If you've heard about UX writing, you might be wondering what it is and how the two blend together. UX writers are in high demand right now, and major tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft all have teams of UX writers on board.
To understand the value and importance of copywriting focused on the user experience, let's take a look at what UX copywriting is and why it matters so much.
What Is UX Copywriting?
Words are a powerful force when it comes to business. Copy is a critical part of guiding the user and helping them complete their desired actions. That's why product design puts a lot of emphasis on both visual design and copy. Recently, writing copy for products has turned into its own special field - UX Copywriting. More and more companies are including UX writers as part of their design teams.
According to the Interaction Design Foundation, UX design is a process used to create meaningful and relevant experiences for users. This involves different aspects of branding, design, usability, function, and more. UX is concerned with the entire process of acquiring and integrating these different facets of an experience. It is a way to tell a story around a brand with a cohesive, integrated set of experiences. A good user experience is one that makes a particular user's needs in a particular context the starting point for all design and development. This includes UX copywriting as a way to make a brand and its products more enjoyable for users.
UX Copywriting is writing that centers on creating a better experience for users. Think of it as writing that is meant to make it easier for you, as a consumer, to make decisions around a product or environment. It can be as simple as "Click here to find more" or as complex as a customized pop-up joke based on your geo-location or astrological sign. In other words, it can do a little or a lot, but the writing should always have a goal in mind.
When done well, UX copy has to attract, engage, and delight. It's responsible for creating awareness of a brand, interacting with customers in a meaningful way, convincing a person or company to make a purchase, and keeping them as loyal customers after the fact. A company with good UX writing has a website, marketing material, and other copy that leads users through important interactions and brings personality and ease to all digital experiences a user has with your brand.
Why UX Copywriting Is So Important
Ultimately, copy should compel users to take action.
When it comes to designing an excellent user experience, it's no longer enough to think of copy as an afterthought. Copy can either help or hinder the entire user experience. In fact, it doesn't matter how amazing your product or interface are - if you are using confusing copy, or if your copy has grammatical errors or typos, it can ruin the user experience entirely. That's why everything from the smallest buttons to the overall welcome message has a huge effect on user experience.
How is UX Copywriting Different From Marketing Writing?
UX writing and marketing writing aren't the same things. Marketing writing is concerned with attracting an audience and converting them into actual customers. UX writing is copy for the people who use the products. It exists to make sure that the user experience is as delightful as possible. UX writers are on board from the very beginning, helping from the initial stages of design all the way through to promotion, release, and beyond.
UX writers craft useful, meaningful copy that helps users deal with the tasks at hand. They are members of the product team and they work alongside designers and developers. Just like designers and developers, they are involved in user research sessions and their goal is to make sure that product layout and copy work harmoniously together. Shared insights from UX copywriters can greatly impact aspects of the product and how it is received by users.
Writing effective UX copy requires resources, skills, and plenty of trial-and-error, so let's take a closer look at why it matters to your business and how you can do it effectively.
How to Make UX-Friendly Copywriting
People use products for a variety of reasons. Maybe a product solves a problem for them. Maybe they need to give it as a gift. Maybe it's part of their favorite hobby. No matter the purpose of the product, they need to make their way through the journey and better understand the product in order to reach their goal. UX writing does all this and more. Here are some of the ways UX copywriting can enhance the overall user experience and your brand.
Humanizes Your Product and Brand
UX writing takes your product and brand and gives it character. It helps differentiate you from competitors. A good example of this is Trello, which offers a quick and easy sign-up process that uses X-Files references as example text in each of the form boxes. It's just a quick and clever way to humanize the brand and reinforce their identity as easy-going, fun-loving, down-to-earth techies.
Another example is the famed Mailchimp style guide. It's available to anyone to reference, and it offers very cheeky, funny guidelines and resources for web writers and editors. It's all infused with their dry, subtle, eccentric humor. And they always bring customers in on the joke.
And of course, we can't forget Siri. Apple's personal assistant has a pretty straightforward, helpful, and professional tone. She's understanding and not very quick to anger. But she also has a great sense of humor. You can ask her to tell you a joke, sing, answer questions about math... she has a fun and cheeky answer to pretty much any query. The casual, friendly voice makes the support feel like talking to a friend. It is much more appealing than searching through boring support articles looking for the answers you need.
UX writing can offer guidance and help with a new product, making the product experience clear and enjoyable. PayPal is a great example of a company that uses UX copy to diminish uncertainty and boost user confidence. Users might be distrustful of sending money online, giving their bank information, being certain the money is delivered to the right person at the right time. Customers like to have a holistic view of what is happening with their money and other details.
PayPal makes it a point to let users know what the fees will be, how they differ based on different transactions, that all their private information will be stored and handled with top security measures, and that they can easily verify the recipient. Just having a small bit of copy helps reduce any fears that users might have about being charged hidden fees or losing their money.
UX writing can have a huge impact on your bottom line. Check out this Google conference, where Maggie Stanphill, UX Director, discussed how changing two words in Google's hotel search tool significantly boosted user engagement. They switched from "Book a Room," which they determined was too committal and was scaring users off, to "Check Availability." That way, users who weren't ready to commit to the room, the dates, or the price, felt that they had another step before being asked for payment information. The UX writing lines up with the mindset and emotions of users at this stage of the search.
Empathizes With Users
Effective UX writing offers an understanding of a user's emotions during every step of the journey. For example, instead of a dull 404 message when a user encounters an error on their site, Airbnb has a cute animation along with some helpful links for navigating to where they would like to be. This helps keep the messaging on brand while lightening up an otherwise negative experience. It also helps clarify the confusion and get the user back on track.
If you've ever encountered a login error on an app, you may have noticed that it will supply other ways to login, such as Facebook, Google, Gmail, Twitter, etc. or links to reset your username or password. Links to create a new account in this scenario are also helpful. All of these are examples of effective UX writing that empathizes with users.
Best Practices for Successful UX Copy
Now that we've highlighted some of the value that effective UX writing brings to a product or service, here are some critical tips that will help you elevate your UX writing game.
Keep It Simple and Clear
One of the most important rules for creating a successful user experience is to keep things simple and clear. UX copy should be easy to understand, and a reader should be able to grasp everything it's trying to convey in one quick read. Otherwise, you risk alienating your customers. You can do the following to make sure your copy is simple and clear.
Avoid Technical Language
Remember that your copy has to appeal to a wide audience. Steer clear of any technical jargon or insider lingo in favor of language that is super easy for everyone to understand. Users aren't concerned with technical details or whatever else is going on behind the curtains. Stick to general info and simple language. For example, instead of unclear copy like "Buffering..." you would write "Preparing video..." or something similar.
As we said above, it's important to be human and sincere. Take a conversational tone and inject some personality into your copy. Try to make users feel like they're conversing with someone they know, not reading marketing material. For example, the insurance company Lemonade is great at being human. Instead of using stiff, corporate language, their tagline reads: "Forget Everything You Knew About Insurance. Instant everything. Killer Prices. Big Heart."
Copy should be concise and yet communicate the meaning effectively. When writing concisely, look at the message and make sure every word on the screen is doing its own job. Its better to remove any potential clutter or unnecessary information. For example, instead of writing "Would you like to save your changes?" a good UX copywriter would just write "Save changes?" It conveys the same message with a fraction of the words. UX writing has to be accessible to users with different reading abilities so that everyone can have a great experience.
Make It Easily Translatable
Copy should be standardized across linguistic, geographical, and cultural boundaries. The text should be easy to understand by anyone, regardless of their culture or language. That's why it's essential to use simple and direct language that not only makes content easy to understand and relate to, but also easily translatable.
Make It Useful
Strong UX copy needs to help your users get to their desired goal, whatever that may be. All of your copy either helps or hinders their movement toward the goal, so make sure your words are efficient and useful. You can do so by:
Making Content Scannable
According to this Nielsen study, when people are reading online, they rarely read pages word by word. Instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words. It's an old study, but the findings still apply to digital content today. Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other platforms set character limits on their posts for a reason -- because people want to get a gist of what you're saying from a quick glance. Avoid long blocks of text and instead, break your copy up into bulleted lists and short sentences.
Having a Clear Value Add
UX writing should always encourage users to take actions that result in value. This means putting the essential information right upfront so there is no confusion about what the user should do. Coverfox, another insurance company, does a great job of this. Their website has a large, bolded headline that says: Insurance Made Simple For You," with the sub-heading below it: "Up to 75% off on car insurance." This leaves no room for questioning what the company offers and what the user can expect.
Make It Reflect Your Brand
Designers aren't the only ones who reign over a company's branding. UX copy offers an excellent opportunity to showcase the personality of your brand. It is a way to attract, engage, and delight your customers in a way that is uniquely you. You want to be sure to keep the voice of your UX copy consistent with the rest of your brand and your company values, but you can still make it stand out. For example, Saltcitybuilds.com, a motorcycle company, has an error message that reads: "Sometimes getting lost isn't so bad." This messaging stays true to their brand in that it emphasizes the fun in adventuring and sometimes not knowing where you're going.
Blue Apron also does a great job of keeping their UX copy on brand to develop a journey toward an easy, enjoyable, and healthy mealtime experience. Their CTAs invite users to "Get Cooking," which sounds much more appealing than "Click Here."
Keep It Prioritized
People's eyes tend to follow an F-shaped pattern as they scan a screen. They read the first line, the second line, and then start skipping down the page, only reading the first word or two of the following sentences. That's why you want to frontload all the important information at the top of the page. Make people notice the important words first as they scan over a page.
There is a clear message here: Words matter. Especially in the digital world.
Effective UX writing impacts everything from how likely someone is to buy your product to how they feel about using it to how likely they are to recommend it to a friend.
Having high-quality UX copywriting should be a top priority for companies that want to increase awareness, boost engagement with customers and enhance overall satisfaction levels.