UX Writing Is More Than Words

Learn 5 ways to work with your UX writing team

Tricia Gill
Jul 31 · 4 min read
A UX writer shakes hands with a developer as documents move from a laptop to a tablet in the background.
A UX writer shakes hands with a developer as documents move from a laptop to a tablet in the background.

It seems contrary to what you’d expect, but the bulk of a UX writer’s time isn’t spent writing. Rather, we research, experiment, and meet with our engineering, design, marketing, support, and localization partners to ask questions — lots of questions. We ask, who is our customer? What task are they trying to accomplish? Where will they use this product? How has our competition addressed this need?

We ask these questions through all phases of the project, because the answers not only inform the product design but enable us to ensure that the text we craft is clear, concise, and perfectly placed within the product. We want the user experience to be so intuitive that customers will be delighted and complete their tasks without the need for after-market assistance. When done well, our work builds customer loyalty, prevents support costs, and helps the entire product team achieve key business metrics.

Ready to work with a UX writer? Read on for top tips to get started.

HOW TO WORK WITH YOUR UX WRITERS

1. Involve us early

Consider the UX writer your first customer. We look at products and features the way a customer would, with a clear task or goal in mind and the intent to complete it successfully. We’ll identify places where the customer might stumble and propose solutions that will reduce complexity and avoid confusion or frustration for customers downstream.

Because UX writers work across products and features, we can identify disparities in language, function, or imagery, and alert you to them when there’s still time to do something about it.

We know that customers would rather use our products than read about them, so when assistance is necessary, we look for innovative ways to provide that assistance without getting in the way — with callouts, videos, tutorials, and more.

2. Talk to us about the voice of your product

The voice is the tone and style that gives your product its unique personality. UX writers have the strategic use of product voice down pat. Sometimes it’s formal, sometimes it’s fun, but one thing is always true: we use the right words at the right time to ensure a common understanding without a trace of ambiguity.

None of this is done in a vacuum. Getting to the right words is an iterative affair, and we’ll go back and forth with you and other partners as often as is necessary to ensure that all text is the best that it can be. Below is an example of how a UX writer and her product team experimented with introducing GIFs in Outlook.

They ultimately landed on the perfect combination of friendly, informative, and concise.

3. Ask to see our data

There’s plenty of art in the UX writer’s job, but we rely on science, too — data science. We use data to determine how customers find our information and what they do with it once they have it. We use it to identify what content should be created and how to make existing content better. We mine search queries and user comments to understand the language our customers use when talking about our products, and for nuggets of information that bring clarity to complex problems. Then we dive deeper into data to pinpoint problem areas so that engineering and design partners can design and implement product improvements.

And let’s not forget about SEO. UX writers constantly evaluate and experiment with search terms so that when support content is necessary, it’s tuned to ensure a top ranking in search results. Not because it’s cool to be at the top of the search rankings (although that is very cool), but because we want our customers to find the information they’re looking for using language that comes naturally to them.

4. Think about content as a feature, not an add-on

Content is part of the product, whether it’s field and dialog box names, banner messaging, helping UI, error messages, training videos, or the help system. Consider content a feature and include it as a line item in all planning, review, and release management processes to ensure you’re looking at the product holistically. Your customers will thank you for it.

5. Stay in touch once the feature or product ships

We continue to monitor customer feedback after the product ships, and we want to meet regularly with you to review metrics and verbatims. This not only gives insight into how the product is being used but helps you prioritize bug fixes and new features.

If you don’t know who your UX writer is, reach out to your organization’s editorial department and set up a meeting. You might also ask your design or support organization to point you in the right direction, as design, support, and UX writers typically work closely together. If your organization doesn’t have UX writers, these five UX writing tips for non-writers might help.

UX writers are customer advocates who bring a variety of skills to the product development table. Have you worked with a UX writer on one or more of your projects? Tell us about your experience.


To stay in-the-know with Microsoft Design, follow us on Dribbble, Twitter and Facebook, or join our Windows Insider program. And if you are interested in joining our team, head over to aka.ms/DesignCareers.

Microsoft Design

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

Tricia Gill

Written by

By day I’m a Content PM at Microsoft. By night you‘ll find me with my nose buried in a book. All views expressed here are my own.

Microsoft Design

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

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