How to insult website visitors through copywriting

28 Jun 2007 - 1:40pm
7 years ago
16 replies
1194 reads
Becubed
2004

I recently signed up for a YouTube account. Today, I scrolled down my
profile page for the first time and got a virtual slap in the face when a
notice slid into view, with the prominent title:

"You have no Friends"

Ouch! I have no friends? Yeah, well, you, I dunnoŠ you¹re UGLY, YouTube!

BTW, if you'd like to see the actual notice from YouTube. I've posted it to
my blog along with this rant at:

http://tinyurl.com/ywtpvk

What a great example of the impact that copywriting can have on a website¹s
user experience. I know what they mean by this of course -- that, as a new
user, I have yet to connect with anyone as a ³friend² in YouTube space. But
still, the specific wording of that notice reads like a personal insult
every time. And the copy goes on to suggest in a roundabout way that, if I
can manage to become more attractive, I might actually have friends someday!
What a lovely way to welcome someone who¹s just signed up. I hesitate to
sign up for Second Life now, fearing it might break the news that I have no
life, eitherŠ

A slight change in wording might be in order here. Even something as simple
as ³You have no friends yet² makes the phrase feel less critical while
remaining consistent with other sections on the page (they¹re all written in
the form ³You have no [whatever]²). But here¹s a situation where mindless
consistency should be rejected: rewrite this as a call to action and YouTube
would not only avoid insulting me, it might actually prompt me to
participate in its community. How about a punchy line such as ³Make some
YouTube friends!²

It¹s important to pay attention to details such as this, as experience
design is all about emotions. Lou Carbone advises that our job, in fact, is
to consider how we¹d like people *to feel about themselves* when using a
product we¹ve designed. How do you think someone feels when you tell them,
³You have no friends!²

Not great. Believe me. <sigh>

--
Robert Barlow-Busch
Terapath Inc.
bbb at terapath.net
www.chopsticker.com

Comments

28 Jun 2007 - 1:58pm
Josh
2006

A better use of copy would be to make an attempt to compel the user to do
something about the fact they have no friends. An example would be to say
something like, "YouTube's more fun when you share, invite some of your
friends to connect" with a nice big, pretty, inviting button that takes the
user to a send to some kind of send to a friend/invite a friend
functionality. The user won't be offended and the service adds another
person to their volunteer marketing staff.

--
Josh Viney
EastMedia Group
http://www.eastmedia.com

28 Jun 2007 - 2:11pm
.pauric
2006

Hey... some of us have no friends, whats the big issue?

I was hoping this was a little gotcha in the code where instead of
displaying 0 as a variable some half smart coder thought 'no' would
be better. But there it is in the code...

You have no Friends.

I find it hard to believe someone wrote that without realizing. Cant
help but feel its a little bit of college humour.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=17704

28 Jun 2007 - 2:13pm
Phillip Hunter
2006

Robert,

I'll be your friend. :) Do you like to be called Robert or Bob?

Actually, I was just going to throw out a question to this list about how
does the writing, the language manipulation, get done/designed and by whom?

I deal in voice interaction design which focuses almost exclusively on the
language. No colors, lines, widgets, etc. But I am learning more about
graphical/screen design (and needing to) and wondered about how this happens
when so much attention is on the colors, lines, widgets, pages... And I
have seen many examples of design errors worse and not as bad as than this
one.

So, in light of my newest friend's rant, how does the copy come to be?

Phillip

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Robert
Barlow-Busch
Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2007 3:40 PM
To: IxDA List
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] How to insult website visitors through copywriting

I recently signed up for a YouTube account. Today, I scrolled down my
profile page for the first time and got a virtual slap in the face when a
notice slid into view, with the prominent title:

"You have no Friends"

Ouch! I have no friends? Yeah, well, you, I dunnoŠ you¹re UGLY, YouTube!

BTW, if you'd like to see the actual notice from YouTube. I've posted it to
my blog along with this rant at:

http://tinyurl.com/ywtpvk

What a great example of the impact that copywriting can have on a website¹s
user experience. I know what they mean by this of course -- that, as a new
user, I have yet to connect with anyone as a ³friend² in YouTube space. But
still, the specific wording of that notice reads like a personal insult
every time. And the copy goes on to suggest in a roundabout way that, if I
can manage to become more attractive, I might actually have friends someday!
What a lovely way to welcome someone who¹s just signed up. I hesitate to
sign up for Second Life now, fearing it might break the news that I have no
life, eitherŠ

A slight change in wording might be in order here. Even something as simple
as ³You have no friends yet² makes the phrase feel less critical while
remaining consistent with other sections on the page (they¹re all written in
the form ³You have no [whatever]²). But here¹s a situation where mindless
consistency should be rejected: rewrite this as a call to action and YouTube
would not only avoid insulting me, it might actually prompt me to
participate in its community. How about a punchy line such as ³Make some
YouTube friends!²

It¹s important to pay attention to details such as this, as experience
design is all about emotions. Lou Carbone advises that our job, in fact, is
to consider how we¹d like people *to feel about themselves* when using a
product we¹ve designed. How do you think someone feels when you tell them,
³You have no friends!²

Not great. Believe me. <sigh>

--
Robert Barlow-Busch
Terapath Inc.
bbb at terapath.net
www.chopsticker.com

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
Questions .................. list at ixda.org
Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org

28 Jun 2007 - 2:25pm
Lynn Miller
2005

> How do you think someone feels when you tell them,
> ³You have no friends!²
>

Probably much like they feel when they are told their teeth aren't white enough or they may have bad breath. It's a classic marketing ploy.

How do you know that this wasn't done on purpose to cause you discomfort and make you more likely to sign up friends?

Lynn

28 Jun 2007 - 3:20pm
Becubed
2004

> How do you know that this wasn't done on purpose to cause you discomfort and
> make you more likely to sign up friends?

It could be. I hope not.

Perhaps they'll try negative billing next: "Congratulations! You've been
signed up with a YouTube Premium account for only $9.95 per month! If you
don't want to take advantage of this incredible deal, send us a
self-addressed postage-paid envelope and we'll attempt to process your
request."

--
Robert Barlow-Busch
Terapath Inc.
bbb at terapath.net

28 Jun 2007 - 6:09pm
Dave Cortright
2005

Maybe they should take a page from MySpace and automatically have new
accounts pre-linked to Chad Hurley (or Larry and Sergey).

28 Jun 2007 - 6:23pm
bminihan
2007

They could have just said..."You don't have ENOUGH friends..."

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Robert
Barlow-Busch
Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2007 3:40 PM
To: IxDA List
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] How to insult website visitors through copywriting

I recently signed up for a YouTube account. Today, I scrolled down my
profile page for the first time and got a virtual slap in the face when a
notice slid into view, with the prominent title:

"You have no Friends"
Robert Barlow-Busch
Terapath Inc.
bbb at terapath.net
www.chopsticker.com

28 Jun 2007 - 11:35pm
Taneem Talukdar
2005

Friendly software messages are overrated. I wish software was a little more
opinionated and sassy. It would be great if services like Youtube had snarky
little bits like "You only have 5 friends ...you need to get out more often.
92% of the people here have more friends than you" and so on...

On 6/28/07, Bryan <bjminihan at nc.rr.com> wrote:
>
> They could have just said..."You don't have ENOUGH friends..."
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
> Robert
> Barlow-Busch
> Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2007 3:40 PM
> To: IxDA List
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] How to insult website visitors through copywriting
>
> I recently signed up for a YouTube account. Today, I scrolled down my
> profile page for the first time and got a virtual slap in the face when a
> notice slid into view, with the prominent title:
>
> "You have no Friends"
> Robert Barlow-Busch
> Terapath Inc.
> bbb at terapath.net
> www.chopsticker.com
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

29 Jun 2007 - 6:09am
Beck Tench
2007

I agree. Flickr manages to do both sometimes with friendly-slash-snarky
messages: "Yay! So-and-so added you as a contact, too." I always picture a
cheerleader with jazz fingers telling me. (Her team colors are red and
white.)

On 6/29/07, Taneem Talukdar <taneem at dheo.com> wrote:
>
> Friendly software messages are overrated. I wish software was a little
> more
> opinionated and sassy. It would be great if services like Youtube had
> snarky
> little bits like "You only have 5 friends ...you need to get out more
> often.
> 92% of the people here have more friends than you" and so on...
>
>
>
>
--
becktench.com

29 Jun 2007 - 7:29am
Becubed
2004

> Friendly software messages are overrated. I wish software was a little more
> opinionated and sassy.

Absolutely -- it makes life online a bit more interesting, at the very
least. It also taps into broader cultural trends, for instance the desire
for "authenticity". Neutral language doesn't feel quite as authentic
(presuming the sassy voice has been pulled off well).

Problems arise when a snippet of copywriting is incongruent with the site's
personality. IMHO, the "you have no friends" message from YouTube falls into
this category; it appears to have been written that way simply to be
consistent with other sections on the profile page.

--
Robert Barlow-Busch
Terapath Inc.
bbb at terapath.net
www.chopsticker.com

29 Jun 2007 - 7:47am
.pauric
2006

"Anthropomorphism is the attribution of uniquely human
characteristics and qualities to nonhuman beings"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropomorphism

The design issue with that is keeping it fresh.

Like the Bloglines Plumber:
http://www.seopedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/10/bloglines-plumber.jpg

After the 4th or 5th time it gets stale. There's a lot of work in
keeping sassy.. sassy.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=17704

29 Jun 2007 - 7:52am
Taneem Talukdar
2005

I think you're right. It's hard to create spontaneity in software systems
when the system is inherently designed against that kind of thing.

Probably also the reason why things like Mrs. Dewey aren't more popular
either:
http://www.ms*dewey*.com/

Taneem

On 6/29/07, pauric <radiorental at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> "Anthropomorphism is the attribution of uniquely human
> characteristics and qualities to nonhuman beings"
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropomorphism
>
> The design issue with that is keeping it fresh.
>
> Like the Bloglines Plumber:
> http://www.seopedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/10/bloglines-plumber.jpg
>
> After the 4th or 5th time it gets stale. There's a lot of work in
> keeping sassy.. sassy.
>
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=17704
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

29 Jun 2007 - 7:56am
Minkó Misi
2007

Nice topic :) although i wouldn't want windows saying: "Oops, I'm sorry
buddy but i will just restart because some bad guy...aAaarghh.." or
"Hey, are you totally conscious about what a disaster can happen if you
push yes?" I think this is a good question and finding the balance
between neutral computer-like language in interaction design and between
the style of everyday human communication is difficult, but not impossible.

m.

pauric írta:
> "Anthropomorphism is the attribution of uniquely human
> characteristics and qualities to nonhuman beings"
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropomorphism
>
> The design issue with that is keeping it fresh.
>
> Like the Bloglines Plumber:
> http://www.seopedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/10/bloglines-plumber.jpg
>
> After the 4th or 5th time it gets stale. There's a lot of work in
> keeping sassy.. sassy.
>
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=17704
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>
>
>

29 Jun 2007 - 4:53pm
cfmdesigns
2004

>From: Beck Tench <beck at becktench.com>
>
>I agree. Flickr manages to do both sometimes with friendly-slash-snarky
>messages: "Yay! So-and-so added you as a contact, too." I always picture a
>cheerleader with jazz fingers telling me. (Her team colors are red and white.)

Save Flickr, save the world!

-- Jim

3 Jul 2007 - 9:56am
Dave Chiu
2006

> They could have just said..."You don't have ENOUGH friends..."

Better yet, a big button on the page that says "Hey, add some
friends!" That way you're giving people an actionable means for
changing their situation instead of simply reporting their current
state.

5 Jul 2007 - 8:04am
Dan Zlotnikov
2004

I've always thought that the term "friends" was a bad choice on social
networking sites, especially ones where the relationship need not be
reciprocal. Granted, it sound better when Livejournal says "you have
28 friends" instead of "you're subscribed to 28 RSS feeds," but I've
seen too many dramas and crises over someone "unfriending" a person.

When someone stops reading your blog posts, it's already unpleasant,
but when you lose a *friend*, that's when it's time for therapist
sessions.

Maybe, as Beck suggests, what we need is more cheerleaders.

As for antropomorphism, has anyone else met Sandy? (http://iwantsandy.com/)
Sandy is my email secretary, and she can be yours too, at least once
she's in open beta.
Despite her handicap (she's not a real person, after all) she tries so
very hard to respond to me in a normal tone, and to cater to my
(scheduling) needs. I only wish she wasn't so darned *literal* all the
time! (Sandy, I hope you're paying attention)

But that problem isn't unique to Sandy. Pauric points out that the
problem with antropomorphic system messages is keeping them from
becoming repetitive and boring. I believe the challenge encompasses
all interactions with antropomorphic agents -- if the agent is
insufficiently human-like in its responses, it will cause *more*
aggravation, not less. Think of the new, nearly-human voice
interaction systems you come across more and more these days. (call up
1-800-PICK-UPS/1-800-7425-877 for an example of one such)

Oh, and Sandy, remind me about the grocery list at noon today.

Dan

On 6/28/07, Robert Barlow-Busch <bbb at terapath.net> wrote:
> I recently signed up for a YouTube account. Today, I scrolled down my
> profile page for the first time and got a virtual slap in the face when a
> notice slid into view, with the prominent title:
>
> "You have no Friends"
>
> Ouch! I have no friends? Yeah, well, you, I dunnoŠ you¹re UGLY, YouTube!
>
> BTW, if you'd like to see the actual notice from YouTube. I've posted it to
> my blog along with this rant at:
>
> http://tinyurl.com/ywtpvk
>
<snip>

Syndicate content Get the feed