3 Delightful Examples of User-Centered Design & Content

by Louellen Coker on July 12, 2011

One of the great things about the Social Media revolution is that its changed our manner of communication from a perspective of “Me! Me! Me!” to one that focuses squarely on YOU! YOU! YOU! Brian Clark explains the power of you in his post The Two Most Important Words in Blogging. I contend, that “you” is the most powerful focus of any message conveyed written, graphical, web, or any other mode of communication.

Technical communicator sorts like our resident Search Engine Wrangler, Keri Honea, and me who have been dedicated to creating user-centered content for more than a decade, we’re doing a happy dance. We’re doing a happy dance because the shift is making our job easier. People are accustomed to getting content in a seamless, easy way that just works. Gone are the days of having a crappy manual for the sake of having a manual.

Your customers expect more. And if you don’t give it to them they’re very likely to let you know about it, or worse, let all their friends know about it on a public platform. And we all know what happens when that occurs… you lose money.

But when you get it right, your audience is simply delighted. Your communication effortlessly takes away concerns, makes life easier, and depending on the topic could even save a few lives.

Here are three examples I’ve encountered in the last few weeks and months that have really stood out and made my appreciate how the developer, director, and/or writer focused on how the USER (or audience) would best receive the information.


Google+Google takes quite a bit of flak about how it rolls things out more often than not. Remember Buzz and Wave? The Google+ project is a little different. I got my invite a couple of hours ago and have been busy hitting a few deadlines today, so I’ll admit that I’ve not spent hours digging into it.

But what we’ve found different with Google+ is that in a few short minutes, we were able to

  • “Hangout” and have a video chat.
  • Bring the whole team into a single chat via the “Huddle” feature.
  • Easily move people into “Circles”.

And that’s just just the tip of the iceberg. As a small business, we’re pretty excited about the possibilities of how Google is going to meld Google+ with its other apps and offerings. If predictions evolve into reality we’ll have a pretty interesting merging of social and business platforms.

Has Google gotten it right this time? It’s too soon to tell. Regardless, it’s pretty obvious that they’ve really paid some attention to their users this time around and have rolled out a product that has thus far delighted their users. Users are delighted because Google rolled it out in a way that takes away concerns and integrates with processes already being used to make their lives easier.

Stomp, the Musical

Scene from Stomp, The Musical

Image courtesy of Dallas Summer Musicals

To understand why this conveyance of information was so delightful, you’ll need a bit of the back-story. My husband and I had tickets to see Stomp during the show’s stop as part of the Dallas Summer Musicals on June 9. Now if you’re a basketball fan, you’ll know that fell right in the middle of the NBA Championships and that June 9 was also the Dallas Maverick’s last home game of the series.

The audience’s distraction was palpable. And as the first quarter drew to an end, you could see a flickers of light as people stole a glance at their phones to learn the score. The performers were amazing and captivating, but the hearts of their audience really wanted to know how their beloved Mavs were faring across town.

Just when I thought the crew had lost their audience for good, something unexpected happened. One of the performers, I believe it was Andre Fernandez, walked out during the newspaper scene, stood center stage, and held up a newspaper with the score emblazoned across it. Instantly the audience roared with applause (our Mavs were in the lead!). We got another update at halftime and again after the third quarter.

The show could have gone on as usual. But that one simple deviation drew their audience back in. And very likely made them more engaged than audiences on other nights. Not a single flicker of cell phone light appeared for the rest of the night. That one act of knowing what their audience needed and giving it to them made all the difference.

The audience was fully engaged because the performers took away the audience’s distraction of wanting to know the score of the game.

Ski Colorado

Ski Colorado Breast Cancer Tour RVEarlier this year when many of my friends and colleagues were attending SXSW, I was off in Colorado snowboarding. As we walked up to the resort our first day on the mountain, there was a brightly colored RV with a friendly yellow lab checking out all the passersby in front of a table where two young ladies with smiles ear to ear were handing out breast cancer awareness flyers as part of their Ski Bumps Fight Lumps campaign.

The kids ran for the hot chocolate, the husbands leaned down to pet dogs, and the women were drawn in by the spirit of the ladies couldn’t help but ask what they were doing there (yes, the answer was painfully obvious since it was emblazoned on the RV with no way to miss it!). Not missing a beat, the ladies gave a less than 30-second accounting their purpose, handed all the adults their flyers, encouraged us to visit their website (listed on their flyer) at the end of the day when we got off the mountain, and wished us a good day on the mountain. That was it.

These ladies did a lot of things right that morning that showed they had really thought about how their audience needed to hear what they had to say to be most receptive to it.

  • They didn’t take up lots of our time when we were excited to get the kids settled in ski school and early tracks on fresh snow our first day out.
  • The flyers that shared 8 ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer were laminated and on sturdy paper that would stand up to getting wet and shoved in a pocket.
  • The language was concise and appropriate to the venue.
  • The key points were easy to pull out and were memorable.

I didn’t see too many of their flyers in the trash cans or on the ground. I heard the conversations made around the very appropriate play on words of “Check Yo’self” rather than the usual “Perform a Monthly Self-Exam” that the doctor hands out every year. The young ladies conveyed the content in the way their audience could consume it. I can’t tell you if they hit all 27 ski areas in 8 days or not. Nor can I tell you how much money they raised. But I do still have their flyer sitting on my desk and in my sample file. And every time we utter the phrase “Check Yo’self before you wreck Yo’self” I instantly think of their goal.

At the end of the day, though your message is important and is WHAT is being shared, the YOU upon which it needs to be centered is the person receiving the message not yourself.

Have you experienced great content that has focused on YOU? Let us know in the comments.



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