Humor is relatable

At the UX Book Club San Diego meetup last night, we got on the topic of how humor in website copy seems to make websites and interfaces more relatable to its users. One of the group's co-founders, Brie Ann Demkiw, mentioned how she has noticed using one line of humor in a string of text helps increase conversion rates and can increase user loyalty.

Google started doing this a few years back with Google reader. Their message read "Oops! That wasn't supposed to happen." Even Firefox has started incorporating this tactic. When Firefox asks if you want to restore your browser session after crashing, it reads "Well, this is embarassing."

I think it's 100% true. When I read a funny error message or sarcastic instructions in place of something standard and ordinary, not only do I get a chuckle out of it, but I am more emotionally drawn into those sites or applications (in a subconscious way), because of the humor used.

Why is this? I'm no human behavior expert, but it seems to me like humor is more relatable and shows that there is a real person with real emotions/personality who wrote that particular error message. When we read a standard, boring old string of text that's been used on a million other websites, we aren't phased by it because it's "the norm" and is just the standard way of presenting information. Humor is different and people respond differently, whether they know it or not.

So, to interface designers: go out and be funny. Do something out of the ordinary that users will remember. Although it might be cheesy or sound lame to your boss or clients, it just might have a profound effect on the users, without them even realizing it.


Yeah, that was a great point, and its so true. I think a contributing factor of its effectiveness is that we relate with because the site is Anthropomorphized and that extends our patience. We no longer are dealing with just this cold piece of code, but its has personality, we are more forgiving and understanding. I think in the end we are more likely to try to figure out what went wrong than to get frustrated and leave.
So true! Humor helps to diffuse the irritation of the situation. It catches people off guard and minimizes frustration. And it breaks the monotony of the expected. I'm reminded of the times I've been on an airplane and the flight attendant uses humor while giving the flight safety instructions -- or the captain makes a joke about a particularly hard landing. Life is too short to be taken so seriously all the time. Do the unexpected!
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