Humanizing Design

Word Choice is User Experience, too

Word Choice is User Experience, too

At this year’s InnoTech conference in Austin, Texas, Handsome’s team had a chance to listen to TopGolf’s CIO, Tom LaPlante discuss how TopGolf transformed into a data driven organization – where everything from spillage, customer comps and reservation abandonment is tracked and measured.

For those poor souls unfamiliar with TopGolf, think Dave & Buster’s meets Caddy Shack. It’s a 3-5 story driving range where players wave their club over a sensor which then shoots a ball out for the player to swing (and hopefully) drive into an open range. Hitting the ball in certain areas of the rage rewards players with a range of points as all balls are equipped with strikingly accurate location sensors.

One of the more interesting aspects of their experience design is they way they handle system errors. Occasionally, a ball will not register with the tracking system. Instead of a show-stopping error message that prompts the user to find the manager, the ball is simply marked as practice, and another swing is awarded to the same player who hit the practice ball.

One of Jakob Nielsen’s infamous usability heuristics reads, “Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.”

Top Golf is avoiding errors by not by over-engineering the system to have a 99.5% success rate, but by changing one word. Instead of telling the user something is wrong, they tell the user that one was a practice.

Words matter and can help avoid an expensive engineering fix. Words can motivate users, make them feel comfortable, and can help frame the user experience just as powerfully as any interface or new technology.

Do you have any other examples of how word choice contributes to a great user experience? If so, please let us know in the comments below.

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