Saturday, September 4, 2010

Windows Phone 7 – Voice and Tone

While reviewing the UI Design and Interaction Guide for Windows Phone 7 (you have looked at this haven’t you?) this morning I came across something new.  From page 192 and 193:

Many users consider text displayed on computers to be another language
called computerese, a jargon-filled, soulless, completely impenetrable for-
eign language that torments them by hindering their ability to complete
tasks and asks nonsensical questions in dialog boxes.

Windows Phone 7 banishes computerese entirely and developers should
as well. The Windows Phone 7 voice and tone should be human, clear and

Voice refers to the personality within the text. For example, the voice of
the writer would be their overall personality expressed by what they write.
Tone is the overall mood of the text such as happy or angry. The Windows
Phone 7 tone is friendly, lighthearted, and empathic.

One method to check if text has the proper voice and tone would be to
see if it sounds like a friend assisting another friend with something on the
phone. An example would be helping them understand an error mes-
sage that appears in the application. A developer shouldn’t offer a rigid,
uninformative response when trying to explain an issue such as, “Error
Code: 4B696C626F.” Many people could be confused or frustrated by that
message, as it provides no context or potential solution. However, some-
thing such as, “There is some info missing here. Please enter your name
in the text box to move to the next page,” is clear, friendly and provides a
helpful suggestion.

It is imperative to give users a meaningful response in a casual, com-
prehensible manner. Help them fix the problem in a way that they can

Consider the string, “Synchronize the phone device.” It sounds mechanical
and stilted. Instead, “Sync your phone,” sounds much more like what
someone would tell a friend to do.

Another example is, “Schedule a calendar event for tomorrow through
Outlook.” It is neither friendly nor representative of how a friend would
speak.  An alternative could be “Set up an appointment for tomorrow in

Just like a lot of other stuff in Windows Phone 7.  It seems obvious and a good idea after you hear about it.


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