Thoughtful, consistent interface content is a core element of a well-designed user experience.
Our content standards will help you understand how to think strategically about the language in your products and apps. They’ll also give you clear, tactical suggestions designed to help you use language to craft better experiences.
Each component also includes content guidelines about how to write for specific interface elements.
Respond to merchant needs
Not everyone is a confident writer, but everyone can improve their content by making sure it responds to the needs of their audience. Keep in mind that real people rely on Shopify every day to run their businesses. The product, feature, or app you’re building can make a big difference to the people using it. Take some time to learn about who they are, what they need, and the language they use.
Use plain language
Shopify merchants are busy people who may be running their online business in addition to having a full-time job, managing their family life, and doing a million other things. They’re also located all over the world, have varying levels of literacy, and some may not speak English as their first language. Some content can be translated poorly and can be misinterpreted.
Writing using plain language doesn’t mean dumbing content down. It’s about making sure language is straightforward and communicates concepts as efficiently as possible. As a benchmark, we consider plain language to be a United States grade 7 reading level. Grade reading level can be checked using apps like http://www.hemingwayapp.com/ or https://readable.com/.
If you create content for Shopify’s other audiences, such as merchant’s customers, the same plain language guidelines apply. Some reading level exceptions can be made for audiences with a high level of subject matter expertise in an area, like partner developers. Keep in mind that we still aim to keep technical content readable by other UX disciplines who want to learn about technical subjects, or for those who speak English as a second language.
- Write short sentences (no more than 15–20 words).
- Use headings and bullets to make your content easier to scan.
- Avoid jargon and always choose a short, simple word over a long and complicated one.
- Avoid idioms and phrases with indirect or ironic meanings.
- Only use industry-standard terminology when you have reason to believe it will improve understanding. Spend time researching what words people use, rather than defaulting to what corporations call things.
- Edit unnecessary or repeated words.
- Write for small screens first. Constraints can help you focus on the most important message.
- Read your content out loud. If you get tripped up or it doesn’t sound like something a human would say, your content needs to be edited.
People use Shopify to get things done, whether they’re managing a store, or making a purchase. Content should be written and structured to help the reader understand and take the most important actions.
- Calls to action on buttons and links should start with a strong verb that describes the action a person will take when they click.
- Always prioritize the most important information and task — don’t make people dig to find what they care about.
- Break down complicated tasks into steps that help people focus on one thing at a time.
- Use the active voice to clarify the subject and the action.
To help your audience understand key concepts and actions they can take, use consistent nouns (words used to identify people, places, or things) and verbs (action words) wherever possible.
- Get in the habit of making a list of all the most important verbs and nouns in the experience you’re building.
- Look at your word list. Does each word clearly describe the object or action it represents in the simplest way possible?
- Does your language reflect how people think and the words they use?
- Identify synonyms (a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language), and eliminate them. Each important object and action should have a single word to represent it.