How UX writing helps us to create medical content

Anja Wedberg
Feb 13 · 8 min read

Are you planning a new content marketing initiative within healthcare? At Making Waves in Krakow, we have found that insights from UX writing help us to create digestible and effective medical content, and think it is worth sharing what we have learnt.

At the end of last year, Making Waves’ content services team submitted a bid for a collaboration with Circassia, a pharmaceutical company that produces first-class specialty equipment for the medical industry. We landed the deal, even though we competed with medical content agencies that specialise specifically in healthcare content. How? It’s not a secret: Our content marketing superpower goes under the name of UX writing.

Circassia was looking for an agency to help them produce regular blog articles for healthcare professionals. The bid consisted of producing a blog article of around 650 words on the subject of asthma diagnoses.

In this article, we will share how we approached this task and offer a few tips for content creation within healthcare in general.

What is UX writing?

Many of the processes we have in place are based on methods we have learnt from UX writing. So what is UX writing exactly? UX stands for user experience and has become common within design that has a strong focus on the users’ needs.

UX writing is closely connected to the creation of microcopy, which is the short text messages you find in digital products’ interfaces — error messages, 404 pages, welcome messages and instructions in apps, call to action buttons and so on.

The purpose of UX writing is to ensure a smooth, friction-free user journey in digital products. Microcopy messages have to be very carefully constructed, taking both business goals and target audience needs into account. Space limitations are often an additional challenge due to design constraints.

A UX-infused writing approach for medical content

Even if UX writing is usually considered to be restricted to microcopy, the principles used to produce such copy can benefit any content production project, and medical content is no exception. Investing in UX writing has given us insights, skills and processes that have spilled over into other areas and changed how we work in general.

For example, it is through UX writing that we have understood the need for content strategy, the value of user research, and the importance of conversational writing.

Ask relevant questions

Based on these insights, we dived into the medical writing bid in the same way as we would for a UX writing project — or any other project — by asking the client questions:

  • What is the goal you want to achieve with this blog article?
  • Where do you plan to publish it?
  • Who is the target audience? Should we explain medical terms, or can we expect that the target group is familiar with the terminology?
  • Is there a style guide and a tone of voice?
  • Do you want us to do keyword research for SEO? Shall we include a meta title and description? How about an OG title and description for social media?
  • Should the article include images, image captions and alt texts?

Even though it was just a test article, we started a dialogue with the company to get a better understanding of their expectations and needs.

Besides asking questions, we also made a few suggestions — for example, the company requested an article of around 650 words, and we pointed out that current best practice indicates that it is better for SEO to make the article longer.

It turned out later that Making Waves was the only agency that had this kind of dialogue during the bidding stage, and the client really appreciated that. Our competitors followed the instructions and submitted the article, but they didn’t communicate much.

It wasn’t just our communication skills that worked a charm, however. The client specifically pointed out that they preferred the style we used. Again, we can thank our UX writing experience for that. It has taught us how so-called conversational writing can be used to increase the readability of any text on any subject.

Conversational writing

Conversational writing has a lot in common with plain language, but goes one step further by aiming to close the gap between written and verbal communication. You could perhaps say that it’s plain language for online content and digital products.

Closing the gap between writing and talking does not mean that we should start using slang or other informal language in all texts. It rather means that we should adapt a text to a conversational tone that you may have with somebody in your target group in a professional setting. So if you write a text on an academic subject, imagine how you would communicate with your tutor in a casual setting rather than how that tutor expresses himself/herself in an academic paper.

And why do we want to do that? Because the internet is changing how we communicate and how we absorb information. The border between writing and speaking has already become blurred thanks to emails, instant messaging tools and social media updates. In addition, everyone who publishes content online is competing for attention with thousands of others who are writing on the same or similar subjects. If our content is not easily accessible, nobody is going to read it.

The Hemingway app

One way to check the readability of a text is to run it through an app like the Hemingway app. This is a free online tool that calculates a readability score and suggests how the score can be improved. If we want a text to be accessible to most people, we should aim for a score of 10 or less.

This is not about dumbing down our language but about making sure that it is understandable and easy to absorb. Often simple changes can have a substantial effect — for example making sentences shorter, removing unnecessary words and phrases, and avoiding passive sentences. The content is practically the same, just easier to read.

We found out from Circassia that the blog post we wrote for the bid was intended for medical specialists. This is of course a highly educated target group, and there was no need to explain medical terms. Nevertheless, there is great value in making texts for healthcare professionals easily accessible, for the simple fact that they are very busy. The Hemingway app gave the text we submitted a score of 8. This does not mean that we simplified the subject matter, but that we simplified the structure of the language.

Of course it is good to remember that even though the Hemingway app is a very useful tool, we should still use our own judgement and not rely on all its recommendations blindly.

Medical knowledge

But if we are not medical specialists, how can we ensure that the information is correct and reliable? For sure, this is not always easy, and it is important to have processes in place that address the challenge:

First of all, we need to be careful to use reliable sources of information online, and double check with the client if in any doubt. Secondly, our finished blog articles have to be proofread and approved by a suitable person at the medical company. Alternatively, a specialist could write a brief or first draft, while we edit and finish the article.

This boils down to one question: Who is best suited to write about a specialist subject — those who are specialists on the subject, or those who are specialists in writing? Even if it should be considered on a case-by-case basis, our basic standpoint is that writers and specialists should do what they do best, which is writing and providing specialist knowledge respectively.

It can even be an advantage to involve a writer or proofreader who is not too familiar with the subject — because in order to create the text, that writer will have to make sure that the content makes sense, even for somebody without a medical background.

Content marketing ideas for medical content: 10 questions to ask your client

  1. What do you want to achieve with the content you plan to publish?
  2. Who is the target audience and what do you know about them?
  3. Is it necessary to explain medical terms, or is the target group familiar with the terminology?
  4. Is there a style guide and a tone of voice?
  5. Where are you going to publish the content?
  6. How will you distribute the content — through your company website or newsletter, on LinkedIn, in your social media channels? Be aware that it can take a long time to build up organic traffic. Without effective distribution channels, your content may not find the intended audience.
  7. Have you set KPIs? For example “50 whitepapers downloaded by July 2021”, “100 new subscribers to newsletters” or “5 new leads”.
  8. Have you done any keyword research for SEO? Remember that you will need a separate meta title and description for every piece of content you are going to publish, plus OG titles and descriptions if you are going to share it on social media.
  9. Is there a process in place for finding, formatting, uploading and publishing images? Remember that you will need image captions and alt texts for every image.
  10. Who is going to produce the content, who will approve it and who will publish it?

Conclusion: The importance of communication and staying up to date

What are the most important points to remember? Above all, that it is vital for content agencies to have a dialogue with their clients, so that we understand their needs and expectations.

Another valuable lesson is to always stay up to date with industry trends and invest in personal development of staff. If we had not invested in UX writing, we probably wouldn’t have won the bid for the pharmaceutical company.

Reading tips

UX writing beyond microcopy — blog article about how UX writing can benefit all kinds of writing, not just digital product interfaces.

How to use the Hemingway app — blog article about how to improve your writing.

Learn more about Making Waves Krakow office on our public website.

Do you need help with your medical content?

If you want to create medical content that serves your business goals and resonates with your target groups, feel free to contact us for an informal chat about your needs!

Contact

Grzegorz (Greg) Kałucki
Client Director, advisor — digital healthcare products and services
Email: greg@makingwaves.com

Anja Wedberg
Senior Content Editor/UX Writer
Email: anja.wedberg@makingwaves.com

You will also find more information about Making Waves’ digital health services here.


Originally published at https://blog.makingwaves.com on February 13, 2020.

Anja Wedberg

Written by

Content writer who blogs about this and that, but mostly UX writing, translation and localisation.

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