Happy Talk


Happy Talk was coined by Steve Krug, who uses this term in connection with usability. Happy Talk is equated with small talk and, according to Krug, means the opposite of user-friendliness.

General information[edit]

Steve Krug's basic idea follows the principle "In medias res", i.e. "in the midst of things". This describes the idea of content with little meaning, and many filler words. The essential contents should be informative and represent a factual value. In his book "Don't Make Me Think", Krug pointed out that the average web user doesn’t have time to think about a meaningful interpretation of the content found.

Steve Krug’s 10 rules for usability[edit]

Steve Krug describes 10 rules for successful usability in his book, which can be summarized as follows:

  1. Usability stands for easy handling. Therefore, even a user with average skills must be able to get all the information they need through the functionality of a website.
  2. Websites must be self-explanatory and easy to use.
  3. The above-mentioned "Don't Make Me Think" means that users do not have to put the contents of a website together like in a puzzle, but have to understand immediately what it is about.
  4. Steve Krug emphasizes that people want to save time.
  5. Krug has also identified the "Back" button as the most used button on websites. If pages are too confusing or complicated, users tend to press the "Back" button.
  6. People are creatures of habit - we tend to stick to what we know. People don’t actively seek better solutions, but use them when they come across them.
  7. Krug thinks "No Time for Small Talk" - there should be no small talk on websites as users have no time for this.
  8. Many users first search for the "Search" function on a website they visit. This must be easy to find.
  9. Most users create mental site maps that they want to use to find their way around a website.
  10. The home button is of great importance and must always be in view so that it can be prevented from "straying".

Small talk on home pages[edit]

Small talk is often found on home pages. These texts, also referred to as instructions, aim to describe the functionality of the website. This approach contradicts Steve Krug's principle vehemently, because he renounces the self-explanatory approach.

To test the readability of your own texts, you can use usability tests. If correctly designed, these tests can indicate weaknesses and potentials of the website if they are correctly designed.

Both arguments have their justification. It’s true that many users want to find information quickly, which means that long detours via empty and excessive formulations will not be successful. On the other hand, there are many users who like the personal speech and feel more valued when they feel the content is more personalized, and less functional.

The solution is a compromise - so-called deductive texts on websites are the way forward. This is a short introduction on the homepage that briefly summarizes the content or the offer or product. Furthermore, a well-written text appeals to the chosen target group. Afterwards, the user is often transferred to happy talk, where they learn how "great" the website is, how "beautiful" it is that the visitor has found their way to the site, and that there is "a lot to discover". Most users do not like such formulations, as they just want the essential, important information, and do not like overly flowery statements. Too much of this kind of language will therefore cause the user to leave the website.

Significance for usability[edit]

The boundaries between appealing and inviting texts and the use of happy talk are partly clear, partly fluid. The challenge is to address the visitors of a website in such a way that they are interested and learn the information they wanted to learn, and that they come across a lively and engaging writing style, but on the other hand they should not come across meaningless statements.