Many people are familiar with technical writing in these times, but the same might be untrue for UX writing. And still, this new role within the design team has become of great importance, with an increasing number of companies wanting to include a UX writer in their product team. So, what is UX writing, and how does it adds value to the overall design process?
Read on this article to examine what it is, along with exploring its methodology and fundamental principles and what to do to enter this exciting new industry.
What Is UX Writing?
UX writing, or user experience writing, is the act of crafting copy for user-facing touchpoints, including the user interface (UI). It is the practice of writing UI text that appears throughout the interface of digital products (websites, desktop, and mobile apps) like error messages, notifications, etc. UX writing is about designing the conversation between a digital product and its users by informing, guiding, and helping them take action.
The growing complexity of the websites and applications that we use also increases the need for clear guidance. Plus, as these products are a part of our lives today, we as users seek out those that provide us with the smoothest experience. UX writing provides that guidance and experience that changes how we interact with technology, essentially helping users throughout the interface of a product in an intuitive way. On the whole, user experience writing is interaction designing for text.
Types of UX Content
The type of UX content differs depending on the digital product, but in general, the most common types of content a UX writer create are as follows:
- Call-to-actions (CTAs)
- First-time use or onboarding text
- Instruction text
- Error messages
- Confirmation messages
- Contextual help and tooltips
- Menu labels
- Form field labels and lists
- Security notes
- Chatbots conversation scenarios
- In-product marketing like pop-up ads
- Legal notices and disclaimers
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How Does UX Writing Differ From Other Types of Writing?
UX writing is a specialized type of writing due to its context and the environment in which UX writers create it. Since it exists in the context of software, UX writing has unique constraints. It has to be succinct writing but still communicates the meaning at the same time. This type helps both businesses and users meet their objectives and works with visual and interaction design to build an experience that is greater than the sum of its parts.
UX writing must be accessible to users with varied abilities to let everyone have a great experience, whether they navigate the product themselves. It has to be inclusive to connect any potential users. All the time, it should be translatable, so everyone gets it across linguistic and geographical boundaries.
UX Writing Methodology
UX writing is comprehensive and robust that involves UX writers collaborating with researchers, designers, programmers, stakeholders, product managers, and customers. In a utopia, many UX writers will be responsible for developing user research tasks. In general, the design process for UX writers will be something like the following:
Describing the Issue
When UX writers work with designers, programmers, stakeholders, and product managers, they work to help define the scope of the issue they are facing. It can be anything like getting new users, boosting engagement, or any other issue they face. The UX writer’s part in all these discussions is to put forward some ways UX writing might come into use for solving that problem or deciding if UX writing is the right choice for this at all.
UX writers, together with designers, should be working to find solutions to whatever design issue the company is going to face. It indicates that UX writers should be sketching out the problem in a visual manner while forming hierarchies also to help other team members understand the effective ways for placing the copy in the interaction design.
When getting feedback from everyone involved in the project, the UX writer will help designers build a great prototype of the selected solution.
UX writers have an important role in research. When working alongside UX designers and researchers, UX writers should create copy-specific tasks for UX researchers to offer to customers and take note of research and how users react to the language used in the prototype.
While working with researchers, UX writers apply all types of feedback to their copy and make it useful. The UX writers also work together with the optimization manager to build ideas and frameworks for future A/B testing to iterate on a greater level and obtain quick quantitative feedback.
At the time of design deployment, UX writers may have to work with engineers and programmers to modify text if technical constraints force the user experience design in a different way.
UX Writing Principles
Now that you are familiar with user experience writing, it is time to focus on some of the basic UX writing guidelines. Producing a copy of the UI design is a creative activity by a UX writer. Common writing conventions are there to help UX writers create a powerful conversational interface and improve the overall user experience – if a UX writer is not familiar with the best way to convey their words and guide users in a smooth manner throughout the product. Though it is impractical to provide universal rules to write effective UI text, it is possible to give some general rules to follow.
Following are some of the best practices to help UX writers with the conversation flow between your product and users:
Keep the Content Clear, Concise, and Useful
Those who have heard anything about UX writing earlier might come across the rule: keep it clear, concise, and useful. When creating UX copy, keep it clear. The text by a UX writer should be accessible to users with different abilities to have a nice experience. We write for all reading levels and replace the technical terms with familiar, understandable words for clarity.
The copy should also be concise, which means something closer to being efficient and communicating the meaning in an effective way. Turning commands into questions can also be another way to make a concise copy. It is better to remove wrong words or anything that might be needless for the users.
Also, effective UX writing needs attention to the context and the potential users. The UX text should be useful and teach users – it should help them get where they want to go. These three principles form a triad, and it is challenging for UX writers to find the optimum balance between them.
It is important to ensure the UX copy is consistent across all products and interfaces. Good UX content maintains the same brand personality throughout every touchpoint your user might have the product with minor differences in the tone as per the situation. Therefore, every part of your digital product should make users feel that the same person prepares the copy, though different people were responsible for this task. Avoid replacing a word with its synonym in another part of the user interface, like labeling a button Download on one screen and Save File on another screen.
Get the Brand Voice and Tone Right
Good UX writing helps build trust, for which the copy should embody the organization’s voice. Using your company’s voice can help you put over your brand’s personality. And when the personality establishes, you need to understand how to react and interact. That is where the tone comes in.
With tone, we can create clarity and context for the users. There are different tones of voice that UX copy can have when the situation calls. The type of tone you use will depend on the brand voice, the executed action in the product, the result of the user’s actions, and desired outcome you want to achieve.
Your tone can be humorous also, but you have to be careful when incorporating it in UI. Similar to every other component of UI, writers should design humor also. People read the text in your interface multiple times, and what might seem amusing at first can become irritating over time – many times when the users fail to achieve what they set out to do. Also, humor in one culture is different in other cultures in many cases.
Write Copy in an F-pattern
Consider the order following which you arrange the copy on an interface. The patterns your users read in are important, and most users read in an F-pattern. After reading the first two lines, they start skipping down the page while catching the first few words of each sentence. So, it is important to keep your text concise and frontloaded – giving importance to titles and starting your sentences with important words.
Use Progressive Disclosure
Many a time, it might be useful to provide additional information for the users. But presenting additional information upfront can be overwhelming. So, show details as per the need and use the mechanism of progressive disclosure to display additional information, like adding a Read More link to read the full content.
A good UX writer knows how to break up information into different parts, showing what is much relevant to the user first. Dividing information into bite-sized chunks and making sure users know how to use major features of the product can set them up to explore other features later. Progressive disclosure is a good approach for the mobile interface in general where a UX designer has a limited screen space to work with.
Learn When to Use Numerals or Words
Use numerals in place of words like “2 days ago” instead of “two days ago” for numbers as they facilitate readability and are easier to scan. It also saves screen space and increases the readability of your text.
Conversely, it is better to use words wherever possible when it comes to date. That means using “today”, instead of writing a date unless it was a while ago. It feels like a natural conversation and demands a bit of cognitive load on the part of users. However, you should note that using words for days can be inaccurate or confusing if you are unable to consider the current locale.
What Do UX Writers Do?
Many industries have digital products on offer, and job descriptions differ from one company to another. For example, those working in a small firm or startup may have multiple roles, and UX writing may be one of those several content-related, complex or difficult tasks in their fundamental job description. Your work will be smooth-running in a large enterprise, focusing on UX writing for a single or multiple products. However, there are certain things all user experience writers have in common:
- Writing microcopy depends on UX research and testing outcomes instead of relying on their own judgment.
- Working with UX designers and programmers to understand the complete user journey in the provided flow or part.
- Using content to provide solutions to user problems and meet business objectives.
The UX writer’s job is different from that of a technical writer (who focuses on clarity, instead of an entire user experience), content marketing writer (who creates marketing and support copy that attracts leads, converts them into potential customers, and helps to keep them), or content strategists (who plans content strategy, instead of writing copy).
How to Become a UX Writer
Entering the field of UX writing and becoming a UX writer requires a set of right skills, a presentable portfolio, and some experience also. Here is a comprehensive look at what that means:
1. Consider the Important Skills
Following are some major skills you might need to have as a UX writer:
UX writing is about something else also than just knowing grammar, spelling, and tones. Good UX writing has to be succinct and clear so as to give users the least friction possible while interacting with the product. Some practice with UX-specific writing will be useful in boosting your credentials for the job position you expect to get.
UX Research and Testing
The right UX writing is research-based and open to testing and user feedback. Insights from people give you new tasks to complete, and user challenges to solve. A number of leading companies have separate UX research departments. It is non-essential for a UX writer to conduct research or develop the statistics in such cases.
But it is important to be familiar with common research techniques to know what to do with the material. A/B testing, user testing, and card sorting are some of UX writers’ research methods to make sure a product works as intended.
A UX writer belongs to the design department, which means you will partake in standups, workshops, etc. If you like polishing your content to perfection in a quiet space, it is better to send it to your client and brace yourself for something different. Design thinking is a repetitive action, where frequent feedback is common.
You should learn to live with getting opinions related to your work before getting a chance to finalize it. Also, you should be thankful for the input. Keep in mind that your best critics are the readers of your copy, other than the UX writers.
Though using visual design toolkits is non-essential for every UX writer, familiarity with some common tools will do no harm. Learn how to navigate programs like Sketch and Figma. These tools may have free trial periods that will enable you to acquaint yourself with them and create material that you can use in a portfolio. They are ideal choices for a UX writer to start with absolute basics. There may be some brilliant people out there who are excellent at both producing content and designing, but in most cases, this is unneeded.
2. Create a Portfolio
Having a portfolio is integral to applying for UX writing positions. In general, it means creating a simple website to display your previous work and show what you are capable of. Website builders, such as Adobe Portfolio, Weebly, and Wix, are some of the best options to begin creating your portfolio with.
3. Get Experience
While browsing writing jobs, you may notice that hiring managers, again and again, ask for previous work experience with UX writing. To build up your UX writing resume, there are many ways you can select. Staring from technical writing or UX design can provide many opportunities to practice UX writing.
Also, a UX writing course can introduce you to its basics and run through major concepts like usability testing. You may also get a chance to create your own copy for displaying in the portfolio. In addition, you can try creating mock websites or applications to put your skills into practice.
Final Thoughts on UX Writing
UX writing is increasing in demand, in particular from large companies with a lot of content to manage across different products. It serves as the writing force behind user interfaces and products. Working along with designers and managers, the UX writer’s role shines in forming consistency in language, voice, and tone throughout the product. Considering the current progress, UX writing will get important over the next coming years and could change the design market and the way we think about design.
If you are new to UX writing and are looking to break-in, we recommend taking our UX Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of being a UX writer, how to dominate UX writer interviews, and how to stand out as a UX writing candidate.