UX Writing: Copy is Design

If you’re offering a digital product probably the most important aspect of it is user experience (often abbreviated as “UX” in Internet marketing). But how can you make sure a person is able to easily navigate your product, create a consistent brand voice, and guide them through any problems that they might encounter all with one technique? 

The answer is something you may have heard of: UX writing. In this post, we’ll look at what UX writing is, why it’s important, some trends for 2020, and certain best practices.

What is UX Writing?

Over the last year, UX writing has grown into its own specialty, with massive companies like Google and Amazon leading the charge. A lot of descriptions of UX writing across the web are fairly vague, but here we’re going to make sure you finally understand what it is!

UX writing is where copywriting and user experience meet: basically, it is the writing that a customer will be exposed to as they are using your digital product. It is the medium through which your digital product is delivered. 

You are holding the hand of the person as they go through the product, offering them the knowledge of how to use it along with technical support. It’s all about making everything as fluid as possible so that the product blends into the person’s daily life and can be used without too much thought, sort of like brushing one’s teeth.

UX writers create labels for menus, error messages, and more. They also work with other people in the UX team (collaboration is a big part of the job) to create a consistent brand voice, increasing user engagement and making sure people know what the brand is all about. 

Naturally, on the Internet information is mostly conveyed through writing, and so making sure the right words are used and the content is informative is incredibly important.

UX Writing Biggest Design Trends for 2020

What about the future of UX writing? Chatbots are one emerging trend, and an area where UX writers are sorely needed – obviously, the chatbot needs to be perceived as helpful and friendly. Slack is one service that makes excellent use of chatbots with its “Slackbot.” Chatbots, when written well, make your product feel much more alive and being able to ask one for support is much more engaging than looking through a bunch of support articles.

VUI (voice user interface) is another of the most important trends when it comes to the future of UX writers. This is largely due to Apple’s success with Siri. Naturally, someone had to write all of “her” lines: a UX writer.

Things like virtual and augmented reality will likely grow in importance over the next decade Overall, UX writers are here to stay, and the earlier you get your product in the game, the better.

Why UX Writing is Important

Think about it: if you are using a digital product that is poorly optimized vis-a-vis user experience, you probably won’t be using it for too long. If you have trouble figuring out how to use it, it defeats the entire purpose of what the customer is looking for: an intuitive, easy-to-use product. Smartphones and tablets have sort of become an extension of ourselves, and so digital products need to have a kind of fluidity.

UX writing is all about getting into the head of the customer, making things as easy to understand as possible and providing them with actionable advice. It is about using best practices to streamline the process that starts with a person coming to the site and ends with them making a conversion. 

It can also be applied to other processes, for example guiding them through a troubleshooting process. Since user experience is a huge part of whether or not a customer, it’s a wonder that this type of copywriting has only gotten the attention it deserves recently.

UX Writing can get pretty subtle, though: even choice of words can be important. That’s why it’s a good idea to really know what you’re doing and in the next section, we’ll look at some best practices.

Effective UX Writing: Best Practices

So what are some best practices to make your UX writing do what it’s supposed to – drive engagement and increase sales?

#1 Avoid Jargon

Say your user runs into an error – you can explain that error in simple terms, i.e., network could not be reached instead of “error123.” Most users don’t care about the technical details: you just need to alert them that they’ve run into an error.

#2 Be Concise and To the Point

Generally, you want to use as few words as possible – write in a natural way and don’t use overly complex words. Each word should be important. A great quote from one UX writer, John Saito, is that the aim “is to not have your words be noticed, so it becomes a seamless experience.”

#3 Write as If You’re Having a Conversation

It’s a good idea to write the way you would speak when talking to someone. You’ll want to use the active voice instead of the passive voice.

# 4 Give Actionable Advice

It’s not going to help a person much if you let them know they’ve run into an error but don’t direct them to information that can help them resolve the issue. Therefore, make sure to include this kind of information in any error messages.

How to Improve Your Product’s UX Writing

If your product already has writing, what can you do to bring it more ? Definitely look at the tips we listed in the previous section and see if your writing is up to par, but here we can offer some more important pieces.

You want to think about user intention. A great example involves research done by Maggie Stanphill, Google’s UX Director. Her and her team realized that, on Google hotel search, the option “Book a Room” was too committal. Upon changing this to “Check Availability”, they noticed an increase of 17 % in user engagement, “Check Availability” reflected users’ state of mind at that point in the process; they weren’t ready to book, just seeing what their options were.

You should also use creative, interesting language: have fun. Your user will get more out of the product this way, and having a fun error message is better than a dry, technical one. Consider Reddit’s humorous “You broke Reddit ” error message. What sounds more interesting: “Search Spotify ” or “Find Music You Love”? Words are powerful!

Overall, UX Writing is one of the most important things, if not the most important thing, when it comes to having a successful digital product – copy IS design now.

Customers want to feel helped and engaged with, and to be able to navigate the software as easily as possible. Good UX writing can absolutely make the difference between your product becoming popular and falling by the wayside, so keep researching it and consider investing it.

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Phil Tadros - Founder
Founder of Doejo an award winning Innovation Studio and INC 5,000 Company. Tadros also Founded and Manages Space by Doejo a Co-working loft in River North. Tadros was featured on CNBC “Planet of the Apps” and a Moxie Award winner. Tadros’s ability to build and support strong, diverse teams with collaborative cultures, coupled with preference for innovation, has made him an authority on design and technology.