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Amy Johansson, IKEA

Hej! I’m Amy Johansson, Senior UX writer at IKEA. You might also know me by my Instagram handle, The Microcopy Enthusiast.

How did you get into UX writing?

Basically, there was a hole covered in leaves and I fell into it. Well that’s the story I like to tell. But the truth is that I’d spent years (oh, about 20, so I’m not young and I’m not a noob) working as a copywriter and in public affairs so UX writing was a natural evolution forward. It was Writing’s answer to Darwin.

What does your UX writing process look like?

Fortunately, IKEA is smart about their digital experience process and as a UX writer (the sole full-time writer in our DX chapter) I’m fully integrated into the product design process, starting from being part of a reference group doing exploration up to being on the ground floor of any new digital products. So I’m happily integrated into a few product teams — chatbot, the new IKEA design system, data ethics and conversion.

What does a normal day look like?

I felt compelled to say something snarky here, but the empathetic UXer in me threw cold water on that.

I have 2 main themed workdays, Corona lockdown notwithstanding:

Admin days where I go to a lot of meetings. Sprint plannings, on boarding meetings, chapter meetings, sprint retros, design syncs. I don’t get much real writing done on these days. On admin days I feel more like a proper Design lead.

And then there are production days. These are those blissful days where I have the bandwidth to breathe, to write and to design. Ah, the production days are like spring days at magic hour, even in the darkest greyest days of Monday during Scandinavian winter!

What are the top 3 apps you use?

Really just 3? The apps I use most often for my actual writing craft are: Figma, Miro and Google forms.

Oh, and Slack of course too.

Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?

I live in a rambling mid century ranch on the sea. So I often unplug, leave my phone behind and go for long walks on the beach behind my house. I try and look at offline problems through the lens of creative digital solutioning. How could I make this easier, more inclusive?

Are there any books or blogs you’d recommend?

I fan gurrl out for Erika Hall and Hillary Black for all things conversational design, John Saito on Medium (his pieces are fantastic!), Jane Ruffino (for workshop ideas, she’s the best!) and Yuval Ketscher because he’s the spider in the web of all things UX writing.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working at IKEA is like working at the United Nations. I do formative foundational creative work with an incredibly international team in a progressive, conscientious global enterprise. Not only is DX at IKEA wildly diverse and international, but it really does feel like a family. We genuinely enjoy working together. IKEA has really strong core values as an employer and my coworkers really do embody them and take them seriously. It’s not just puff-speak as it was at some of the agencies I worked at before. Does it really get better than that? Well, not for me. I feel as though I’ve reached Buddhist Nirvana as far as workplaces go.

What have you worked on that you’re most proud of?

I’m very proud of the two projects I’m working on right now — the new digital tone of voice and style guide for the new IKEA design system.

And IKEA’s very first chatbot and (soon VUI!).

How do you approach getting stakeholders and other teams on board?

I’m lucky enough to say that my reputation precedes me, at least at IKEA. I’m the go-to person for digital writing. So it’s more of me turning things down than searching for projects. It’s a nice feeling!

What are the biggest challenges you face as a UX writer?

Daily, it’s just a numbers game. That so far I’m the only in-house designated UX writer for 50 designers.

Professionally and long-term, having the bandwidth and energy to contribute meaningfully to the profession. I mean, I’d love to write a book or be a really involved mentor or host a podcast, but with a demanding full-time job that I adore plus a family at home with 3 kids and a husband that I also adore, it’s very challenging to manage those little dividends of extra time.

What’s your biggest content pet peeve?

“A friendly reminder” to me is almost never friendly. This is what I know from real-life interactions. It’s always said with a smirk and decidedly not friendly. It’s just an unsolicited opinion dressed up as sage wisdom and modified by a false infusion of politeness.

Just tell it like it is, dammit! You can totally say it diplomatically, well, if you’re worth your salt you can.

Also the notion that EVERY single TOV is meant to be “friendly”. That’s become as meaningless and imprecise as “nice”. Again, y’all are professional writers we can do better!

What principles do you try to stick to when writing?

Generally I try to keep IKEA’s twinkle in the eye in a global digital landscape. And I ask myself:

  • Is this inclusive? Can this help people who cannot see the screen?
  • Would my parents understand this, or anyone else from the not-born-digital generation?
  • How would this translate?
  • How long is the shelf life on this writing (meaning, how many version updates or functionality upgrades can it weather before it gets outdated?)

Do you have any advice for aspiring UX writers?

When doing your portfolio, I’m more interested in seeing how you work with design thinking than how you write as a Team of 1. We are all James Joyce in our inner teams of 1. But the reality is that we’re writing for an enormous global enterprise with many teams. If you do want to show your wit and writing ability, show me some before and afters and be ready to tell the tale of how you got from point A to point whatever.

Where can people find and follow you?

You’re welcome to add me on LinkedIn.

And follow me on Instagram at TheMicrocopyEnthusiast.

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Want more? Follow every word matters for more interviews and insight into content design and UX writing.

every word matters is curated by Dominic Warren.

Thanks again to Amy Johansson for taking the time to answer these questions.

And thanks to Dickon Gray for helping with the design.

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