Jasmine Probst headshot

Creating content with compassion at Facebook

Most of us have a pretty routine relationship with Facebook. You wake up, check your News Feed, catch up on posts by friends that make you smile. But sometimes the experience is more intense.

Delight speaker Jasmine Probst is a content strategy manager at Facebook, where her team focuses on how to design for difficult situations—everything from breakups to bullying. They also deal with things like suicide prevention and what happens to an account when someone passes away. As Jasmine notes, these are high stakes, high sensitivity moments. “We really try our hardest to make sure that we are giving people context, and making them feel comfortable and supported, no matter what they’re going through,” she says.

At Delight 2016 Jasmine will be talking about designing for difficult experiences and showing compassion in these sensitive situations. Here’s a preview of what she’ll be sharing.

What to say when it’s a matter of life & death

Carmen: What are some examples of the kind of difficult situations that you’ve had to respond to?

Jasmine: Research drives our product experiences on Facebook, and we work directly with experts on highly sensitive moments. We pay a lot of attention to what our communities around the world need from Facebook, what their feedback is, what resonates with them, and how we can provide resources and experiences that are useful and compassionate.

For example, with billions of people on Facebook, we already have hundreds of thousands of what we call memorialized accounts, which are accounts that belong to people who have passed away. It’s really important for us to think through what happens to those accounts and how we can best support our community. Last year we launched a new feature called legacy contact, which allows you to choose someone else to care for your Facebook account after you’ve passed away. That’s one of the most challenging products I’ve dealt with in my career. And one of the most touching.

Another example is our suicide prevention tools. When we’re dealing with a situation where we realize it’s outside of our area of expertise, we bring in psychologists and social scientists to inform the product decisions. We work really closely with suicide prevention and policy experts, and that team helps advise us.

Collaborating to communicate in a simple, human way

Carmen: How do you work together with other disciplines at Facebook to help deliver content that feels relevant, empathetic and supportive?

Jasmine: We work really fluidly and collaboratively at Facebook. The boundaries are often blurred among our disciplines. We have tools that help us think through a range of emotions and experiences. We always try to put whatever it is that we’re building into terms of people problems—something that’s very succinct and simple and human. People feel good when they feel understood, and that their needs are anticipated and met with care. Content strategy plays a major role here because the tone we use when we’re communicating can really make or break an experience.

By nature most content strategists are reflective people. We’re often very in tune with communication patterns, and we think a lot about how other people will feel based on whatever they’re experiencing—how they’ll comprehend it, how they’ll process it, how they’ll react to it. With content, one of the most important things we can do is communicate with people on their level in a simple, straightforward, human way… responding to context, with compassion.

Designing for meaning

Carmen: What does delight mean to you and how you are able to apply it to content?

Jasmine: Delight is a tricky concept. I think the emphasis on delight can be almost dangerous. As content strategists, we’re often asked to give a product personality, which is frequently translated as, “Make it fun.” That often results in something snappy, with a few exclamation points thrown in. As people who develop products, it’s natural to want people to feel good about what we are creating—we want them to be happy when they use what we’ve built! That’s a positive, good intention, but it can also put teams in a state of mind where they’re only designing for the ideal user—some stock photography-perfect persona that isn’t necessarily reflective of real life.

I think people can become myopic when focused too much on delight. We start to say, “Everything needs to be delightful,” and infuse everything with that perspective. Digital products touch people’s lives in real and sometimes very raw ways, so we have to be mindful of that. Rather than delightful products, I’m interested in meaningful products. To me, meaningful products are the ones that reflect the reality, the messiness, of real life. We work a lot on making sure that our products make people feel comfortable and cared for, no matter what they’re going through. It’s the full range of emotions that makes life meaningful, and reflecting that in our products will make our products meaningful as well.

Charting new territory

Carmen: What about your work that you’re doing or trends that you see are you most excited about?

Jasmine: Beyond standards and best practices at a practical level, something I’m most excited about within the UX community is the fact that more and more voices are joining the discussion about how we can be emotionally sensitive in our design and content. I see more and more people realizing how much our products affect people’s lives, and that we have a really big responsibility to those people.

Something that’s super exciting about working in tech is we’re basically writing the rules as we go, and we can update things practically in real time. That also means we’re working at an incredible pace, and working at that kind of speed in uncharted territory means we have a tremendous responsibility to be open to being wrong, to anticipating that we may make some mistakes, to acknowledging when we screw up, to appreciating when our assumptions are challenged, and then committing to that constant iteration based on what it is that the world is telling us.

I’m inspired by the potential of our products to not only be useful and, hopefully, delightful, but also meaningful parts of people’s lives. Embracing that challenge is what makes me love my work.

About Jasmine Probst

Jasmine Probst is a content strategist at Facebook, who describes herself as a “natural dot-connector who thinks in narrative form.” Jasmine works on products related to life’s big moments—from birthdays to the passing of a loved one—as well as multiple Facebook Creative Labs apps. She not only brings empathy to designing digital experiences, but also a human touch to business collaboration. “I happily collaborate with other strategic and creative minds to make products that people enjoy,” she says. “I remain mindful of the big picture while weaving together the details.” Prior to her adventure in Silicon Valley, Jasmine was an independent consultant focused on high-end real estate and lifestyle branding.