Tag Archives: a whole new mind

Your web site’s messages should show a little humanity

It’s simple. The reason for Apple’s spectacular success is that, although the human mind is capable of impressive calculation, what makes it uniquely human is its ability to dream.

When they aren’t trying to parrot what Windows-based machines do, most Apple products promise a more fertile ground for right-brained thinking. Mostly these products succeed. And they do because they touch us in the heart at least as much as in the mind.

Now think about your web site. Is it still behaving as if its users are more robot than human? Watch out, because your competitor’s sites might not. They may realize that the most buttoned-down web users haven’t forgotten to smile.

Author and public speaker Daniel Pink made this point, but on a more global scale. His book from two years ago, A Whole New Mind contended that as workers in a new, Conceptual Age, we need to sharpen these six skills: design, storytelling, creative collaboration, empathy, play and rendering meaning — although he labeled them far more colorfully than I just did, which is why he is the famous business author and not me.

Lately he’s been talking about using empathy in public messages. Once again, he was speaking more globally than messaging on web sites. But just review some of these examples and see if you aren’t inspired to breathe some warmth into your site’s content:

Restaurant Sign:
Don’t worry, this line moves really quickly.
Movie Theater Electric Hand Dryers:
We don’t like them either, but they are the most energy efficient and environmentally-friendly choice.
Hong Kong Airport:
Relax. Train comes every two minutes.

These three have one thing in common. They respectfully ask us to take a breath and side with the human being who is delivering the bad news.

How can this relate to your site? One of the most lighthearted set of web error messages come from the disruption-prone Twitter site. Although the originals were LOLcats, the latest batch — such as this one — take a more conventionally cutesy tack:

A typical (and all too frequent!) Twitter error message

Is this frivolous — therefore below consideration for your site?

That depends. If your current error messages are pushing people over the brink, you’re losing business. There is nothing warm or cute about that business reality.