UX Writing is a discipline within UX Design that concentrates on the conversation between products and users to build a better user experience. The practice considers not only textual content but also other elements in visual design.
Since it's a fairly recent field, companies are still learning the value and the impact UX writing can have on products. As a result, UX writers are sometimes only invited to join the process later on, which is a shame because these professionals have a lot to offer and can help designers tremendously.
Keep reading to learn more about UX Writing and understand how to create better conversations with your target audience!
What is UX Writing?
UX Writing is the act of creating copy for digital products to guide and teach users while providing them with a good experience.
The primary goal of UX Writing is to build efficient communication between a design and the people who will interact with it.
Writing for user experience involves clear and concise copy for guidance purposes and also microcopy for buttons, menus, and error messages.
UX Writing or Copywriting?
When talking about written content in the web world, many people confuse these two terms, so it's paramount that you know how to distinguish them.
UX Writing is about texts that will improve the user experience within an interface or digital product. The goal is to design a better experience through communication.
On the other hand, Copywriting is writing for persuasion and sales. Therefore, advertising and commercial texts are based on copywriting skills.
It is also common to hear about "copy" and "microcopy." Overall, these expressions refer to texts, despite if for ads or user experience.
Microcopy, in particular, is used a lot in UX Design because it refers to small texts written on menus, buttons, and other elements. But if you refer to it as "copy," people will also understand what you are saying.
UX Writing to inform and interact with
UX Writing has two kinds of text: one to inform and another to interact with.
That said, an informative copy can be:
- Body text.
These elements are part of the Visual Hierarchy and are essential to building a scannable text for the users.
Headings and subheadings have to be direct and concise. Users must quickly realize what those topics are talking about.
Copies to interact with are as follows:
- Image captions;
- Error messages;
- Menus, buttons, and other UI elements.
These copies for interaction need to draw the user's attention, guide, and encourage them to interact with the interface. And that's why all microcopy must be concise, accurate, and have a positive effect on the reader.
UX Writer's responsibilities
UX writers are responsible for creating microcopy for digital products.
But their responsibilities go beyond textual elements; their role is also part of a product's content strategy.
Therefore, UX writers should know about personas, style, voice, and tone to be consistent and apply these guidelines to their textual content.
Therefore, UX Writer's activities can include:
- Work with all related departments to develop texts solutions to solve user's needs;
- Disseminate the impact of microcopy on the interface and encourage the writing as an important part of the design;
- Collaborate with UX Designers and developers to create copy to provide a better user experience;
- Help with UX Research processes;
- Create and write clear, concise, and helpful microcopies.
Why is textual content so important?
Written content has a crucial role in the user experience. What is UX writing but a part of the user interface and a tool to better communicate with them?
UX Writing is vital for user experience because it informs and communicates with people. It also helps build an efficient Information Architecture and User's Journey.
These are why UX Writing is more like a must-have than a nice-to-have practice in product development.
Icons are not enough
In terms of visual and interaction design, icons are also used to establish clear communication with the users.
So why do we need to worry about text? Are icons not enough?
Well, icons indeed play an important role in interaction design and user interface. They are needed, and we should not neglect their potential.
But the point is that it's impossible to create a whole communication based only on icons.
Therefore, balance is the keyword here. UX Writing and icons complete each other; using them is crucial to building an efficient connection with users.
UX Writing is Design
At first, when you think about UX Design, written content might go unnoticed. But UX Writing is a fundamental part of the design process to create a better user experience.
Consider an app on your smartphone, for example. Notice how it's carefully written to show you the best way forward. Now, imagine if there was no text telling you what to do.
Without texts, users will struggle to carry out their tasks and interact with the interface. UX writers can also anticipate a few user demands or design challenges and help designers develop better prototypes and avoid rework.
Another thing to pay attention to is that writing for digital products is not as easy as people think. Don't underestimate it. It takes a lot of knowledge of UX, a deep understanding of users, and the product itself.
A UX writer should be able to defend their ideas and know that in some cases, having a simple icon over a microcopy can be more effective for some interactions.
Needless to say, writing a microcopy is not the same as writing a blog post. For example, a simple sentence in a button may take longer to write because it takes a significant effort to make it efficient.
Furthermore, UX writers should not forget how the text is presented to users. They also have to consider Visual Hierarchy, readability, scannability, and every aspect that impacts reading, comprehension, and user experience.
Differences between offline and online writing
Words are a tool for communicating with people. So a content strategy should depend on the product, market, and surrounding environment to choose the best way to talk to a specific group of people.
For example, offline and online environments have different contexts, and your writings must adapt to fit these realities.
Magazines and newspapers are typical examples of offline writing; the communication used in these channels is different from that used in websites or apps.
The offline writing strategy is usually based on the experience and stories of the author, and the storytelling is more complex and does not necessarily solve a user's problem.
On the other hand, online writing strategy is completely user-oriented, helping people to solve problems they have. In this sense, online writing is simple and straight to the point.
Jakob Nielsen points out a great example to understand better the differences between online and offline writing: flights for taller people.
An offline copy would maybe treat this subject with humor, using the author's own experience where he tries to sit comfortably on those tiny airplane seats. In this example, the reader assumes a passive role in the text.
An online text about this subject would let readers have control over the situation because they are looking for solutions to their problems. Examples for an online copy:
- Which airline has the best and most comfortable seats?
- How to get the best seats on your flight?
- The best flights for a long trip.
Can you see the difference?
Readability and legibility
Readability and legibility are essential topics to consider in UX Writing.
Readability is about how the text is structured so that users can better understand the content.
Legibility is related to the visual approach of a text, making users recognize different content elements.
What to consider about Readability and Legibility?
The following elements influence readability and legibility:
- Colors: choose wisely the colors of your text and its background. White text is unreadable over grey backgrounds;
- Typography: consider text sizes, fonts, and spacing;
- Visual Hierarchy: organize the content according to its order of importance.
UX Writing step by step
Here are the fundamental steps involved in UX Writing:
- Write concisely;
- Write scannable content;
- Define colors and typography;
- Manage your links;
Who are the users? What are their needs? How do they behave? These are essential questions to answer before writing any text.
Researching and gathering data helps define personas to set a voice and tone for your product.
Understand how your target audience speaks and what words and expressions they use so that you can establish an efficient conversation.
2) Write concisely
In digital products, especially apps, you may not have space — or a need to be precise — to write long sentences.
This way, UX Writing is about choosing the right words that express what is essential for users in a clear and impactful way.
It may sound easy, but the truth is that this is one of the most challenging parts of UX Writing. We tend to write more than is necessary. It is hard to write objectively, using fewer words.
So, ensure that you are always aware that long texts will harm the user experience and that people will hardly read that much.
3) Write scannable content
Scannable content is closely related to Visual Hierarchy.
Reading on the web is different from reading a book. People usually read content using the F Pattern. In other words, they scan the text vertically, and when they find something interesting, they read as usual horizontally.
Because of this reading pattern, you must split the content using subheadings. This help users scan through the content to find what they are looking for.
4) Define colors and typography
Colors and typography are as crucial as Visual Hierarchy. Therefore, as mentioned before, don't forget to define these elements in your UX Writing work.
5) Manage your links
Using links means adding layers of content to your texts.
One subject can lead to another one. This way, instead of explaining everything on one page — or article — a good strategy is to add links that lead the user to related content.
Managing links is a way to keep users navigating your webpage. Links help you maintain concise texts and guide users to other content within a product.
A simple step that is usually forgotten.
Make sure to review your text before publishing it. If possible, inspect the content more than once, as it is common to let a few mistakes go unnoticed, especially if you've been working on the same project for a long time.
Errors include typos, poor choice of words, long sentences, etc.
Thus, reviewing is crucial in UX Writing to assure good readability and guarantee that minor mistakes will not harm the user experience.
As with every UX Design process, testing is fundamental, and that applies to textual content as well. You can use different approaches to test your UX Writing, like A/B tests.
Remember that tests will provide you with data to validate or invalidate your UX Writing strategies.
Don't be frustrated if results show a microcopy is not working, and be ready to adjust and adapt. After all, UX is all about continuous improvement and iteration.
Final tips and good practices in UX Writing
An efficient UX Writing requires experience and study. Besides the basic process described earlier, find some extra tips and good practices that will help you write better.
Avoid double negative
They confuse the user and increase cognitive load.
- Example: I don't want to cancel this action.
First the objective, then the action
Always start your microcopies with the expected result of the interaction:
- Good: To log in, click here.
- Bad: Click here to log in.
Consistency is fundamental for the user interface, which applies to written content.
Therefore, use the same expressions, words, and language to express the same logic. Don't write synonyms, or users might feel lost.
Avoid technical vocabulary and jargon
Unless all of your users are used to these words and expressions.
In general, avoid terms that confuse people or that they might not know what it means.
Instead of words.
- Good: You have 4 new messages;
- Bad: You have four new messages.
Write interactions clearly
Buttons, menus, and any other interaction element must have clear and objective microcopies.
Avoid "useless" words:
- Good: Connect
- Bad: Ok
Use lists and bullet points
These features improve text legibility and scannability.
Create natural conversations
Creating natural conversations with people is the best way to improve the user experience.
Research the best expressions and vocabulary that are part of users' context. The more natural, the better will be the experience.
Always have in mind UX Writing when developing digital products. Communication and experience are not built with images alone. Microcopies are crucial to creating a fluid user journey. So, don't forget: UX Writing is Design.