Elevating user experience by elevating your users
In the worlds of user experience design and content strategy, you hear the word delight a lot.
Like, a ton.
So much so that you’ll eventually get sick of the mere idea, and begin to seriously ask yourself if a success message, an animation, a one-liner—hell, even a 404 page!—can actually bring people delight.
That’s right: I said, people. Not users. People.1
But that way madness lies, you think. Start thinking like that and you’ll start to question the very bedrock the UX disciplines are founded on. Or, at least, the firmaments they aspire to.
But then comes along a project you’re actually excited by. A project that brings some of that humanity back to users. That restores them—if only in our own myopic gaze—into people. And celebrates everything that makes them so human: their dreams, their celebrations, their ways of speaking and being.
InMoments was one such project. It was my favorite in over a year and a half at LinkedIn.
The creative brief and the 6 Ws
InMoments—every LinkedIn project has its codename, and yes, they often involve the word in—came with one of the most detailed creative briefs I’ve ever seen. I’ll encapsulate it using my own method, based on the “6 Ws” of journalism. I use the 6 Ws because they define what every news story must include, and hence, define storytelling (for audiences familiar with Western journalism):
- Who (the target audience): existing LinkedIn Recruiter customers
- What (the deliverable itself: mobile app, website, email, etc.): a microsite + emails announcing the site/notifying users of their achievements
- Where (the setting: locations where the audience will encounter the deliverables): in-app and inbox
- When (the times that customers will most likely encounter the deliverables): during regular business hours—specific days and times were identified but I don’t remember them
- Why (the business goal): Retention
- How (the method): Celebration of our customers through the elevation of their discipline
Of course, those 6 Ws only cover the business side. To build a quality user experience, you need to know what the audience experience will be:
- Who (the company messaging me): LinkedIn
- What (the medium of the message): a web page + emails
- Where (where I have the experience): on my commute or at the office
- When (when I have it): during regular business hours
- Why (why I’m receiving this message): I’m … not quite sure. To congratulate me? To prove the value of the product?
- How (the methods used by the message, e.g. promo, discount, etc.): Encouragement
Note how the users’ answers differ from the business’. The user sees this message as coming from LinkedIn, not “LinkedIn Recruiter.” Despite being LinkedIn’s strongest product brand, users still regard it as just that: a product. We’re not in Nike Jordan territory here. The user also won’t think of the website as being part of Recruiter (i.e., in-app), so they might not be clear on their privacy in this experience. The users’ where also shifts: it’s not about what UI the messaging appears in, but what part of their day it emerges (and possibly disrupts). The why might not be clear either, so we’ll have to consider that this could all seem like thinly-veiled marketing.
What we came up with
My creative partner on this project, designer Seth DeGarmo, and I each spent some time mulling the concept on our own. I was finding it a little difficult—for whatever reason, I just couldn’t think of how to really sing recruiter’s praises in a way the company hadn’t done before. (As you might imagine, the “dream job” concept comes up a lot.)
But one morning, as I was fixing up my morning coffee—I’m told I like it sweet—it hit me: I was having this coffee because of Ginny Borelli, a recruiting manager at LinkedIn. Not to mention several of her employees.
Here I was, drinking delicious, just-ground coffee at the best job I’d ever had, excited by the acts of imagination my job asked of me. And I had a recruiter to thank.
This, here, was a concept for elevating recruiters: picturing those small moments, those little pleasures like your morning coffee, that symbolize the good life. Concretizing the loftiness of someone finding their “dream job,” or “having some big shoes to fill” with tangible things.
Hence, our “Thanks to you” concept.
The final messaging and design feature 4 key elements:
- The thematic anchor: The “Thanks to you” line establishes the main sentiment we’re trying to convey and links disparate experiences across time since most recruiters will see these several times a year. It also ties all the copy together for the social sharing we’re trying to encourage, justifying the potential repetitiveness if they get multiple “cards” at once.
- The headline: Each headline deploys a cliche to make its point in a jargon-free way, getting to the meaning of a promotion, or a work anniversary. They all start with a number (a LinkedIn copy pattern) to keep the line short.
- The subhead: This our “explainer,” where we get detailed and personal, mentioning a couple of the hires involved.
- The call to action (CTA): Because you’ve got to give people something to do, right? Plus, we hoped sharing would encourage a wider distribution of the core message that Recruiter helps recruiters change people’s lives.
1. Sometimes I wonder if the fact that we believe minor details bring anyone but us delight is that we think of people as users. Users is a diminution, a delimitation: it understands people very narrowly, as entities interacting with objects. In doing so, it strips away all the other things we think about when we think about people: what they do for a living, what their hobbies are, who their friends and family are. A person using a device can be very, very different than they are in real life: witness, every person you know with road rage. Maybe we can only find a page transition “delightful” by diminishing people to “controllers of devices.”