Creating Content for Sensitive Situations

Creating Content for Sensitive Situations

By Stephanie HawkinsMay 9 /2013
sensitive content

Your customers are fond of you for a reason: You help them solve a problem. Something you sell makes a positive contribution to their lives. Think about it for a second: By virtue of your very existence, others are better off. That's no small feat.

At some point, though, every company drops the ball. You might drop the ball in a big way (failing to update your product with features users want) or a small way (clogging customers' inboxes with unwanted emails). When you let your customers down, you risk losing them to the competition. However, when it comes to common interactions online that irritate users, there are ways to soften the blow. How? With content, of course.

Help Pages: Reassure Users With a Confident Tone

Typically, if users are searching your website for help, there’s already a problem. The time to gain points is now, before they get even more frustrated. Give your help content a confident tone. It demonstrates you’re in control and puts users at ease.

Let’s look at an example of a successful help page, Tableau Software’s “Support” page

Tableau Help Page Screenshot resized 600

The detailed descriptions of what each link will address show an attention to detail that doesn’t place every issue in the same standardized box. The extra addition of a “How can we help?” bar offers customized support. The tone is clear and the page easy to navigate.

404 Pages: Reduce Frustration with Humor and Utility

404 pages can make you look like you don’t have it together. Too many of them can cause potential buyers to lose faith in you. Achieve the right tone of voice on your 404 pages to minimize the damage.

You can go in several directions with a 404 page. Some companies do the standard "This page no longer exists" thing. That's nothing special. Others take a more thoughtful approach. Here's a look at some of the tonal choices you can make:

1. Lighthearted

 Consider this example, from Google: Google 404 Page Screenshot

Obviously as far as content goes, this is pretty straightforward. The tone, on the other hand, is achieved through the image of the broken robot and the phrase, “That’s all we know.” The combination of these casual explanations suggests the user should approach the error with a casual reaction as well. The cumulative effect is one of softening.

2. Humorous

Creative 404 pages can be good for a laugh, but make sure the voice and tone represents your company. For instance, not all companies could pull off 404 humor like the parody news website, The Onion:

page error

This tone, which jokingly puts the blame on the user, works with The Onion’s purpose and style. If your company employs a quirky tone as part of your style, a creative 404 page might be right up your alley.

3. Useful

As good as creative error pages can be, useful error pages are even better.

Check out Bergan Blue’s 404 page, which doesn’t just identify a problem—it attempts to solve it:

Bergen Blue 404 Screenshot resized 600With multiple links, as well as an option to send an email about the error message, Bergan Blue shows credibility through the tone of its 404 page. For its purpose as a web development company, this makes perfect sense.

Regardless of which direction you look to take your 404 page, make sure it represents your brand. Picture your users and imagine them coming face to face with a 404 page on your website. What would they expect?

Unsubscribe Pages: Your "Last Chance" to Win Users Over

When users click "unsubscribe" links in your emails, they're telling you to be quiet. Something you're doing is not working for them, and now they're at a point where they have to take a deliberate action to get more distance from you. That's not good.  

However, there are things you can do. Getting tone of voice right on your unsubscribe page can make people who are irritated with you grow fond of you again. Look at unsubscribe pages as an opportunity: the right content can change the user's mind.

The answers to the Quora question, "What are some of the best unsubscribe pages?" gave me some insight into how people feel about different unsubscribe approaches. Here are some approaches you might take:

1. Offer Options

Quora user Kelly Erickson, a small business user experience designer and author of the Maximum Customer Experience Blog felt passionate about this unsubscribe page from The Company Store:

Unsubscribe Screenshot The Company Store resized 600

Erickson points out that The Company Store's objective is to keep its access to her inbox. Email is a cheap and easy way to communicate. If Erickson unsubscribes, The Company Store will have to try harder and spend more money to get her attention in the future. Erickson also points out that her objective, after getting multiple emails she doesn't want to read, is to declutter her inbox. Those objectives, she notes, are directly at odds.

Here's how The Company Store solved that problem: It provided Erickson with an option that met her needs. Offering a "Receive Emails Less Frequently" option in addition to an all-out unsubscribe button allows a brand to keep its access to the customer's inbox while respecting the customer's time. 

2. Make Them Laugh

As with 404 pages, another way to approach the dreaded unsubscribe is with brand-appropriate humor. Consider this example, from The Children's Place:


Unsubscribe Screenshot The Childrens Place resized 600In line with the brand's purpose (to clothe children and babies), the page features an image of a crying infant. The image, though, gives the content a playful edge. 

Quora user and web developer Merideth Avila likes this approach. "When I unsubscribed from The Children's Place clothing store, they sent me to a page with a crying baby on it," she says. "My first thought was, 'Put me back on the list! Make that baby happy!'"

3. Be Gracious

Another option is to simply let users unsubscribe without trying to guilt them into staying or receiving fewer emails instead of none. Quora user Andrew Williams appreciates this approach. "I love how MailChimp handles unsubscribe," he says. "You click 'unsubscribe' and are unsubscribed. I don't know why this isn't universal."

MailChimp is frequently lauded for its attention to user experience design. Williams describes its unsubscribe page as genuinely useful. After clicking an "unsubscribe" link in a MailChimp email, he says, you are "taken to a page that allows you to re-subscribe with a new address, just in case you clicked the link by mistake, or leave a comment as to why you have unsubscribed. Otherwise, you can just close the window. Perfect."

Minimize Your Negative Impact

Every company can use content to soften the blow of frustrating or annoying interactions online. The power of your established brand voice combined with good tonal choices can improve your relationship with your current customers and impress new ones. All it takes is a thoughtful writer and a commitment to solving (not aggravating) your customers' problems. 

stephanie kaperaStephanie Kapera is a special projects coordinator for Kuno Creative and the co-founder of Up All Night Creative, a Raleigh-based content marketing agency that helps B2B and B2C companies develop magazine-quality web content. Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn and Twitter!

photo credit: Zaqarbal

Conquering Content Marketing

The Author

Stephanie Hawkins

Stephanie has 10+ years of experience creating quality content for innovative software and healthcare companies. She is passionate about using interviews and journalistic techniques to create content that truly resonates with target audiences. Stephanie lives and works in Raleigh, NC.