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UX Content Guides: Clear Guides, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose

As a startup grows, it gets increasingly difficult to oversee every individual piece of copy. Before chaos descends, learn how a style guide can help to manage content across all products and platforms.

In startup life, we all know how the story goes: what starts out as a small group of people with a singular vision often grows into something more unwieldy as ten people turns into twenty, fifty, a hundred.

There are countless books and blogs on how to define and grow your company culture, sharpen your systems, and build up kickass design libraries.

But what about your copy?

Not often included in design repositories, and overlooked by brand guides, copy is the red-headed stepchild of the product team. Unstructured and unnoticed, the art of great copy comes from how unnoticed it can be.

But left untended, bad copy can turn into a huge problem.

Meet your new best friend: the content guide.

What is a content guide, anyway?

When I joined my current team at YuLife there were a dozen of us. As a scrappy startup trying to revolutionize the stodgy life insurance market, we lived the startup dream.

There was a collective energy and culture that I was able to translate into a consistent voice for speaking to customers. It was easy because I was able to check in with people and make sure that the words said what we wanted them to.

Three years and over 50 new hires, the company has grown in size and scope. We still care about connecting with our users, and making sure that we live our company ideals of putting the heart back into life insurance.

But it’s impossible to have one person oversee every individual piece of copy across all products and platforms. Which is where Module 3 of the UX Writing Hub Academy lit a fire under me.

I got to learn all about the best ways to distil the essence of the company’s voice into something that we can use for all our content needs. This aligns with our company values of appreciating the uniqueness and individuality of our users, and making sure that they know we’re here for them.

The elements of a content guide

You might think that a style guide isn’t important to you, but no matter what level you’re working at, it’s worth taking the time at the start. (Trust me, you’ll thank me for it later.)

The most important lessons that I’ve learned aren’t about spelling and grammar (although let’s be honest, they’re vital). But what about whether or not you use contractions or formal English?

You might not think there’s much of a difference between “Dear Sir” and “Hi Y’all”, but your customers will notice.

A content style guide helps you to encourage consistency in voice and tone across product teams and platforms. At YuLife, we wanted to make sure that whichever touchpoint a customer responded to, they felt like they were talking to the same voice.

We know that today’s digital products should have a personality and conversational feel to their UX. The elements that matter to us:

  • Formatting: For us, that was stressing YuLife. Not Yulife. Not yulife.
  • Voice: Voice and tone are fundamentally different. While your tone might shift depending on the platform or context, your voice should be uniform across all copy. Our content is friendly, empowering, and approachable by design.
  • Style: We’re conversational, and so our content incorporates this. We incorporate slang, gifs, and topical references so that our customers are aware they’re talking to real human beings that care.

Back in our small-team days, these choices that were intuitive and helped drive our business forwards have become things that matter to our customers as much as they matter to us.

We’re proud of being able to reach out to people, and as we grow, I’m excited that the voice of YuLife will continue to delight and evolve no matter how many people come on board.

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