What is UX Writing and Why You Need a UX Writer
Nowadays, pretty much everyone knows what content writing is. But the same can’t be said about UX writing. And yet this new role within the product design team has become ever so important. So, what is UX writing, how does it fit into the design and product teams and what are the key principles of good UX writing? Read on to find out.
What is UX writing
UX writing – or user experience writing – is the process of creating user-friendly copy for all user-facing touchpoints, including user interface. And this is not just a decorative text. UX copy informs, guides, urges and helps users take action – and this only works effectively when it is created as a part of a formal product design process. As great copy within an interactive UX design helps to create a great user experience – one of the keys for a successful product – no wonder it has become an important role on its own.
What does a UX writer do
UX writers write microcopy used throughout digital products – whether it is a piece of software, a web application, or a mobile app. These pieces of copy are menu labels, buttons, calls-to-action, confirmation and error messages, security notes, etc. UX writers create a copy in such a way that users understand what and why they should do in order to achieve a certain result. To create a great UX copy, UX writers not only need to create consistent, error- and typos-free copy but also have a thorough understanding of the end-user experience of the product they’re writing for. They need to make it easy for users to take the path that leads towards a particular outcome in a logical, intuitive manner.
For a very long time, it was software developers and graphic designers who would write the microcopy for digital products. Back then UX writing was underestimated and considered a luxury. As a result, the microcopy within the product was often inconsistent and confusing for the user, not to mention that it was sometimes filled with grammar errors and spelling mistakes. And that’s understandable – nobody can excel at everything, and software developers or designers aren’t an exception to this rule. Especially that they know the product inside out and it’s hard for them to empathize with users.
…and what does UX writer not do
The role of UX writer should not be confused with that of a technical writer (who does the technical writing and focuses on clarity and accuracy, not on user experience), content strategist (who plans content strategy, i.e. content on a bigger scale, and doesn’t necessarily write copy), information architect (who works on, well, information architecture, meaning that (s)he builds sustainable information structures and taxonomies) or content marketing copywriter (who writes marketing copy that attracts leads, converts them into customers and helps to retain them).
UX writing in a design and product team
UX writers are members of UX teams, and as such they’re expected to conduct or collaborate on conducting the UX research. UX copy and UX design teams work together to discover options that improve the functionality, usability, and accessibility of the final product. As a result, they’re able to both streamline the design process and develop better digital experiences that attract more users.
UX writers also work closely with product developers, focusing on missing logic or a confusing interface, thus influencing the final product that is being developed. UX writers also collaborate with other teams within the organization, such as marketing, legal, and business development, in order to ensure that copy is aligned to brand voice, strengthens product’s UVP, and doesn’t get the company in trouble.
Types of UX content
The specific types of UX content vary depending on the digital product, but generally speaking the most common types of UX content include:
First-time users onboarding
Menu labels, form field labels and lists
Buttons and call-to-actions (CTAs)
Contextual help and tooltips
In-product marketing (e.g. pop-up ads)
Chatbot conversation scenarios
Legal notices and disclaimers
UX copywriting principles
Great UX writing is all about clean, purposeful lines, making each word count. Superfluity and redundancy are its enemies. That’s why some people compare UX writing to… writing poetry! But great UX writers must also:
Know not only what the product does but also how it improves the end user’s life and makes it easier.
Having empathy for the end user and his or her needs and wants is the key to successful UX writing.
Inform about what the product is capable of doing and guide users on how to do it in a logical, easy-to-follow manner.
Look critically at the product flows, anticipate user questions, preempt their frustrations with proactive help and guide them through tasks.
Be clear, concise, unambiguous, and – whenever necessary – break down complicated processes into easy to do steps. UX copy should only give the necessary or requested information at any given time.
Use brand voice and, whenever possible, reinforce the product’s Unique Value Proposition (UVP) to help it stand out from the competition.
Incorporate best content design principles based on research and always create copy in context, directly in a wireframing tool, that shows it with all the fonts, images, buttons etc. UX writers shouldn’t use Word documents or Excel sheets for their copywriting.
As you can see, having an experienced UX writer on board is the key to improve the overall quality of your product design. Remember that your user interface microcopy is there to help users accomplish their goals. And this is what ultimately will bring more customers to your digital product.