Vicki Siolos, Kickstarter
Hello, hello — I’m Kickstarter’s Senior UX Writer. I support all of our product teams and collaborate within research, design, and editorial functions. I was a journalist, editor, publicist, event promoter, and booking agent before I ever heard the term UX, so there was a good amount of practice to harness the power of words with a heaping spoonful of nuance before I got here.
How did you get into UX writing?
I capped off a 12-year career in the music industry as an editorial director for a music startup, which introduced me to web usability around 2015. The following year, I enrolled in an immersive bootcamp with the intention to pursue a career in UX design, but I read a Medium post about UX writing shortly after Google I/O 2017. That was it. I was immediately sold and certain that it was the right path for me. I paid my dues through interaction design and UX generalist roles at some extraordinary companies until I landed at Kickstarter in 2018. I was the first hire for this burgeoning title, and built the processes around it from the ground up.
What does your UX writing process look like?
What does a normal day look like?
My days are split between a variety of meetings and writing. Meetings can include weekly or monthly 1:1s with stakeholders, design reviews with our product leads, and ideation brainstorms with teams. I hold weekly office hours split across two days, where anyone can swing by or Zoom in to review and discuss any project with me for 15 minutes. These have been a lifesaver in managing my time and delegating random Slack DMs with questions about, say, a new edge case that appeared in dev that needs error messaging or a brand new feature flow that would be best explained in person.
I sometimes jam with product managers, designers, and editorial copywriters to clarify the messaging in a user journey, but most of my writing sessions begin as a solo mission. Our office has excellent taste in music, but I’m often tuning out to Mika Vainio, Wolfgang Voigt, or Donato Dozzy records in my headphones. Despite my love for Figma, I’ll still brainstorm in an adjacent browser tab, writing out countless versions of the one or two lines that I am trying to perfect in a Google Doc. Is this accurate? Is this clear? Is this concise enough? Does it carry our brand voice? Does it make sense in this user flow? How will this translate to our other languages? My brain is usually firing on all cylinders.
Experimentation is also a crucial part of my workflow. Sometimes the most minor copy tweaks can have a major effect. “Back it because you believe in it” started as a microcopy test that produced a clear winner, and grew into a cross-team initiative to build content around the value of backing projects for no reward.
What are the top 3 apps you use?
Slack: can’t live without it.
Yoga Studio: every morning.
SoundCloud/Spotify/Bandcamp: I’m cheating, but I use them equally on a daily basis.
Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
For UX writing? Oh gosh. Writers In Tech and Writers of Silicon Valley podcasts. Torrey Podmajersky’s Strategic Writing In UX book. Nearly everything published by A Book Apart. Dropbox’s design blog (swoon). Any UX Content Design NYC meetup that I’m in town for. Any conference that I can afford.
Working at Kickstarter has also helped me grow as a creative person outside of the office. I have a monthly ambient/experimental show on The Lot Radio called Bright Patterns (most definitely a UX reference), and I’m fulfilling my successful Kickstarter campaign from last year: My decade of music publicity experience will inevitably atrophy, so I’m self-publishing a 40-ish page workbook on how to write your own artist bio.
Are there any books or blogs you’d recommend?
Whoops! Jumped the gun on that one. Honestly, Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think was what started me on this adventure years ago, and I consider it to be the litmus for anyone interested in UX. Nicely Said was another major book for me, and Scott Kubie’s Writing For Designers is an excellent brief for anyone who works alongside UX writers. Prototypr.io is still one of the best blogs on the internet, and everyone should sign up for The Dash by the UX Writers Collective.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I am valued for my granular attention to detail and unrelenting search for the best way to phrase something that millions of people will find useful. It’s a dream.
What have you worked on that you’re most proud of?
So many features! Last year, Kickstarter rolled out Project Budget, which is a suite of tools that empower creators to go forth with confidence when creating their financial plan. It includes a funding calculator, category-specific spreadsheets for itemizing costs, and a customized budget graphic that shows potential backers how they’ll spend the money raised from the campaign. We’ve been laser-focused on building trust and reducing risk within our vast creative community to equally protect our backers and creators. This will ultimately extend the longevity of crowdfunding and creative independence while continuing to fuck the monoculture.
How do you approach getting stakeholders and other teams on board?
“A quick sync” can be so powerful, and I try to have these conversations early and in real-time. Figure out who is responsible for what, and what the deadlines are with as much clarity as possible.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a UX writer?
One of my greatest challenges is closing the knowledge gap between how UX writing is perceived and what actually goes on behind the curtain. A single string takes so much background work to produce the optimal version, and I’m very open about my process. I also offer all of the platform perspective, industry best practices, and interaction design knowledge that I can. It takes patience and passion to advocate for a role that is still growing into its own within the product landscape.
What’s your biggest content pet peeve?
Lazy, robotic copy — you know it when you see it. I encourage everyone to read their writing aloud during the editing process. Also “click here” — how do we get this banned from the internet?
What principles do you try to stick to when writing?
Harmonize clarity, concision, and usability. Prioritize accuracy before clarity before brevity. Read everything aloud. Slash redundancies. Have everything reviewed by at least one other set of eyes. Never, ever feel shy to ask questions, but try to ask them as early as possible. Check your voice and tone within context, always.
Do you have any advice for aspiring UX writers?
UX writing is so much more than writing, but you have to love to write to love this job. And you should learn everything you can about localization.
Is there anything you want to promote?
I’ve wanted to start a UX writing blog for ages, but I think I need a partner. I have so many ideas, but I think what’s holding me back is being left to my own devices. Are you a UX writer who also wants to do this? Does my experience resonate with you? Maybe we should talk.
Where can people find and follow you?
I’m on Twitter, LinkedIn, and SoundCloud as @vickisiolos. I love talking about UX writing, so don’t be shy.
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Thanks again to Vicki Siolos for taking the time to answer these questions.
Headshot by Lauren Renner. And thanks to Dickon Gray for helping with the design.