The Crucial Role of Customer Language in Product Design

Posted by TJ on 27 May 2023

Designers are not just creators of visual experiences; they also need to be communication specialists, translators, and innovators. By having regular conversations with customers and really listening to the words they use, designers can better understand their users and use this knowledge to enhance the design of their products.

While this might sound obvious and straightforward to implement, it’s a step that often gets overlooked when we start to feel busy or when budgets get tight. But being able to use the same language as your customers in your designs can positively influence the perception of your product, and it doesn't need to be an expensive or time-consuming process. There's a wealth of information and insights freely available if you know where to look.

Let's have a look at why we should be talking to our customers, how we should be talking to them, and the key things we should be listening out for when we do.

Why Do Designers Need to Talk to Their Customers?

Speaking to customers is more than just good business etiquette. It's a strategic move that provides valuable insights and can propel a designer's work from 'good' to 'exceptional.' A customer's language - their dialect of needs and desires - often provides key insights that can make your designs resonate deeply with your target audience.

Understanding the language that your customers also use can help you deliver a solution that aligns perfectly with their expectations. It helps create a user-centric design, a philosophy that places user needs and experiences at the heart of the design process. When designers understand the language their customers use, it helps them produce designs that customers inherently understand and feel connected to.

For example, think about designing an online shopping app. If you've spoken to customers and have discovered they frequently use the words 'quick view' instead of 'preview,' integrating this language into your design makes the app feel more intuitive to the end-users. They can instantly relate to the interface, which makes the app easy to use and navigate, and makes the user feel more at home.

A second example; let's say you're designing an online fitness platform. If users always refer to their workouts as 'routines' instead of 'exercises', that's a cue that you should be using those words in your design too. This could be in menu options, button labels, or even in promotional material and marketing copy. A small shift like this can make your design more inviting and relatable to the users you expect to cater to.

The goal of talking to your users is to pick up on the words and terms and themes that they themselves use as they navigate the domain that you're trying to build an experience for. In this way you build trust and make your app or tool or book or process relatable and inherently understandable to the people that will use and get value from it.

How Should You Capture Your Customers' Language?

While there's no one-size-fits-all answer to how often designers should talk to their customers, regular communication is essential. This could happen monthly, bi-monthly, or even weekly, and might depend on the complexity of the project and the pace of changes in the market or user preferences.

Frequent conversations help designers stay in touch with the evolving needs and language of customers. These conversations don't always need to be formal.  They could be as casual as a chat on social media, comments on a blog post, feedback sessions after user testing, or a quick exchange over email.

For those that feel they might not have the time or resources to engage directly with your customers, there are plenty of other great ways to discover your customers' language. Remember that it's not just about what they're saying about you, your business, or the product or service you're providing - it's about the language and words they're using, and the ideas they're trying to get across.

Try some of these sources to get started:

  • Social Media Channels: This is a great way to gather insights into how customers describe your products or services. Pay attention to the language used in comments, posts, and discussions related to your brand or industry. Look at hashtags used in relation to your product and track trends over time.
  • Online Forums and Communities: Online communities like Reddit, Quora, groups on Facebook, servers and channels on Discord, or industry-specific forums can be a goldmine of information. People often speak candidly about their experiences, opinions, and needs, and this provides valuable insights into their language. Get onto Reddit and try searching for your brand names, or the generic names of the product or service you provide, and see what comes up!
  • Product Reviews: Reviews on your own site, as well as third-party sites like Google and Amazon, will also can provide insights into the terminology customers use. Look for common phrases, descriptors, and themes that multiple customers use over time.
  • Customer Support Interactions: Inside your company, your customer support team interacts with your customers on a daily basis. They are an invaluable resource for understanding customer language. Regularly debriefing with your customer service team can help you gather customer language insights. Step back from the detail and really listen to the words your customers are using to describe what you do. Actually, read those those emails that are coming in through your 'Contact Us' form, or browse the messages in Intercom or your CRM.
  • Surveys and Feedback Forms: These tools allow for direct input from your customers. When surveying customers ask a few, simple, open-ended questions to let customers use their own language. Don't let your choice of language bias or guide your respondents' answers. Keep it simple to start with. Customers want to be heard, and you can always follow up with specific respondents for more information if they're open to it.
  • User Testing and Interviews: These are more direct methods where you can hear the language of the customer first-hand. Pay close attention to how they describe their experience, the challenges they face, and the solutions they prefer. Get permission to make an audio or video recording of the feedback session and transcribe the notes in your own time to make sure you don't miss anything important.
  • Look at Competitors: Just like monitoring for mentions of your own product or service, examining your competitors’ communication and customer reviews can also provide insights into industry-specific language that customers are familiar with. It's also a great way to understand what your competitors are not doing well, which could represent opportunities for you!
  • Analyzing Search Query Data: Use SEO tools like Google Search Console, Ahrefs, and Moz to help understand the phrases and questions your potential customers are typing into search engines, and how effectively your website engages with those users. This can provide insights into the language customers use when they’re looking for a product or service similar to yours.

What to Listen for in Your Customers' Language

Now that you know how and where to capture your customers language, here are some of the things you should listen for to better align your communication with your customers:

  • Vocabulary and Terminology: Pay close attention to the specific words and phrases your customers use when talking about your product or similar ones. These could be industry-specific terms, slang, or jargon. Incorporating these terms into your own language will help establish a connection with your audience and show that you understand their needs and perspectives.
  • Benefits and Features: Listen to the words your customers use to describe the benefits and features of your product or similar ones. Do they emphasize certain aspects more than others? How do they talk about these benefits or features? What words do they use? Use this language when promoting your own product.
  • Pain Points: Customers often use specific language to describe problems or difficulties they experience with a product, or they underlying problem that they're trying to solve. Understanding and using this language can show that you empathize with your customers and are working to address their concerns.
  • Emotional Language: Tune into the emotional words and phrases customers use. Are they excited, frustrated, satisfied, or disappointed with certain aspects of your product or similar ones? Reflecting this emotional language in your communication and marketing copy can create a deeper connection with your customers.
  • Descriptors: How do customers describe your product and those of your competitors? Pay attention to the adjectives they use. These descriptive words can help you align your product messaging with your customers perceptions.
  • User Experience: Note the language customers use to describe their experience with your product or similar ones, including their interaction with the product, customer service, and overall satisfaction. Use these insights to mirror their language and experiences in your communication and marketing efforts.
  • Product Comparisons: Listen to the language your customers use when comparing your product to others. They may highlight certain features, benefits, or issues that can help you position your product and fine tune the language you use. Noting which alternatives they refer to also gives you additional channels for further research.

Remember, no matter where you gather your language insights from, it's essential to use the knowledge you gain in a way that naturally aligns with your brand voice and message. Your aiming to build a sense of empathy for, and trust with, your customers - not pull the wool over their eyes. Too much jargon or slang can be off-putting for some users and will make you sound fake, so find a balance that feels authentic and engaging for you.

Designers who understand and incorporate their customers' language into their designs are more likely to create online products that truly resonate with users. Give it a go and see how easy and rewarding it is to build a sense of who your customers are and what they truly need!

Leverage Voyce to gather all your crucial customer insights in one place. Create a dedicated folder within Voyce Insights, particularly for recording customer-specific terminology. This will ensure your ideas stay accessible by your team and can be consistently used across your product - consider it your personalized product glossary.

Voyce can help you store customer insights...
A range of product insights can be collated.

Capture and centralize your customer insights.

Voyce is a beautiful repository for all your customer research, insights & feedback.
Organize problems by severity and scope to help find those that should be fixed first.

Define, validate, and triage customer problems.

Link and convert your insights into clearly defined problems, to find the 'why?', and identify those that are critical to solve.
Easily generate multiple solutions to the problems you've identified.

Discover opportunities and build the right things.

Create smarter solutions that deliver real value and delight your customers. Understand when to say 'go' or 'no'.