Understanding the current state
As Opower's first content strategist, I led the effort to bring a consistent voice to our products. To start, I reviewed what we were currently sending out.
What I found was a range of writing styles: highly technical to overly casual and everything in between. This unnecessary variation muddled up Opower's message and slowed down the design process, since each designer had to make things up as they went along.
Identifying content goals and constraints
Opower creates communications for 80+ utilities around the world. In essence, it's a white label product.
One of the interesting things about this business model is that products need to be customized for each utility. In light of this, a distinctive voice with a lot of personality would be hard to maintain. Also, let's be real: Utilities tend to be pretty stodgy. A highly unique voice wouldn't feel appropriate in context of other utility communications.
As a result, I wanted the voice to:
- Align with the team's UX principles
- Feel appropriate for a range of clients
- Be easy to maintain and localize
- Motivate people to save energy
What the Opattern voice sounds like
After mulling over the content needs and talking to design and marketing teams, I recommended voice attributes that focus on clarity and usability. The Opattern voice is:
- Clear and straightforward, but not terse or dry
- Conversational, but not overly familiar or young
- Focused on action, but not overbearing
Incorporating the voice in our products
To help the design team understand and apply the Opattern voice, I took several approaches:
- Documentation Creating an Opattern style guide showing our design and content approach
- Opattern lunch and learn Sharing our content and design recommendations with product teams
- One-on-one content reviews Collaborative writing sessions to revise language in the product
- Content office hours Regular drop-in times to chat about copy and answer questions
I also created a content style guide to answer more detailed questions about punctuation, grammar, etc.
It's been great to see designers and product managers reference the style guide. By documenting a "house style", no one needs to waste time debating capitalization. Defining styles takes some effort up front, but it makes things much more efficient!
Define a consistent writing style for the Opattern (Opower's design system).
Clarify what voice to use—and make sure it's appropriate for everyone who gets a utility bill.
HOW I HELPED
- Conducted a content audit
- Defined voice attributes
- Created and shared voice guidelines
- Wrote and edited product copy
- Helped the design team apply the voice