UX writing is an essential part of UX design, which plays a huge role in providing qualitative user experience. The job of a UX writer is to compose texts for a digital product, which can be of two types: microcopy (labels, buttons, notifications and other small notes) and macrocopy (larger texts like written content on pages, instructions, information sheets). UX writing helps users easily navigate through the product, perform various tasks and get all the necessary information.
It’s a complex, but at the same time very interesting job that should not be confused with ordinary copywriting, as it has a lot of specific rules and peculiarities. In this article we would like to take a quick look at some aspects and rules of UX writing, as well as discuss some tips that may be useful for people who’re just starting their career in this sphere.
The main purpose of UX writing
There are three main goals of UX writing:
to help user perform certain tasks in a product,
to provide useful information to a user,
to give “voice” to a product and/or brand it represents.
Who is a UX writer?
UX writer is a professional who creates texts for the interface of a digital product. It’s a relatively new profession, as the task of writing such texts was usually performed by copywriters, marketing managers or other members of the development team who were good at writing. A few years ago it transformed into a separate job, as it became clear that the creation of UX texts should be approached in a professional manner. There are no certain requirements to apply for the job of UX writer as they may differ depending on the company or the type of product you’re going to write for, but it’s good if you have a degree in Communications, Arts, Creative Writing or Journalism.
Main rules of a good-quality UX writing
Distinguishing a good UX text from a poor-quality one is very easy: a good text is readable, easy to understand and concise. To create such a text, a UX writer needs to follow some simple rules. Here are the most important ones:
No slang or hard-to-understand technical/professional terms
Remember that the target audience of a digital product usually consists mostly of regular users, so use only words that are common and easily understood (only highly specific apps are an exception). Don’t use complex words that need to be Googled, as well as slang.
UX texts should guide users through the product without any excess information. Do not waste users’ time and clearly state the core of the function/problem.
No passive voice
Passive voice lengthens the sentence and doesn’t give clear instructions. When creating a text that requires the user to do anything in a product, always use active voice and preferably put them in the beginning of a sentence.
Texts should provide solutions
In case of errors, always provide solutions for the users to complete their task, otherwise they may lose the desire to use the product. For example, instead of just saying “Payment not accepted”, add “Try again”, or “Pay with other wallet”.
Testing is a must
The UX writing in a product requires testing as much as the product itself. It is necessary to measure the effectiveness of different text variants to choose the best one.
Texts should be creative
The requirement to write short and informative texts doesn’t mean they have to be boring. Try to make UX writing creative without breaking boundaries.
Useful tips for UX writers
Research the product thoroughly
In order to write a copy for the digital product, you need to understand how it works, what functions it performs and what goals it fulfills. That’s why you should start by thoroughly researching all the info about the product you’re going to write for. It’s also great if you can communicate with the development team to learn all the details and ask questions that arise in the writing process.
Easy-to-grasp, concise text is key for effective UX. The less time it takes to read the text on the screen and perform a task - the better it is for a user. Of course this doesn’t mean omitting important information, but rather compressing it to a short form. For example, instead of using “You must enter a password to log in the app” there should just be “Enter password”. The more briefly you can present information without making it lose its meaning, the better.
Anticipate users questions
The core of UX writing is to guide users through the product and help them to perform tasks. That’s why the text in the app should anticipate users' questions, telling them what to do next with clear instructions just at the right time. Making users wonder about their next move or roam through the product searching for answers in a huge UX mistake that leads to reduction in user retention.
Be consistent with terminology
Just like the product itself should be consistent in style and color, its texts should be consistent as well. Be sure to use the same key terms with consistent spelling (for example, don’t use “log in” on one page and “sign in” on the other), stick to the one tone of voice and number format. In some cases UX writers are provided with a style guide that should be relied on when creating a copy for a specific product, but if not, you should control the consistency of the copy yourself. Inconsistency leads to confusion and a growing number of errors in user experience.
As a UX writer, your goal is to feel the needs and peculiarities of an audience you’re writing for. The text you’re writing should be relevant to the product’s users: for example, the terminology and style you use should correspond to the TA’s age. Avoid slang and jargon if you’re working with a product for seniors and don’t write in an old-fashioned way for a young audience, make all the copy easy to understand right away without any extra explanation.
A common mistake of many novice UX writers is that they start writing in a robot-like tone. Using this tone is okay in some cases, but usually users tend to find human-like copy more appealing. Avoid passive voice (ex. “enter a password” instead of “a password should be entered”), future time (ex. “loading” instead of “a page will be opened”), unnecessary strict and commanding tone (ex. “Incorrect e-mail. Please re-enter” instead of “An authentication error has occurred. Enter a correct e-mail”).
Make the text easy to translate
If the product is aimed at a global usage but isn’t localized or just provides a machine translation of its content, it’s your job to write the text that won’t lose any sense when being translated. To do that, avoid any idioms or phrases that are known only within one specific culture and try to make sentences as simply structured as possible.
The demand for UX writing is growing every day, and a lot of IT companies are hiring UX writers right now. You can start your career in UX writing by completing some special online courses that will teach you the basis of crafting texts for digital products and provide you with a mentor that will help you find your first job in UX and guide you through your first projects.