Writing on UX Writing

Hands typing on keyboard
Photo by Ilya Pavlov

UX Writing spans many aspects of user experience design including but not limited to: important skills required for designers, delightful microcopy in a user interface, effective error messaging, and more.

I saw an article What is UX Writing? posted on UX Booth at the beginning of the year that explains a burgeoning job position in the industry called User Experience Writers. The article piqued my interest because I used to work as a copywriter. I thought it would be a casual read, but once I dug a little deeper into the subject I found myself down a rabbit hole.

The general consensus is that the details in design matter. The words we use in our designs are just as crucial to creating usable products as the colors and images we pick. In FastCo’s article Forget Coding:Writing is Design’s “Unicorn Skill”, Katharine Schwab writes “As chatbots and conversational interfaces become more popular, writing becomes the vehicle for experience design—so much so that writers are being integrated into those design teams.”

Writing, regardless of the job, requires hard work. There’s a reason many company’s are hiring User Experience Writers as a separate role. Making great copy and design writing is a full-time job. Still, it’s imperative for UX designers to understand the importance of words in design. In order to stay conscious, Anjana Menon gives some pointers for designers who want to make the best designs and interfaces in her medium article 8 Lessons in UX Writing. She says:

  1. Mind the 3 C’s (Clear, Concise, Considerate): Avoid the desire to be overly whimsy or fluffy with writing. Being impressive is a great goal, but being clear, concise, and considerate is a better one
  2. Consistency is King: Develop a voice and stick with it. Don’t use different phrases to mean the same thing
  3. Test Often, Test Early: Use UX testing principles to find the best copy for your UI
  4. Translate it: Sometimes words will break once they are translated. Translating your copy into the common languages spoken by users is a surefire way to develop universal writing
  5. Go with your Gut: If something feels off to you, it will probably feel off for users as well
  6. Collaborate with the Team: As with all designing, staying aligned with the whole team will make the design process smoother
  7. Know Basic Design Software: Knowing how to quickly alter and edit text in designs will speed up the design process and allow for more iteration
  8. Don’t Wait: Interfaces don’t need to be the first thing you consider. Developing a voice and coming up with the words and phrases you know you want to use in your designs is just as good a place to start as any

Remember that content and design are complementary and should be developed in sync for seamless user experiences. As Dr. Seuss once said, “Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.”

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