Jessica Bjoeredahl has been in UX for over 5 years, working with major players in finance, cybersecurity, insurance, and, currently, digital adoption. Though her primary role has always been UX writing, accessibility and inclusivity (including global inclusivity) have always been a heavy influence and passion in her work as she strives to write for everyone to feel welcome. Now, she is writing guidelines for Whatfix’s design system, Navi, including guidelines for internationalization and accessibility, which have drastically improved (and will continue to improve) Whatfix’s appeal to diverse audiences.
1. What design trends do you think will take off this year and more in the future?
I think the “simpler is better” trend is going to continue until it becomes more of a staple than a trend, especially as more research is showing that simpler is more translatable and accessible on both the design and content fronts, though it will probably take different forms over the years (monochromatic, bold minimalism, few but “happy” colors, etc.). I’m also seeing accessibility gain more and more traction, which makes me so happy. Simple, accessible, human-centric content and design is where it’s at.
2. When it comes to making design and the design industry more diverse, equal, and inclusive, what changes are needed or would you like to see?
I’d love to see more teams require accessibility training for writers, designers, and developers so they can all take a more informed, inclusivity- and accessibility-first approach. A lot of places I’ve worked and seen try to patch in accessibility and inclusivity after they’ve designed everything, which usually ends up less helpful to users with disabilities. Training can help designers, writers, and developers start an accessible experience from the ground up, making for better UX for everyone.
3. What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to face as a designer? Did you overcome them? How?
Buy-in is always the biggest challenge as a content designer, especially when you’re the first in the company. Setting up a consistent, clear information architecture, taxonomy, and lexicon in a company that already has a product out in the world involves a lot of change recommendations. And as we all know, people are resistant to change. It’s human nature. So what the heck do you do?
First, figure out where the major sticking points are, where the words are losing users, and present that to stakeholders in the company. For example, when we decided to revamp our information architecture (IA), we did an initial tree test of our current IA before trying to push for a total reorganization. Once the decision-makers saw that our users were struggling based on the first tree test, we got the go-ahead to work on a new IA. Our new IA data showed significant improvement in findability and discoverability within our application, so it was relatively easy to get buy-in from there.
Another way to improve change adoption is by bundling changes. Imagine you want to change the word “account” to “profile” when referring to an individual user’s sign-in information and data. Trying to change this one word could be tricky, but what if you’re revamping the profile creation workflow, or even just making some updates? You can use those updates as a vehicle for your content change. Since adjustments are already being made, it’s easier to convince stakeholders to include one more. In addition, users already have to learn some modifications, so users aren’t dealing with a sudden word change when they aren’t in a change mindset.
4. What are 3 things you were not taught in school (if you were formally trained in design) that you wished you had been taught?
I was an English major in school, so I thought I knew writing. When I entered the UX world, I learned that I had to unlearn a lot, and much of what I learned I think everyone should know:
- Writing in the professional world and writing in the academic world are very different. In UX writing, and in nearly any professional writing scenario, you need to stop thinking about writing as “writing,” a methodology of stringing words together using grammar to create a technically perfect message. Instead, think about writing as a form of communication: conveying a message in whatever way your audience will understand and will find appropriate in the given circumstance.
- Break the rules. We learned a lot of grammar and linguistic rules in school. In the professional world, particularly as a UX writer, I break those rules all the time. Use contractions. End sentences with prepositions. Omit articles when appropriate. Use emojis if your company’s voice allows it. People don’t always talk using perfect grammar. Why should our apps?
- Using the tools available to you isn’t cheating. In school, we had to review our work and make sure it was perfect with our own two eyes. In the professional world, I use Grammarly to make sure I don’t have typos or silly grammar mistakes (when they aren’t intentional at least). I use Ditto to keep my content consistent so I don’t have to keep track of it all myself. I use Grammarly Go and Wordtune when I’m stuck to inspire myself. Would I have gotten to those same solutions eventually? Most likely, but why struggle with it when I can use these tools to make me more productive?
5. Why do you think design matters?
Our world would be awfully boring without design. The colors, layout, words, typography, shadows, layers, all of it affects how we engage with everything around us, from the cars we drive to the apps we use every day. It even affects whether we engage with them at all. Without design (and content) how would we even know what we’re interacting with? It makes everything around us more… human.
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Jessica will give a talk at the digital design conference Design Matters 23, which will take place in Copenhagen & Online, on Sep 27-28, 2023. Her talk “UX for the World: Considerations for internationalization, localization, and a multinational market”, will dive into the ways to really make global products that fit international and local markets. Jessica will discuss what she’s learned in her company’s internationalization efforts and how all members of a team can effectively contribute. Get your ticket here! And if you want to connect with Jessica, find her on LinkedIn.