The digital world is full of sites and apps committing the worst kind of content sins against the users they claim to serve. And your digital products—yes, yours!—are likely among them. At this very moment, users may be suffering at the hands of your horrible usability brought on evil digital content. Repent now for your site or app’s wicked ways and rid every screen of these seven deadliest and vilest digital content sins.

1. Paragraphs

Woe to all the sites and apps where task-related content is written in paragraphs! They sin against their users’ time and happiness. Their words must be trimmed, their walls of text broken into chunks, their points given headings, and their content incorporated into the overall layout and design. Only then can they be worthy of their users’ love.

2. Vague and Confusing Actions

Shame on the digital products that promise users they will be able to complete a task with ease, only to give them baffling labels for links, buttons, and other critical interactions. Users must resort to guesswork! Where is the “here” in “click here?” It may land a user in usability hell, but they’ll have to click to find out. Only when these actions are given clear, straightforward, concise labels will they be redeemed in users’ eyes.

3. Cleverness

Oh, the sites and apps that think they’re so clever! They play on words in their main navigation, use obscure references as headings, and generally rename things that have perfectly good names in the first place for no good reason except to admire their own wit. Users see this not as cleverness, but as frustration. Only when these sites and apps call things what they are without trying to show off their creativity will they be fit to help users complete their tasks.

4. Unhelpful Help

Certain fallen digital products trick their users under the guise of providing “help” content. But what do unsuspecting users find instead? No help at all. At best, the answer to the question is on another screen, buried in a sea of other questions. At worst, the question is not answered at all but the only way to know that is to look for it anyway. To be redeemed, these sites and apps must put help information in close proximity to actions or, better yet, write content that is in itself so helpful that it makes additional “help” text irrelevant.

5. Jargon

The sins of sites and apps using jargon for their content can appear in many forms. The language may be super technical, or it may consist of internal terms that don’t mean anything to anyone outside the organization. They often use abbreviations, acronyms, and other shorthand forms of communication only known to a particular set of experts in a particular industry. The road to salvation lies in using plain language, always using words that their users would use themselves.

6. Content for Content’s Sake

“The more words the better!” the digital products guilty of this sin say as they pile unneeded content onto their screens. The result? Language that pretends to be helping users find what they need but is actually willfully in their way. These products must make up for their sins by cutting all but the words that are absolutely necessary for users to take action and understand information.

7. Writing for Robots

These sites and apps worship the false idol of search engine robots. This may be the most serious of these deadly sins, as their content isn’t even written for their human users. They pack their screens full of outdated keywords and add paragraphs of words (a sin in itself, see #1) to please their robot masters. These vile tactics may get users to visit their site or app, but they will immediately run the opposite way when they see the unnatural state of the language in front of them. These products can only be saved by removing all robot-pleasing words and replacing them with clear content that focuses on real users.

Deliver Your Site or App from UX Damnation

These digital content sins are frightening for even the most seasoned user experience team. If your products are guilty of these evils, it’s time to pay your penance and regain your users’ favor. When you set things right and truly serve your users with your digital content, you will find yourself awash in UX glory.


About truematter

Our team has been doing the real work of user experience since the earliest days of the commercial web. We’re out to make your digital products a whole lot better.

We make this solemn vow — we will never lead your digital products down the path of the content damned.

Author: @baileysendsword
Editor: @ExperienceDean
Graphic: @djosephmachado