A Labor of Love: Making Text Matter
That dusty copy of The Catcher in the Rye. That self-help book that kept you afloat during hard times. The battered-down, rustic paperback of Tom Sawyer with torn pages read in elementary school years. That childrearing magazine you subscribed to when planning for a new child.
Books, like all things we hold dear, can have substance and emotional content. People hold on to them because it means something. Maybe the book provided an helpful answer to a dilemma. Maybe the book accompanied them on an exotic journey.
But the book always serves as an emotional anchor for personal experiences and insights. The text in the book does not matter as much as the experiences surrounding it and what was learned from it.
Written content in websites follows a similar principle. Websites do not benefit from texture or physicality, and only have around 10 seconds to stimulate the user’s attention. A novel usually requires a little more time than that.
Most importantly, for all the talk of content as business assets and emotional triggers in websites, it is extremely common to forget one simple fact: people do not love websites.
Websites are not artifacts like books, which can be held on to for emotional reasons. Their nature is transient and dynamic, and can quickly be taken down or fade with time.
In the case of social media, users can love the interaction with other people that the website allows. Or they might enjoy the trips they can book through a search website. But, unless they created it themselves, a website is not something to treasure. A website is not special in and of itself.
The content on the website, however, can be. It can teach the user, it can charm them. It can be creative and daring, or supportive and outreaching.
Localization does not start with the first translated language: it starts with the source. Knowing your audience and styling your content is just the beginning in a long journey towards a better user experience, but one that can make your content feel like a directed, cared-for labor of love, and not a patched-up set of snooze-inducing business and technical clichés.
Alberto Ferreira's key interests in user and customer experience and content optimization technologies have led him into an extensive professional background involving localization engineering, project management, ethnographic research, UX design, and product management. He worked with some of software's top-tier actors in a controlled language and machine translation initiatives, and pioneered usability as a core concern in localisation engineering. He is currently designing the next generation of structured content collaboration and delivery at Mekon. NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of GALA.