UX Writing Is Everyone’s Business

How collaboration makes UX writers indispensable

Danielle McClune
Apr 29 · 4 min read
Image description: Four people using construction equipment to assemble various sections of a web page.

UX writers shouldn’t go it alone

At Microsoft, our UX writers work alongside design, research, and engineering to make sure that our experiences are successful because they’re trustworthy.

1. Have I been working on this project alone?

If yes, something’s gone terribly wrong. While the image of a solitary writer is an archetype, it just isn’t accurate in the world of technology. Successful writers collaborate. If you’re arriving at solutions alone, you’re creating bias in the product, sacrificing quality and maybe even ethics. Bring others into your process to curb bias and imagine solutions end to end. Insights from others — even if it’s just turning to another writer — help ensure we’re bringing the right language to the product and to the customer.

2. What’s the customer getting from these words?

If you wouldn’t find them useful, delete and try again. Maybe you’re designing for a particularly niche audience that you don’t really understand. If that’s the case, bring people who are part of that audience into the process. Give people value, not just strings of words.

3. Do these words strike the right tone?

When tone is right, it’s harmonious; when it’s wrong, it’s discordant. And discordance can be damaging. Voice and tone are delicate. The wrong words — whether incoherent, poorly executed, or plain offensive — can sever customer trust for a lifetime. Microsoft has some principles you can come back to and rely on, but in general, know who you’re talking to, the context they’re in, and adapt accordingly. Know when to crack a joke and when to keep it straightforward so you stay out of your customer’s way.

4. Do my business partners know the value of what I do?

If not, make it known. People shouldn’t see you as the grammar police. You are a word warrior! Be brave and set up some meetings to let your partners get to know you and the product expertise you bring to the table. By doing this, you’re advocating for yourself and the importance of words in building great customer experiences. Your customers (and hey, the rest of us UX writers) will thank you for it.

5. Do these words have business impact?

Yes, we need to write well. But at the end of the day, we’re also helping to create experiences that make a compelling business case. Can you fight for your words in a room full of technical experts and sales reps? Can you tell the whole story, end to end, of how these words bring customer love (and dollars)? If not, practice. Make yourself indispensable to how business gets done.

A writer’s work is never done

Anyone who has had a bad experience with UX, even something as simple as a confusing error message, knows how frustrating it is to feel like there’s something lost in translation between “technology” and “real human person.” A UX writer is a critical player in the line of defense ensuring this doesn’t happen. To keep human-centered philosophy in the words that customers interact with, UX writers can’t go it alone.

Microsoft Design

Putting technology on a more human path, one design story at a time.

Danielle McClune

Written by

Wordsmith at Microsoft. Fickle wanderer, committed hugger. Views are my own.

Microsoft Design

Putting technology on a more human path, one design story at a time.