In a business context, brand is the identity of a company that people recognize based on an emotional and psychological connection, as well as factual information. It is important to recognize that, while you can guide users through your products, and influence their experience, you cannot fully control the way users perceive your brand. A large part of your brand identity is shaped by your users’ perception.
What you can do to encourage a brand identity is carefully and intentionally choose the words you use. All of your UX copy should align with your company’s brand to contribute to a consistent and authentic experience across every content channel users interact with.
To keep your UX copy on-brand, consider style, voice, and tone:
Style is the way you use grammar, punctuation, and syntax. It’s influenced by how your words work together and what effect your writing has on the user.
Voice is the personality that’s reflected in your writing. For example, your content's voice may be "helpful."
Tone encompasses the user’s emotions that need to be accounted for and the resulting approach you must take. It is important to choose a tone that's appropriate for the context of your content. For example, your content's tone may be "casual" or "professional."
Let’s consider how we use the Red Hat brand voice in our UX copy. If Red Hat were a person, they would be:
- Helpful but humble (not arrogant).
- Authentic but adaptable (not stubborn).
- Open but ordered (not chaotic).
- Brave but balanced (not reckless).
To reflect the Red Hat voice in our products' UX copy, we consider UX voice traits. Each voice trait is an extension of the Red Hat voice.
Red Hat voice traits
UX voice traits
Helpful but humble (not arrogant)
Authentic but adaptable (not stubborn)
Open but ordered (not chaotic)
Brave but balanced (not reckless)
When crafting your brand voice, align your voice traits to any company or team values that you have.
You can’t tell your users what your voice is. You need to show them who you are in your writing. To do this, consider utilizing "Don't and Do” charts. For example, Red Hat's UX copy voice charts look like:
Voice trait: Friendly
Description: Our #1 focus is the user. We make them feel welcome and create a sense of belonging and understanding.
Don’t include fluff or long sentences that run on and on.
Do be clear and concise for users of all skills and abilities.
Do write how you speak, but add extra polish.
Do focus on comprehension and use plain language.
Voice trait: Approachable
Description: People are comfortable engaging with us. We’re open to listening and changing our ways when better ideas come along.
Don’t use jargon, idioms, bizspeak, or formal language.
Do say what you mean.
Do be direct and transparent with descriptive, specific language.
Voice trait: Collaborative
Description: We embody Red Hat’s open source mission with our collaborative working style and our sense of community.
Don’t rely on inside jokes, colloquial expressions, culture-specific examples, or other alienating language to get your point across.
Do deliver content in a way that includes everyone.
Don’t use “I” too much. Make the user the star of every story you tell.
Do use “you” and the active voice to put emphasis on the user and the power in their hands.
Voice trait: Inventive
Description: We have a fearless edge, challenging the assumption that UX is for a niche group of techies. We’re also not afraid to share our ideas and welcome new ones.
Don’t belittle others or make jokes at their expense. We can laugh at ourselves but not at our users.
Do deliver concepts and ideas with an air of confident simplicity.
Don’t use others as examples of what not to do.
Do add real-world, global-friendly examples.
If you’re contributing content (such as website copy or documentation) to PatternFly, keep Red Hat's voice traits in mind. If you’re adopting PatternFly as part of another organization, you should go through a similar process to document the attributes of your own brand voice.
Unlike voice, tone can change. To determine tone, ask yourself the following questions:
- What does the user need at this time?
- What is the user thinking?
- How is the user feeling?
The tone you use is based on the answers to those questions. PatternFly’s tone typically varies between casual, professional, informative, and supportive, depending on context. For example:
- You’re writing a blog post about a PatternFly event—exciting! Your tone is casual.
- You’re writing a social media post addressing a product delay or failure—not exciting. Your tone is professional.
- You’re writing an email to inform a user of an overdue payment. Your tone is informative and professional.
- You’re guiding a user through a new interface. Your tone is informative and supportive.
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