A Handy Guide To Making Your Website Humorous And Human

Gail Schwartz AD

In mid-2014 I decided to challenge my comfort zone and signed up for an 8 week improvised comedy course with Melbourne's Improv Conspiracy. It was definitely different and a lot of fun! Interestingly I learnt concepts that apply not only to the soft skills I employ at work, but also to my technical skills.

One skill we worked on was scene work. This involves two people performing a mundane task like washing dishes or dusting. Something our instructor drilled home was that as humans we love watching other humans. This is reassuring on stage as scene work allows the actors a pause to think, knowing that the audience is happily engaged watching them scrub make-believe dishes.

Human faces

Aaron Walter, UX designer and publisher of 'Designing for Emotion', wrote that 'we explore the world by looking for something familiar'. This explains why humans experience emotion when they see other humans. Including human faces in your web design automatically triggers empathy in your website's user. This is important as every visit to your website builds the relationship between you and your customer. We want the memory to be positive and memorable.

Another take away I learnt at improv is that humour is intimately related to truth. We would spend many classes in pairs trying to uncover what relationship existed between our characters. This built a much stronger scene than trying to invent funny lines. Philosopher Hugh LaFollette explains this: "The flickering essential for humour can only occur if the listener believes there is some point to the alternate beliefs patterns. That is, they must think that those patterns contain or imply some insight or "truth". This explains why different people find different things funny. It also explains the common phrase "it's funny because it's true!".

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Like human faces, humour is another element that universally puts people at ease. It creates a sense of intimacy and trust between you and your customer. And even more importantly, it adds to that positive memory they are building of you. However, in order for your customer to find something funny they have to recognise it as truth. What does this mean for you? It means that it is integral that you know your customers well - the foundation of user experience design.

But how do I use humour in my website? It can be scary to think about building humour into your website. You may not think it carries the correct tone. However, humour is a great way to change what could be a less-than-positive experience into one the customer is glad they had. A great example of this are slow loading pages or 404 errors. Another useful place to include humour is by brightening a mundane process like completing a form or signing up to a newsletter. Team bios are an excellent place as it combines both humour and human faces – a double whammy of emotional design for forging a memorable relationship with your customer.

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