Outgoing Voicemail Messages - Products we design for each other...

Designers or not, we all end up designing "products" that will be used by other people. Outgoing voicemail messages are a perfect example; are we thinking of the "user" (the caller) when we decide what to say? In most cases, no - we just repeat the same litany of time-wasting, useless info we're used to hearing when we get other peoples' outgoing messages. The Cranking Widgets Blog has come up with some instructions for how to make your outgoing message more user-friendly - things like "don't tell me to leave a message," "don't tell me you're unavailable," and "don't tell me you'll return my call as soon as you can," all of which are obvious if a message is being recorded in the first place. Also on the list: do say if you'll be gone for a predetermined time; don't tell me to email you (the caller is probably phoning rather than emailing on purpose!); and of course, "Don't. Play. Music."

Overall I'm a fan of these guidelines. But there's one exception - if a normal outgoing message is full of useless time-wasting information, that time can be used by the callers to mentally compose their messages. Which may mean more efficient, coherent messages left on your machine... which may be more user-friendly to you!

1 comment:

Ben J. said...

today, as i waited for a friend's recording to stop telling me things i already knew, i thought: "dave should do a blog post about outgoing voicemail messages." sure enough... :-)

i would add to this that, almost as annoying as useless instructions from the user are usless instructions from the recorded and obnoxiously slow voice that comes on afterwards. "at the sound of the tone, please record your message. at the end of the message, you may hang up, or press '1' for more options. you may also page this person by pressing '5' now." seriously? can't you just say "for instructions, press star" like 800-GOOG-411?

i also love to hate the people who not only tell you WHAT to do (name, number, time/date of call) but also HOW to do it ("brief" or "short, detailed" are most common), as if that's going to deter anyone.