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In UX, words create worlds

By NATALIE POOL, Head of Content at VMLY&R South Africa



I have been in love with words for as long as I can remember. And I’ve been lucky enough to create a career out of them – first in magazines, then with blogs and social media and now in websites and apps.

And as much as the platforms may change, the key principle stays the same: write for the user.

Content writing and now more specifically the burgeoning field of UX writing is not like conceptual copywriting. We are not trying to outsmart our audience or make them wonder if they should change their mind.

As content designers we are here to make our users’ lives easier. If they have to think about, or question their next move, we have failed.  Our job is to work with UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) designers (not before or after they’ve done their part) to create a customer journey that feels natural. Simple. Intuitive.

And the only way to do this is through understanding and a little thing called empathy. This means lots and lots of research into the industry as whole, the specific business, its customers, their pain points and goals.

And then we collaborate with the other members of our customer experience team to create visuals and words that work together to help customers accomplish their mission.

While currently working on a complex web project with many moving parts, I have created my own guiding principles needed to create worlds, with words. And I shall illustrate them, with something we can all relate to – food! And more importantly how to order it …

Meet expectations

Whether in a restaurant or browsing online, people have certain expectations on how and where to find what they’re looking for. Whether it’s starters, mains, sides and desserts or pasta, pizza, grill and seafood, we have been programmed to look for information in a certain way. As content designers, we must give our customers what they want in a tone and style that matches their mood. Don’t put dinner before breakfast. Don’t hide the sauce in the drinks. And please don’t put the prices before the descriptions.

Write for mindsets, not target markets

I cringe at the mention of target markets, as though people fit into a box and never leave it. Just because I crave fast food one day, doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a fine dining experience the next. As writers we must put ourselves in our customers’ shoes at that moment and speak to them in a way that answers a specific need right now.

Create great decision makers

Have you ever looked at a menu so overwhelming and ordered a toasted cheese sandwich because it was easier than finding what you really wanted? We’re here to help people make good decisions, not just any decision. Name items in a way that makes sense to humans, not just to the business. Write clear, enticing descriptions that are easily comparable. Identify the vegetarian options with a symbol. Add images that are appealing but also honest. Let people know if they can customise their meal. And give them space to make that special request.

Remember your regulars

The gold standard for customer experience is personalisation – remembering someone when they come back to your restaurant or website with a friendly ‘Hi, nice to see you again.’ Once you’ve been personally introduced, it’s greeting them by name when they sit down or log in. And as you get to know them, it’s remembering their favourite meal and even their special requirements. This creates a truly memorable experience and goes a long way to create loyal customers and valuable brand ambassadors. 

Pay attention to detail

A great customer experience is in the detail. It’s the sign when you walk in, the story of your restaurant’s beginnings in the menu, it’s the chalkboard specials on the wall and the signs to the restroom. The tone for all should be human, consistent and easy to understand. And it should translate to digital. From the welcome screen to error messages, the calls to action to the confirmation screen, micro copy is often overlooked but can make or break your customers’ experience. Take time to craft every word so your user feels empowered, welcomed and part of the family.


Security issues grow with transition to smart TVs



You can’t picture a modern home without smart equipment. Smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, robot vacuums, and smart TVs won’t surprise anyone these days. For example, around 70% of the TVs being sold worldwide are smart TVs. Although they bring more entertainment, these devices also carry new digital threats. 

Sometimes people forget that smart TVs are as vulnerable to cybercrime as their smartphones and computers. Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN, says that “although smart TVs are connected to the internet and have similar functions to computers, they aren’t equipped with the same security tools, which makes them easy prey for hackers.” 

What’s so scary about your TV getting hacked? As smart TVs gain more features, the amount of your private information they handle increases too. TVs aren’t just for watching movies and shows anymore. Now you can use them for web browsing, streaming video content, gaming, and even shopping online. 

To enjoy your smart TV to the fullest, you need to download various apps and games. These cost money, so you need your credit card details filled in. Putting your financial information, logins, and passwords on your TV makes it an appealing target for hacking. 

According to Daniel Markuson, a smart TV can be used to spy on its users. Hackers can access its camera and microphone through malware, which they can slip into your TV when it is connected to Wi-Fi. They can use footage from your bedroom or living room to blackmail you and your family. By watching your home and listening to your conversations, hackers know what goods you have, where you keep them when you’re away, and what your plans are. 

If you use your smart TV for web browsing, you can infect it with various viruses too, says the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. Like computers, smart TVs run on software, but they don’t have the same strong antivirus and firewall systems installed. Once your TV gets infected, your browsing history, passwords, and other private data become accessible to hackers. And they won’t miss the opportunity to use this information in ransomware attacks. 

Even though smart TVs are vulnerable to cyber threats, Daniel Markuson says there is no need to panic yet. The expert names a few simple principles every smart TV owner should follow to protect their device.

Always update your TV’s software whenever a new version becomes available. The expert says that software updates are crucial for cybersecurity as manufacturers do their best to patch vulnerabilities. Updates often repair security flaws, fix or remove various bugs, add new features, and improve the existing ones. Some TVs install updates automatically by default. With others, you may need to check for updates periodically to make sure your device runs on the latest version. 

Use available security measures such as a VPN. The best practice for any internet-connected device is to install a firewall and use a VPN such as NordVPN. It secures your device and lets you enjoy fast internet access with encryption-powered privacy.

Connect your smart TV to the internet only when needed. It isn’t necessary to have your TV connected to Wi-Fi all the time. To make it less vulnerable to hacker attacks, turn on the Wi-Fi connection only when you are using it.

Download apps from official stores only. Do not install any programs and games from unofficial sources on your smart TV. Make sure that both the app and its provider are reliable. Moreover, if an application asks for access to your data, camera, or microphone that isn’t necessary for its operation, never accept it.

Be careful with personal files and financial data. Shopping online on a big smart TV screen might be fun, but be careful providing your credit card details and other sensitive information this way. Although some manufacturers equip their TV sets with security features, they cannot guarantee safety online. “People who synchronize their smart TVs with their computers to access compatible media content should be especially cautious,” warns Daniel Markuson. The connection between your smart TV and your computer can be a weak link and lead to a data breach.

Use strong Wi-Fi passwords. This practice is the most obvious and the easiest to follow. Create a strong password to protect your Wi-Fi connection at home and don’t share it with any outsiders.

Turn off your TV camera when not in use. Whether it’s a built-in camera or the one connected to a TV via Wi-Fi, turn it off when not using it. If you can’t turn off your camera, use a piece of tape or a sticker over the camera lens to cover it. 

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Tech too complex? It stresses out even the tech-savvy



Picture by hobvias sudoneighm on Flickr.

Even the savviest members of the tech industry get stressed by common devices that power their everyday lives, according to a recent poll conducted at CES 2020 by Asurion, the global leader in helping people connect, protect and enjoy their tech.

Survey screen by Asurion at CES 2020.

Asurion surveyed nearly 1,400 attendees of CES 2020, the world’s largest and most influential tech industry event, about their relationship with personal tech and their role as tech expert for family and friends. What the tech care company found is that even the tech-savvy, tech DIY’ers and early adopters stress out over some of the most ordinary devices in our hands and homes.

So, what tech tops the list of devices that stress out some of the consumer electronics industry’s tech enthusiasts?

  • Mesh routers and Wi-Fi networks (33%)
  • Phones (26%)
  • Smart home security systems (23%)

And, the tech-related activities that even the tech-savvy dread the most?

  • Troubleshooting a device that worked perfectly yesterday (39%)
  • Device security (27%)
  • Setting up devices (nearly 27%)

Asurion helps nearly 300 million customers worldwide unlock the potential of their tech with a team of over 10,000 Experts who are just a call, click or tap away. The company’s Experts provide ongoing tech support, same-day device repair, and same-day delivery and setup services. They’ll meet customers virtually, in-home, at select partner stores, and in more than 540 uBreakiFix stores across the country or wherever it’s convenient.

“The tech industry just spent four amazing days experiencing and celebrating the latest innovations in the future of tech,” said Teresa May, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Asurion. “What we heard is that even common tech tasks and devices can be challenging. Every day, our Experts help people across the country with their devices – everything from setting up a new phone to troubleshooting streaming issues on their smart TVs. Our CES poll reveals that the industry’s top tech innovators share the same pain points affecting millions of Americans.”

Asurion’s Experts received more than 18.5 million calls and chats from customers seeking tech help last year. And while the No. 1 question this holiday was a strong “How do I activate my new phone?” Asurion Experts also received many questions ranging from “How do I connect to Wi-Fi?” to “Can I sync my smart speakers to play them in tandem?”

And while the tech industry may have tech challenges of their own, they also get tapped by family and friends for help. Eight out of 10 attendees surveyed said their family and friends rely on them to help set up and troubleshoot their tech. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said they hesitate to gift tech to their loved ones because the recipient won’t know how to use it, and nearly half (46%) gave pause to gifting tech to family and friends because they didn’t want to be the one to help set it up.

Asurion CES Tech Poll

Consumer Tech Devices That Stress CES Attendees Out the Most

1. Mesh Routers and Wi-Fi Networks (33%)
2. Phones (26%)
3. Smart Home Security Systems (23%)
4. Smart Home Assistants/Hubs (20%)
5. Bluetooth Printers (19%)
6. Smart Home Automation (19%)
7. Laptops/Tablets (18%)
8. Smart TVs (17%)
9. Smart Appliances (14%)
10. Home Energy, Lighting and Switches (13%)

Tech Activities That Stress Out CES Attendees the Most

1. Troubleshooting Tech That Worked Perfectly Yesterday (39%)
2. Security (27%)
3. Setting up a Device (27%)
4. Privacy (23%)
5. Helping Others With Their Tech (20%)
6. Managing or Connecting Multiple Devices (19%)
7. Wi-Fi Connectivity (19%)
8. Paying for Personal Data Storage (18%)
9. Learning a New Operating System (17%)
10. Choosing Which Brand To Purchase (17%)

To learn more about where you can get tech support and protection, visit

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