Top content strategists and technical communicators from companies such as Google and PayPal showed up in New Orleans for the Lavacon 2015 Conference. The conference organizer, Jack Molisani, put on a useful, inspiring and quirky event - jazz bands and coloring books included! There were a number of great speakers at Lavacon, including David Dylan Thomas of EPAM, Sarah O'Keefe of Scriptorium and Emily Shields of Facebook.
Here’s a recap of just one of the sessions I thoroughly enjoyed:
When Easy Isn’t Enough: What Video Games Can Teach Us About Content Strategy and UX by John Caldwell and Ria Hagan of Inuit
Who would have thought that the people behind TurboTax would turn to video gamers for direction?
These content creators at Inuit had one goal in mind:
To increase emotional engagement with TurboTax customers
They knew the video game industry was killing it in this realm. So, the Inuit team spoke with video game designers and others in the gaming industry to learn how they achieve that emotional response from users.
The four main conclusions from their research are:
1) It’s the customer’s story, not yours.
The customer is the hero, while TurboTax is the supporting character in the game. It’s up to the customer to determine how much they want to learn, and it's TurboTax's job to anticipate players' desires.
2) Give them what they want. Not what they don’t.
Just like gamers skip stories called “cutscenes,” users skip items they don’t want. Sometimes it’s not about making the content more efficient. Even if it’s a well scripted video or a short paragraph, if users don’t want it, it will be skipped. Just give users what they want - and offer optional learning for anyone who would like to go deeper.
3) We must accept that people are crazy.
We use our lizard brain to make decisions (there’s no way around it) so we need to plan for this. The book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely is a good start to understand people’s illogical nature. Side note: Ariely is from my hometown of Durham, NC and very nice!
4) Get comfortable with being (really) uncomfortable.
“Can we do more than just talk about actions?” Ria asked. She suggested that perhaps TurboTax could acknowledge the shame around money and empathize with customers' vulnerability as they do their taxes.
To this end, the software now asks customers how they feel about doing their taxes today and gives them some buttons to choose from. Depending on which button you select, an appropriate empathetic message is shown. This human touch is unexpected from tax software.
For each of their main points, the presenters gave terrific examples from both video games and “real life” to explain their learning. The result of their research and newfound knowledge is revamped content within the TurboTax product. The voice and tone are now more human and empathetic.
For example, the title “Education Expense” has become “Let’s get you some tax breaks if you went to school.” In time we will see the degree of success of these changes. But many of the folks in the room were Turbo Tax customers and seemed enthusiastic.
Despite rarely playing a video game in my life, I still found the presentation intriguing and may even considering switching to TurboTax to do my taxes. I heard authenticity and care for customers from both of the excellent Inuit presenters. Thanks, John and Rita!
And I’m going to pay attention to their lessons learned and see how they might apply to the content on my latest project, a website related to sanitation. This topic might typically be subject to the same low enthusiasm as taxes.
Can you apply any of these video game ideas to your business or projects? Do you think this could improve the UX for your customers and increase their emotional engagement?
If you have questions on the presentation or want to talk about one of these ideas, please get in touch with me.