Can good tech copywriting make technology brands accessible for all?

by Sophie Cole

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Tech has a reputation for being inaccessible – here’s our take on how our copywriting services for tech companies can make it accessible for all. Whether we like it or not, tech has become an integral part of our lives. We check how much money we’ve got with a few swipes of our screens. We spend one in five of our pounds with online retailers. We shout at Alexa when it rudely wakes us up in the morning. Today, we’d be lost without it. Our increasingly globalised world would feel a lot smaller, and we’d struggle to do business with people thousands of miles away. Trading across borders and timezones would be virtually impossible. As we become increasingly reliant on tech, a gulf is opening up between those who use it and those who don’t. Typically, this is segmented by generations as under 35s have grown up with tech as part of their everyday lives and older people might not be so familiar. But, even among those within the generally ‘tech-savvy’ younger brackets, certain groups are being shut out by accessibility issues. So, how can tech companies make sure their products are available to everyone? Cleverly crafted technology copywriting won’t bridge all the gaps, but it can make an enormous difference. 

Tech is leaving some behind

A lot of tech has the potential to make older people’s lives easier but, often, they just can’t engage with it. Ian Hosking, one of Cambridge University’s experts in designing tech for the elderly, says many find it “impenetrable”. Even those who do try to use it aren’t exactly confident – 77% of older people say they wouldn’t feel certain about setting up a new device without someone to walk them through it. Some deliberately avoid using tech, citing fears about being scammed. Others just prefer tradition. You might have heard your nana wistfully proclaim ‘things were better in my day’. That sentimentality drives many to stick to what they know, rather than try new things that could make their lives better. It’s not just older people being left behind by tech. Those with disabilities, both intellectual and physical, can be excluded by the way tech brands communicate. Many use niche jargon or explain things in a needlessly complex way. People who struggle to understand this type of language could be put off choosing products that they’re more than capable of using. And if you want to translate content into Braille, overly complex language makes it harder and much more costly to create. 

Purchasing power

It’s foolish for tech companies to ignore the UK’s over 65s as they are estimated to make up 18% of our population. And, as The Guardian phrased it, many are “sitting on a lifetime’s accumulation of wealth”. Wealth that could be spent on the latest tech gadgets, if companies could work out the right way to communicate with this largely uninitiated audience. The conundrum tech companies face is whether to stick to their tried and tested targeting of a typically younger audience, or whether they need to branch out to gain market share. Take Three’s current campaign, for example. They use phrases like  ‘go binge’ or ‘go roam’ which appeals to the tech-savvy amongst us but would alienate those who aren’t. 

Tech copywriting is the key to accessibility for all

Many companies also fail to optimise their user experience for all audiences. Actions that seem intuitive to those who are au-fait with tech might need more explanation for those who are learning later in life. [e.g. my dad looking for a physical button on his phone, when I’m asking him to press a button on the screen display…] Those with disabilities might also need a few more pointers from tech companies, whether that’s straightforward directions that can be used with programmes that can convert webpages to voice or simpler language that can be understood easily. There’s a fine line between patronising these audiences and making it more straightforward for them to use tech. It’s also tricky for tech companies to judge how accessible their content is, as their workforces tend to be tech-savvy themselves so can struggle to recognise what an outsider needs to know about their products/services. 

A fresh perspective may be needed

Tech companies may need a fresh perspective to make their content accessible. Often, they’ll need help from content creators that understand but aren’t completely immersed in, the world of tech. That’s the role we play for many of our clients – to help them convey their brand voice without confusing readers with jargon. 

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