One word. Big (UX) impact.

Be it a button or a menu item, every digital interface has instances that only require one word, or could benefit from the addition of one word (even if it’s not required). 

This one allegedly small word can keep UX-writers (AKA content designers) up at night, and challenge the way they look at things. That’s because the impact one word can have on business metrics and bottom lines is unbelievably high. 

Let’s have a look at 3 examples that show how much of an impact they can have on a business: 

The Apple example – one word, a world of assumptions

Earlier this year Apple changed their podcast “subscribe” button with a “follow” button. 

Apple Podast UI

While there’s no official explanation for the change, experts around the world claim that it was due to the low uptake of podcast subscriptions.

It seems as though Apple did such a great job in associating the word ‘subscribe’ with a paid service, that when it came to a service that was actually free, their users were too weary to click on the button fearing it would cost them money.

According to Tom Webster from Edison Research, this assumption is so widespread that 47% of people who don’t currently listen to podcasts think that ‘subscribing’ to a podcast will cost money. Can you imagine what this number translates to for Apple in terms of engagement?

In any other context (like “subscribe to our newsletter” in a SAAS website), using “subscribe” might work just fine. But in Apple’s context, the same word has a totally different meaning. One that may have cost them in low engagement rates, conversion rates and podcast popularity.

The e-commerce example – a reassuring word

Online shopping today is nowhere near what it was just a couple of years ago. E-commerce retailers have so many solutions and technologies at their disposal to help customers get a better sense of what they are buying, and reassure them that they are making the right choice. Just taking a look at Shimmer View technology is enough to see how well-progressed this entire industry is. 

Yet, there’s one thing technology can not (or at least hasn’t yet been able to) solve – and this is the way we perceive colours.
Our screens show different shades of the same colour, different people may have different concepts of colours (red can be “just red” for me but “Cherry Red” for my designer friend), and some people are simply colour blind (and being married to one, I know how hard it is for him to shop online).

One word – in this case, the name of the colour – is probably the best way to solve this perception challenge. 

Let’s take a look at the following example:

Color swatch example

Can you name these exact colours just by looking at this colour swatch?

The first one can be white, maybe off-white, or even cream. The third one can look like black on some screens and dark blue on others, and don’t even get me started on the last one…

But when you add the colour name, it’s easier for your potential customers to understand what to expect. As we can see below, we can now tell that the third one was actually navy.

The impact of this one word can be quantified into bottom-line numbers; when your customers have a better understanding of the product, they have more confidence to purchase (increased conversion rates). When their order meets their expectations and they are not surprised by the colours, it translates to fewer returns/refunds/customer support overload (reduced operational costs). When customers are happy with the purchasing experience, they are then more likely to come back for more (increased loyalty), and tell their friends about it (boost awareness). 

TalkSpace – a business-changing word

The TalkSpace (an online mental therapy provider) success story is your classic roller coaster entrepreneurship story – a decade of ups and downs before going live on NASDAQ earlier this year. 

What not a lot of people know is that one single word on a button made the founders rethink the entire business model, helping them to make TalkSpace what it is today.

Instead of the usual “contact us” button on their website, their customer service contact button was labelled as “support”. As a result, strange emails from users describing their mental challenges landed in their customer support inbox. 

The founders realised that in the context of mental health, the word ‘support’ had a totally different meaning. People were just looking for someone to talk to in a textual way and not necessarily to schedule a video chat – so they added this counselling option and started accelerating their growth. 

Take the one-word UX challenge

When it comes to UX writing (and especially microcopy), the famous saying “One word can change everything” becomes even more relevant and teaches us that even the most meticulously crafted, good-looking UI/UX can sometimes rise or fall on the back of a single word.

With this understanding and inspiration in mind, I encourage you to go back to your digital interface (app/website) and look out for one-word buttons, call-to-actions or places where a word can enhance the experience. Try looking at it from your target audience perspective – what does this word mean in their lingo and in this specific context? What is your data telling you about it? Can this be improved?

Once you find it, try playing with it and test it out. See what works better for your interface, your users and your business.

If you happen to find other such examples out there in the world, feel free to share them with us in the comments section below.

Final words

Always remember that unlike other development and product resources, words are free. It’s how you use them that may cost you – but when used well, words can only benefit you and your business.

quote: Words are free, it's how you use them that may cost you
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Yifat Shirben

Yifat Shirben

Yifat has been involved in some of the world’s leading startups and has worked alongside some of the best founders in both the Israeli and Aussie startup landscapes. She is all about business and marketing agility and choosing the right words. Yifat is also a NED in a publicly listed company.

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