Getting a seat at the table as a UX writer

Jennie Tan
Sep 24 · 6 min read

It’s time to pull up a chair.

Do you sometimes feel a little invisible as a UX writer? Like you don’t have a seat at the table?

Getting a seat at the table means two things to me:

  • Being seen and treated as an essential member of the project team
  • Feeling empowered to make UX writing decisions for the project

Here are some tips on how to raise your visibility (and gain more recognition) for the work you do!

Tip 1: Explain what you do

You might work with someone who has never heard of a UX writer. Or maybe you work with a designer who is used to writing their own copy.

Either way, it’s helpful to explain what you do as a UX writer and how you do it. Introduce yourself in a 1:1 chat when someone new joins the team, or get on the agenda at the next team meeting.

I recently gave a short presentation to our summer interns about UX writing at Dropbox. It included these introductory slides:

Share some slides on what you do as a UX writer

Don’t assume people know what you do as UX writer. And once you explain it to them, they’ll better understand what you’re bringing to the table as a project team member.

Tip 2: Get included in team meetings

I have sometimes been accidentally excluded from team meetings.

Here are a few tips for this situation:

  • Tell people you want to be invited to team meetings. I know that seems obvious, but people may assume that you don’t want to be invited to every meeting, especially if you work on multiple teams.
  • Be clear about the type of meeting (team status, sprint planning, vision, brainstorm, retrospective, etc.) you want to be invited to.
  • Physically sit with your team. It’s easier to remember to invite you when you’re in the line of sight.
  • Check that you’re on the right email distribution lists.
  • Browse people’s calendars. If work calendars are shareable, occasionally check out member calendars to see if there are meetings you should be attending.

Tip 3: Send out regular project status updates

I track all my projects in an Airtable, and share it with the teams I work on. If your team regularly sends out status reports, ask to be included on them!

A sample project tracker

Tip 4: Make UX writing a required sprint or pre-release checklist item

Are you sometimes consulted for copy at the last minute? That can be frustrating.

One way to minimize those last-minute requests is to add “UX writing review” as a formal item on the project’s sprint or pre-release checklist.

For example, there is now this item in our DoD (“definition of done”) template:

☑︎ If there is customer-facing content in this story (button labels, menu names, error messages, etc.), has Jennie reviewed it?

Not only will this make your workload a little more predictable, it’ll show that UX writing is an essential project task.

Tip 5: Include an approval section in your content specs

I write a document for each chunk of work I do for a project. I call these docs content specs.

You can include an approval section at the top of each content spec. This helps show that a content spec is as an essential component of every project.

Dropbox Paper makes this easy by letting you tag people in to-dos with due dates:

Add an approval section to the top of your content spec

Tip 6: Show the value of UX writing

Part of your job as a UX writer is to explain why you choose the words you do. By explaining your decisions objectively and on a regular basis, you’ll elevate your visibility as the go-to words person. I laid out a few tips about this in my previous article, 4 ways to show the value of UX writing.

Tip 7: Create a terms list and update it regularly

To keep track of customer-facing terms I was using for a multi-team project, I created a terms list. I update it every few weeks and notify doc subscribers of updates.

The doc is simply organized as an A-to-Z list. It includes links (and acknowledgements) to other teams and their docs.

Doing this helped establish the doc as a go-to resource for the project.

A sample terms list

When the project is over, you can then spend some time to turn the terms list into a full-fledged style guide. Or integrate the list into the company style guide if it already exists.

Tip 8: Be a bridge builder

UX writers often work on multiple workstreams and develop unique cross-project insights. Why not share learnings and boost your visibility companywide? Lead the way with docs and meetings that bridge teams and help solve common problems together.

For example, are there multiple teams at your company that contribute menu items to your product’s context (right-click) menu? You can be the person who tracks these items in a single doc to make sure they are consistent and follow your company’s style guide.

Doing this shows your ability to not only craft words, but craft content strategy.

Tip 9: Learn team tools and encourage members to tag you in them

I’m kind of a geek for apps, so this is definitely my favorite tip of the bunch!

Whatever tools your team uses to track work — whether it be Git, Jira, Trello, Figma, Dropbox Paper, or something else, learn them. And ask team members to tag you in them when they have UX writing questions.

Others will see you being tagged and will learn to tag you, too. This raises your visibility.

And if you really want to go deep on this one, learn how to implement strings in code. (It’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.) After getting set up by a few awesome engineers, I can now reply to their tags right in the code, as well as update actual strings!

This allows you more freedom and flexibility in making UX writing decisions.

The engineer tags me for help (red) and I update the string directly in the code (green)

Tip 10: Ask your manager for help

My manager rallied to literally get me a seat at a leadership table for a high-visibility project. I’m the sole UX writing representative at a table full of group managers and directors. I never would have gotten a seat at that table without my managers’ support.

I share UX writing updates as well as give feedback on other members’ updates. This helps the project run smoothly.

And lastly, a plug to #steeryourcareer

Okay, there you have it. Yes, getting seen takes some work.

As Shirley Chisholm is quoted as saying, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Pull up that chair. And then ask for what you want, show and tell your value, and get help from your allies. Then repeat.

Changes won’t happen overnight. But with a little patience, you can get more seen and valued as a UX writer. Take an active role because it’s all part of steering your career.

Words matter. Writers matter. You matter.

What are your tips for getting more seen as a UX writer? Share them in a comment below!

Thanks to Andrea Drugay and Michelle Morrison for their help.

Want more from the Dropbox Design team? Follow Dropbox Design on Medium, Twitter, and Dribbble. Want to make magic together? Check out our open positions!

Dropbox Design

We believe joy is the engine that powers the best ideas. We’re designing a more enlightened of working, so you can love the way you work. More on dropbox.design.

Jennie Tan

Written by

UX Writer @dropbox. I craft words that help people get things done. Also #TheOffice superfan and breakfast burrito lover.

Dropbox Design

We believe joy is the engine that powers the best ideas. We’re designing a more enlightened of working, so you can love the way you work. More on dropbox.design.

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