Do you need a writer on your design team?
5 reasons why a UX writer makes designers more efficient and products more successful
The role of a UX writer has grown and evolved in recent years as more and more tech companies integrate writers into the design process. UX writing — a skill that combines content strategy and copywriting with UX design principles — has now become an essential ingredient in any successful design org.
If you’re a product designer or manager of a design team, you might be thinking: “The designers on my team know how to write words. Do I really need a specialized UX writer or content strategist to join my project?”
The short answer is yes. An experienced writer will elevate your product by making it feel more polished, more consistent, and easier to use.
You’ll be able to let your designers focus on what they do best, design. Even more importantly, a writer adds another creative partner to the team who will approach problems with a different mindset, one who can bring new solutions to the group that haven’t been thought of before.
Designers who’ve had good partnerships with writers will tell you of the numerous benefits. Here are some thoughts from Malia Eugenio, a designer at SurveyMonkey:
“I’ve found that working with a writer really improves my designs. The words can make or break a user experience. Having the perspective of a writer at the inception of a new design helps immensely with establishing IA and understanding where information, clarity, and direction are needed to help users be successful.”
1. Consistency creates trust in a product
Words are the voice of your product. When there are typos or grammar mistakes in your words, it erodes user trust in your brand. Research suggests that typos and other errors damage the credibility of a website. When I see a typo, or even something as harmless as inconsistent capitalization, I can’t help but think, “Do they know what they’re doing? Did they rush this?” A writer has a specially trained eye to catch even tiny errors in grammar, capitalization, and punctuation.
2. If you don’t have a writer, who writes your copy now?
The answer is usually some combination of the designer, product manager, marketing partners, and engineers. Each of these people likely have a different approach to style, voice, tone, word choice, capitalization, and punctuation. What you end up with is a Frankenstein-like product where different parts of your app have different personalities — and worse yet, conflicting terminology.
A writer will create (and habitually use) style, voice, and tone guidelines and consistent terminology, so that your product sounds and feels the same no matter where the user is in their journey. What capitalization do you use for buttons? What punctuation do you use for modals? A good UX writer will have a point of view on all the small details that others might miss.
3. Good content can speed up your process
As an accomplished designer, you might say, “I like to move fast. Bringing in a writer will slow down my project.”
Actually, bringing in a writer — especially early on in a project — can save you from backtracking or redoing work later on. A content expert can help you establish the right information architecture, taxonomy, and product or feature names from the beginning, so you’re less likely to need big foundational changes later on. They’ll think about how the terms you choose fit into your broader systems, product portfolio, and future growth plans, setting you up for success in the long term.
Also, better UI copy can speed up your review process. Design reviews with placeholder copy can often get the conversation going in the wrong direction — drawing focus to the messaging and not the design. Working with a writer to get more thoughtful copy into your designs will only make critiques go smoother and get you better feedback.
4. A writer helps you scale your team
If you’re not at a big tech company (or even if you are) resources are probably an issue. In a small, scrappy design team, it may be hard to convince people that hiring a writer is the right way to spend limited resources.
I’d point out that having a small, scrappy design team may actually be more of a reason to hire a writer. Think of what areas your team is the strongest in and where you have skill gaps and needs. Will hiring more people with a similar skill set help you fill in those gaps? Hiring a talented person with a different skill set can help you get to more balanced and complete team faster.
With a new content partner, designers can focus on pushing their work further without spending valuable time struggling with skills that are outside their wheelhouse. Plus, a writer can bring a new dynamic to your team by thinking about ways to solve user problems with words and by addressing information needs. That design problem you’ve been noodling on for weeks? Maybe it’s not a design problem after all, but a messaging problem.
Adding a writer early can set you up for future success by starting with thoughtful writing guidelines and systems. It’s also an opportunity to set a precedent about how an effective design team should function as your company grows.
5. Good copy will move your metrics
Lastly, but maybe most importantly, the business case for bringing in a skilled writer is strong. Even small changes to the text in a key flow or prominent CTA can lead to big moves in metrics.
Almost all big tech companies now have growing UX writing or content strategy teams, and it’s because they’ve seen the value it brings to their bottom line. In fact, Booking.com has a team of nearly 60 writers who perform scores of copy experiments to optimize every part of their site.
In a 2017 talk at Google I/O, Content Strategy Director Maggie Stanphill showed an example from Google’s hotel booking flow where they changed a line of copy from “Book a room” to the less committal “Check availability.” The result of the change was a 17% increase in engagement.
Giving people the information they need — when and where they need it — can increase engagement with your product. My teammate Deanna Horton wrote an onboarding tour for SurveyMonkey that increased feature engagement by 15%. Along the same lines, she wrote tours for a survey gallery that showed how you might go about making important decisions based on survey data, which increased the rate people sent surveys by 9.2%.
Small changes matter. Earlier this year, I helped our Wufoo team rework copy for a button to get customers to try a new experience in the product. After we updated the button copy, the click rate increased by 60%, just from the copy change.
So, there’s clearly enormous value to unlock by adding writing skills to your design team. But if you’re still not sure, here’s more on the subject: