Putting UX Writing into Practice

Welcome to Part 3 of our UX Writing at SEEK blog series!

In Part 1, I gave a bit of an introduction to UX Writing, describing what it is and why it matters. In Part 2, I gave some tips on how to raise awareness about UX Writing within your business and get people on board with understanding its importance in product development.

Here, in Part 3, I’ll be taking that one step further. I’ll assume by now that lots of people are keen on turning UX Writing into more than an idea and translating their awareness into a practical implementation of the discipline.

No, we’re nearly there! Also, what? Found by Kayla J Heffernan via Jotform

Put it into practice

Firstly, establish who wants to be involved. People in our UX team, for example, have differing levels of interest and experience relating to UX Writing. Some content writers in our marketing team are also keen to contribute their expertise to our UX Writing practice. Make use of those who express interest (hopefully in the form of a Guild) to brainstorm where you want to take your UX Writing practice.

A terrific first step is to put together a product content style guide. Many brands and businesses already have an existing style guide for brand or marketing content. Here are a couple of examples of great style guides shared online by other brands:

Next step is to work with your marketing and brand teams, as well as having brainstorming sessions with the design team. Use existing style guides as a framework, as this helps to create at least the foundation for a UX Writing style guide that can then be circulated through the business. This helps to identify the tone and voice you want on your products and what kind of formats you want to allow i.e. for dates or abbreviations for industry-specific jargon. Marketing tone is usually different to what you write on your products. For example, the SEEK ads you might have seen on TV are typically conversational with some humour thrown in. However for someone trying to apply for a job, a humorous chat, or informal or ambiguous language may not provide the best experience.

Advertising for SEEK Profiles

Cut out the lorem ipsum

It’s important to establish where your UX Writing fits into a design process. I personally like to put real words into designs as early as possible, and cut out the lorem ipsum except where it’s absolutely necessary (such as trying to reproduce large amounts of user-generated content). This helps with shaping more feasible designs, plus it gives you more time to whittle down the words to the minimum required to say the right thing. You can then use your discovery period to find out what your users want to read and how they want it to be said and test it with real people.

The 30, 60, 90% review process (where in-progress designs are shown at 30%, 60%, and 90% completion for critique and feedback) is a great way to get a range of opinions from different stakeholders within the business as well as from your users. This gives you the opportunity to describe the research process behind the interface and the words you’ve used. It’s also a good way to check for consistency of messaging from elsewhere in the business, and again, helps to raise awareness about the importance of UX Writing. If there’s any conflict between stakeholder opinions about correct wording, it’s handy to have verbatim and insights from user research to back up your content. Google Trends is also a great tool for understanding how people respond to different words if you’re having trouble deciding on which one to use.

Pairing and sharing

Pairing and sharing is always a good idea when writing. Seek feedback as well from other members of the UX team, who may have tried to tackle a similar expression in the past. Especially if they know what’s the most appropriate way to describe something from a brand perspective. When you’ve been rewriting the same sentence over and over again for an hour, it can start to feel fuzzy and lose its meaning. Having fresh eyes over your writing can help ensure that the message is clear and get you back on track if you’re steering things in the wrong direction.

Getting the whole team involved

UX Writing needs input from your product team as well as the rest of the UX team. Try to bring your cross-disciplinary team on board with the importance of UX Writing, not just your fellow UX-ers! Here are the people I work with:

  • developers to identify the exact function that I’m trying to communicate.
  • visual design to determine how long the text can be and how it looks on different screen sizes and devices.
  • product managers to explain the value of the product that I’m trying to share with our users.
  • QAs to raise content bugs (such as poor grammar, spelling or confusing copy) in bug bashes with the same prominence as UI bugs.

Reuse existing content

Finally, I find it valuable to reuse existing writing from our products. Sometimes the content in our product needs an update, particularly if it hasn’t been revisited recently. But often it’s a good reference point for our writing. Sometimes there’s a message that is perfect, but the words need to be tweaked. Sometimes the turn of phrase is great, but the value is unclear. Sometimes it’s perfect, and I can use it as inspiration for something else! Redoing or reusing what already exists can help to gradually uplift the quality and consistency of our product writing without having to start from scratch.

Nice one! Putting some SEEK personality into the ad pack purchase process

This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to magically transform your UX design team into a team of UX Writers. That said, it’s a nice starting point for ideas about how you can get things moving when trying to establish a UX Writing practice within a UX Design team. Here at SEEK we’re on top of the awareness part, however, it’s something we need to consciously stay on top of. Our next steps are to search for concrete ways to upskill our team in the UX Writing discipline to ensure we’re providing clear, insightful content to our hirers and job seekers at the right time in their journey.

Have you set up or been working on setting up a UX Writing practice? I’d love to hear how it’s going.

Special thanks to Kayla J Heffernan and Caylie Panuccio for their help in putting together this blog series!