A special type of microcopy helps users go through their journey with less anxiety and fear: Mental Relaxers.
Users have many reasons to distrust a company. Everyone wants to sell something, and what’s free today will be charged for tomorrow. When users enter their email address, they are inundated with spam. And even though they just want to browse, they end up buying a new sofa or sharing their 50th birthday on social media. Users must be constantly on their guard, protecting their personal data and privacy, and stopping themselves from impulse buying. This means users have become attentive — and suspicious.
Internet users are under constant stress. Our goal as UX writers is to relieve this pressure. Usually, it’s enough to explain in a few words what the consequences of an action are. That way, users know what they’re getting into, can catch their breath, and click without worry. Articulating moments of distrust and alleviating concerns is the goal.
That’s why I call this type of microcopy Mental Relaxers. These text interludes provide a breather from the constant mental stress during a customer journey. They also foster long-term trust in a company. Of course, basic ethical principles apply when using Mental Relaxers. The verbal insertions should only be used if what is promised actually happens for the user.
Categories of Mental Relaxers
As a content strategist, I like to create patterns. That’s why I’ve divided the Mental Relaxers into five different categories. Let’s explore them!
Category 1: Privacy and data security
Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, users have become more sensitive to the issue of data protection — which is a good thing. To (re)gain their trust, it’s helpful to address the topic and state, proactively, how user data is handled. However, be careful with respect to what your legal department states, as they have to mitigate risk to the company. Simply put: If your company can’t keep things confidential, don’t say so.
Examples of Mental Relaxers related to data protection
- We keep your information confidential.
- Your data is protected.
- No one will be notified when you make this change.
- This information will not be displayed on your public profile.
- No auto-posting. Ever.
- Your answers will remain anonymous.
- All data will be encrypted.
We discussed this category with Shirley Chan who used to work for Facebook — a huge organization with many dependencies. She recommended a great practice: For things like data regulations and other legally sensitive topics, make sure to create a single source for these rules, so all content creators can easily reference it. Even better: Put this kind of information in a database. So, in the event that the regulations change, all places where the regulations are communicated to users will be adjusted automatically. This is highly sensitive material — so let’s be super careful with it.
Category 2: Process transparency
Phrases that indicate a time span are great Mental Relaxers. They motivate users to participate in surveys and the like. However, they should be used with caution. It is recommended to use such time indicators only when users can’t fail and might take more time. An example would be the answering of three yes or no questions. If a time promise cannot be kept, it is better to proceed without. Alternatively, there is also the option to say specifically how many questions must be answered. This is not as strong a Mental Relaxer as the time promise, and yet you can already prepare users for the task ahead. Further, we can differentiate Mental Relaxers that indicate the consequences of certain activities for the user, for example if it is safe to close a window or skip an option for the moment.
Examples of Mental Relaxers related to process transparency
- This will only take 3 minutes.
- The survey consists of 5 questions.
- You’re just 3 clicks away from your desired product.
- Closing this window won’t affect your download.
- Welcome back, Caroline!
- Skip for now.
- Cancel anytime.
Category 3: Financial aspects
Users have many fears, especially when it comes to their finances. A few reassuring words can often help to calm users and get them to convert and spend that money.
Examples of Mental Relaxers related to money
- Your credit card will not be charged. We only need your card details to guarantee the booking.
- We appreciate your patience: The verification of your account data takes 3 days.
- You can unsubscribe at any time for free.
- You don’t have to pay anything yet. This is a non-binding reservation.
- Free returns.
- The payment will appear on your statement as [fill in company’s or user’s name].
- No credit card needed.
Category 4: Staying flexible
Final decisions often require time to reflect. Normally, a user isn’t given the time during a customer journey. Mental Relaxers in the category 4 “staying flexible” remedy this and leave a backdoor open for adjustments.
Examples of Mental Relaxers related to flexibility
- You can adjust your selection later.
- You can always go back.
- With one click, you can unsubscribe from this service.
- A provisional title is enough, you can change it later.
- Auto-saving now.
- Your changes have been saved.
- You can control this in your settings.
- You can change this whenever you choose.
- Skip for now!
Category 5: Unwanted callers
As soon as a user downloads something, reveals their data, or places an order, they intuitively expect unwanted viruses or mailings. Proactive, trust-building phrases help mitigate this fear.
Examples of Mental Relaxers related to unwanted callers
- We don’t send spam. Promise.
- You can cancel at any time.
- We will only contact you if we have questions about your order.
- Unsubscribe with one click.
- We do not share your data with third parties.
- We have checked the document for viruses and spyware.
Categories of Mental Relaxers and exemplary statements
How to create Mental Relaxers
So, they exist, these Mental Relaxers. But how do you find the appropriate statements to make a user feel comfortable and motivated? Here’s a quick how-to.
#1: Determine user and business needs
Figure out what business goal lies behind the particular screen you’re dealing with. This will help you clarify why the user needs to do what we’re asking them for. Then adopt the user’s perspective and go through the process, whether it’s placing an order or entering a contest, step by step.
#2: Define concerns
Once you know your user’s needs, turn the tables and think about their possible concerns or worries. Since it often helps to think in categories, the Mental Relaxers described above may guide you (privacy, process transparency, finances, flexibility, spam).
#3: Create versions
Finally, as UX writers, we need to think about how to meet the defined needs while alleviating the identified concerns, and do it in as few words as possible. Depending on the case, this is not an easy task. At this point, I recommend writing different versions and testing them with a selected target group.
Thanks to Kathrin Würmli and Katherine Nussey for writing and image support and to Shirley Chan, Martin Schmitt, Gracie Peters, Tanya Raschle, Katie Porath, Amanda Mohlenhoff, Roman Gaus, Yukti Tuli, Gabriella Sauchella, Carolina Arce Terceros, Harald Meyer-Delius, Alee Karim, David Dylan Thomas, Roxanne Tomco, Merav Levkowitz, Dewanty Ajeng Wiradita, Britney N. Mack, Ursula Johnson and Jake Kraweckyj for all the valuable input during our LinkedIn discourse! Without you, this article would not have been possible!