  • Is there a non-standard icon that no one will ever understand without a label?
  • Is there a complex interaction that you can’t keyboard your way through?
  • Is that image coded as background, or does it need alt text?
  • Does that cool chart or infographic have a text alternative?
  • Should that form-field ghost text really be a label?
  • Does that Help video have good captions?
  • Do lines of text have more than 80 characters?

Often a quick, intentional scan of a mock can help bring attention to trouble spots before we go any farther. Learn more about accessibility and inclusion

Keep it crisp and clean

  • Use the fewest words possible on the screen to convey meaning clearly. Start with the least amount of stuff that might work. We can always add more if users aren’t getting it. Learn more about writing for a small space
  • Look at in-flow content on a screen or in a message in context of the entire interaction–what the user wants to do, what the user may be feeling, what they did just before they got to this moment in the UI, and what they’ll do next.
  • Anticipate potential issues and user challenges. In the UI, we do this via in-flow messaging, tips, and other explanatory text.
  • Reserve FAQs or self-help articles only for those moments when a user might want to dig deeper. Use links that take the user away from the UI sparingly, and avoid them if possible. All info for completing online tasks should be expressed in the UI. If someone needs to read an article in order to complete a task, we find a way to incorporate the necessary info into the UI itself.
  • Assume a level of expertise. We don’t teach people how to use the Internet–or their computers, phones, or other devices. We assume that someone already knows what the big X is for at the top right corner of a modal.