Just as products should look and act consistently, they should also speak consistently. We speak with one voice and vary our tone depending on situational context.
Our design principles apply to the words used throughout our products to ensure that language seamlessly integrates with visual design. We apply these principles to the product voice with language-specific guidelines.
If voice is our products' personality, then tone is all the different ways we express that personality.
Tone can vary depending on the people we talk to, as well as the situations in which we talk to those people. For example, though you have one personality, you might still speak to a family member differently than you would a neighbor. You might also speak to your family member in different ways if they were sad, happy, or frustrated.
The same thing applies to how we talk to users.
Tone is a powerful tool that can both shape a positive user experience for people, as well as clear the air in a negative one.
The right tone depends on a user’s contextual needs and corresponding emotions for that experience, as well as how involved and emotional we need to be in the process.
Think of the tone for any given experience as being on a spectrum:
The tone spectrum acts as a sliding scale for considering which of our attitudes and expressions are appropriate for different experiences.
|Motivational||Positive and encouraging|
We’re looking out for you and cheering you on. You’ve got this!
|Helpful||Polite and respectful|
We know you’re busy, so we’ll make this brief.
|Instructive||Neutral and direct|
Here is the information you need.
|Reassuring||Professional and reliable|
We know you’re worried about this issue, and we’re here to help.
|Supportive||Concerned and empathetic|
Something bad has happened and we understand how you feel. We want to inform, guide, and support you through this.