Lucid Voice and Tone
When I arrived at Lucid, it consisted of about 80 employees. Some in-product written content was passed through the marketing team to check for grammatical errors and writing style, and other teams just pushed their messaging through without any revisions. The result was an inconsistent experience throughout the product—sometimes friendly, sometimes robotic.
I worked with stakeholders in the company to create a guide for “Voice and Tone” that is still in use today.
Timeline: November 2015
Team: I worked with two content writers from the marketing team and several product managers.
This was not my full time project, so I had to get most of this done on the side. Over time I collected samples and snippets of text from Lucidchart that didn't quite sound right. Having a collection of samples helped me to understand the broader context of messaging within our product and the purposes it served.
I had frequent discussions with various members of the company about what personality Lucid should embody. Was it the funny, sarcastic tool on the market like Slack? Was it strictly professional and sterile like Microsoft used to be? The marketing team eventually coined the term “smart casual” that we used to describe Lucid’s personality.
I began by categorizing the messaging I collected into these categories, and gave guidelines accordingly:
Separating voice and tone into categories made it easier to provide feedback and suggestions when writing messaging. For example, “approving” messages should be exciting, positive, and upbeat. “Warning” messages, however (like when something fails), should be brief and to the point.
The character outline has everything to do with what is said in the product and when it is said. For example, much of the in-product messaging was complicated and verbose, attempting to explain every possible outcome and edge for any user that might encounter a problem.
In other occasions, potential errors were explained and justified long before a customer could ever encounter then. With the Lucid Character guidelines, teams could be on the same page about what to say and when to say it.
This is really where the rubber hits the road with messaging. If two immediately adjacent messages are friendly and positive, then robotic and cold, the difference can be jarring. We’ve worked hard over the past few years to weed out robotic messaging like: “Results: 1 user created.”
When presenting these guidelines to the organization I used the phrase, “If your messaging sounds like C3PO, you’ve done something wrong.”
A little more on the grammatical side, the Lucid Tone outlined specific ways to structure sentences and use words effectively. Frequently, Lucid’s tone was overly polite and dismissive (“You may try this, or you may try that”).
Simple grammatical adjustments like contractions, pronouns, and passive voice seem to be the most overlooked elements of in-product messaging, so these guidelines were
Lucid still hasn’t hired a copywriter to manage and own content within the product, so I’ve continued to fill that role. I mostly act as a consultant for product teams. They write the messaging they think is most appropriate, pass it to me, and I return it with a few tweaks and changes to meet the Lucid Voice and Tone guidelines.
I’m not a writer by any means, but this was a fun passion project for me. I care about consistency and quality, and introducing these guidelines was a good way of taking Lucid’s product design to the next level.