UX Writing

Category: User Experience, Writing, Design

What is UX writing?

There is UX and there is writing. The term “UX writer” is growing in the design recruitment vocabulary these days. All writing is contextual and so is UX writing. These days UX writing is getting more and more important given the trends moving to “No UI”. All the user hears or sees and feels is the tonality of the conversation. It is more than just a transaction. Even transactions are highly human centric given the growing UX trends via chatbots, alexa etc.

Why UX writing?

It is definitely a huge responsibility to speak to the customers directly in the form of no interfaces and yet provide delight and create impact. Certainly writing focused on user experience will be a critical part of how we design our experiences from here on.

UX writing is nothing but writing copy for the various user facing touch-points in a language that helps the user understand the context and helps him achieve goals effortlessly.

Examples

Sending a campaign message on behalf of an organization or a cause to a few hundred to a few thousand people can be anxious. The sender wishes that there are no typos, links are working well, the action buttons must take the user to the right places: fingers-crossed.

Instead of just sending a status message (your campaign has been sent successfully), MailChimp captures the emotions of the user in the context using different words.

Similarly, sending a contextual human-centric message to the user in the app or chatbot or alexa can get very challenging. Capturing the user context and using the right words to make it a delightful seamless experience is what a UX writer does.

Responsibilities: The overarching responsibilities of a designer stays the same for the UX writer as well. Formative and validative research, collaboration, communication, iteration via human tests and contextual field studies, providing options and doing it all with words is what a UX writer does. Typically understanding how “words” work with human emotions and applying the design principles can boost great UX writing.

With the growing trends of NO UI user experiences it is important to get the tonality and personality via UX writing. For example, Siri is sassy. She/He starts with “What can I help you with?” and goes into listening mode and as soon as the user stops speaking, she/he goes into the processing mode. Depending on the question or command, the action is taken with a personality.

If we ask a question, “do you like android”, the answer is cocky sometimes, sometimes straight, sometimes crisp but the personality remains the same. Just like a human being, the answers differ with different words but the essence remain the same. It is human centric and not robotic by any means and this is achieved by using words.

Google also tries but a single question has a single answer most of the time as below. Not quite there but it is certainly getting there with human centricity.

Note: I am not biased and i am not married to Apple or Google. I use all products that add value to me as a user. “Well, you can say that i am biased towards value”.

To write with emotions, have a personality and be in context is certainly hard work. So if you are a ux designer and want to become a ux writer, pick up the communications side of things(start learning about writing and the intricate concepts). Above all enhance your curiosity to pick the little things around human emotions and the trends that are influencing the moods and emotions. Not to mention, understand the upcoming language, slangs and ensure what is needed for your product’s personality.

If you are a copywriter and want to become a ux writer, pick up the design process and get curious with the trending human behavior and the words used in different contexts.

Like all design jobs you will need a portfolio of your writing and you must be able to articulate the choice of words used based on deep research, your hypothesis, data collected during validation and why your choice of words make more sense than the zillion combination available in the english language. Above all show what the user’s goals and motivations are, and how you achieved the same using the words of your choice. Like all designers face it, even ux writers will face a number of opinions from different walks and stay above the clutter and stay focused on the user.

The role is not clearly defined yet like most new age titles. When the shades of grey are more, many initiatives can be taken and you can tread the pathway of different skills that are needed to add value in your role. Evangelism will become key when the maturity is low. Rather than seeing it as a downside, look at the leadership abilities that can be clearly demonstrated. The maturity is not going to be low forever so make the most of this opportunity.

In a flexible agile environment where you span across projects, programs and portfolios stay true to the process and advocate why it is important to keep up certain choice of words. Honestly, the title is new and UX designers have been doing this job in collaboration with technical writers all the time. We use to call it as “STRINGS”(words) and “STRINGS Strategy and Guidelines”(specifications) so that tech teams can understand. This was especially important for localization and globalization. In reality it was copywriting done by the UXer in collaboration with several teams under a number of constraints (character lengths, Interface label lengths, number of words given the attention deficit etc).

Remember, your product and company are only as good as your writing. Make the most of it and impact lives.

A few good reads around the topic: different point of views but same first principles.

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