The Future of UX Writing — Interview With Yuval Keshtcher, Founder of The UX Writing Hub

Microcopy is definitely a buzz word right now. I don’t believe in design without communication and for me, communication means words + images + interactions.

I’m really curious about how to improve writing and communication, and you have the chance to read an interview where UX designer is asking a UX designer about UX writing. Meet Yuval the founder of UX Writing Hub.


What was your path to UX design and then UX writing?

I downloaded photoshop when I was 14 in order to create all kinds of weird graphics while following probably all of the online tutorials that the early 00’s internet had to offer back then.

It was only after my military service (yes, it’s mandatory in Israel and I served in the special forces) when I took it seriously to the level of a Career path. I worked as a bartender at a bar that was looking for a graphic designer to create a poster.

My payment was as low as $10, but that was the first Aha Moment when I realized that people would actually pay me to do that kind of stuff.

I was doing print design for a while, fell in love with a girl, traveled all over the world with her, went back to my hometown in Israel, and figured out that if I’m going to be a designer, I must pursue a career of a designer that creates an impact on people’s lives and change the world for the better.

At some point, I got a project that was about creating an online education platform. That was the point when I figured out that I don’t know anything about creating experiences, so I decided to dive deep into the UX field.

I took every course possible related to UX and even learned front-end programming at some point which increased my design operation skills. Design and solving problems using pixels and words are my favourite thing in the whole world.

As an anxious person, I always think about the worst case scenarios. In one of those scenarios I imagined a future where user interface design was not going to be a thing anymore and would be replaced by artificial intelligence.

Then it hit me.

In that type of future, most of our interfaces would be voice interfaces. Completely invisible like in that movie “Her” when Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his operating system.

Then I realized that in order to create that kind of digital experience, someone would probably have to write it, and create a complete motif and story around it.

No more pixel perfect movers, the future of design belongs to creators of the narrative, people that are storytelling magicians, and those kinds of people would have to be total wordsmiths or in other words, I figured out that the future of user experience belongs to the writers.

Do you perform any UX research methods?

UX research is the bread and butter of any product team. That’s the data we rely on when we create digital experiences. Even if you design a product based on your gut feeling, you use some kind of data which is based on your past experiences as a human being.

The UX people of Airbnb, for example, shadow travelers to “walk in their shoes” and craft the best possible experience for them. A great example for that is that on one of their search filters, one of the first parameters presented in the amenities section is “shampoo”.

As a product designer, it would never come to my mind to let users filter their flat by the shampoo parameter, and for sure I wouldn’t design it as one of the first parameters of the Airbnb search bar.

My guess is that the team of Airbnb conducted really good research in order to figure out that a lot of people care about the shampoo parameter, so they included it. A brilliant and unexpected design! Now people that care about it can find it really quickly, without even thinking about it.

That’s the power of research and it’s irreplaceable!

The people of Uber who are working on the emerging markets app, actually go to India and take cabs all day long in order to figure out what that experience feels like.

You can create millions of personas, user journeys, hypotheses, and assumptions.

At the end of the day, if you aren’t solving real world problems of real world people, you’re just a bad designer. Invest time and money in your research.

An ideal UX designer now — can you describe a skill set?

I would change the terminology of UX designer a bit.

The best product team is created by many product designers with different levels of expertise.

One product designer is a master of words, one is a research pro, the other one can create beautiful screens, and yet another one can write their logic with front-end code. All of them are managed by a lead product designer which is what we call today a product manager nowadays, and he is in charge of creating a bridge between the users’ needs and the stakeholders’ goals.

All of these professionals have in common the ability to know what the user needs, which basically means that all of them are in charge of the product’s experience design eventually.

What design process would you suggest for the best microcopy possible?

During my UX writing course I teach about the content first approach.

Lorem ipsum is dead and we should research language at earlier stages and create all of the information architecture of the product based on our content before we design our wireframes.

A lot of product teams design their apps with a design system which is based on different methodologies, such as atomic design by Brad Frost.
Just like designers define a design system that applies to their products, UX Writers define the content style guide of their products. Then, they can create wireframes with content placed together with the designers.
Even if your company has 5 different products, the content style guide will make sure that the voice and tone are similar in all of those products.

My favourite content style guide is the one created by mail chimp

There are many tricks to creating a content style guide, I teach that during my course as well and it’s a lot of fun too!

What is your biggest microcopy success story?

I feel like I am a product designer that makes the field of UX writing more accessible to other writers and the rest of the world.

It’s actually quite amazing. I am teaching people from all over the world how to write user experiences, creating a UX writing portfolio and UX design methodologies and then at the end of the day, when I see their work in action, I am thrilled by their performance.

My biggest personal achievements with microcopy are analyzing this market inside out, posting every day for the last couple of years on my Facebook community Microcopy & UX Writing, which has grown to be the largest Microcopy discussion group in the world, outreaching and interviewing almost every senior UX writer from companies such as Google, Booking, Fiverr about their processes, teaching the Israeli government’s digital branch about Microcopy, and talking all over the world in conventions about UX writing methodologies that I’ve developed and helped product teams to perform while creating the official hub for UX writers from all over the world.

These days I am also creating UX writing video lessons, UX writing teardowns and a lot of content, so more people can actually learn how to do it.

I have on my team a content localization pro, voice interface designer, content style guides specialist, and many people that help me to explore more methodologies for the evolving and exciting field of UX writing.

Aren’t you scared that microcopy isn’t a big UX case, because people just scan content?

Short answer — no.

Since the beginning of time, people have used language and writing in order to communicate with each other. We are talking about cave-men days here!

People might scan, but without the content and the context, the interface is useless.

Check out Dropbox’s homepage without content and tell me what do you think now?

Give us an example for one of your methods for creating micro-delights for users?

When leading the product design of Musico.io, I’ve developed a method for creating clear, concise, and useful experiences.

Basically, we created an empathy map within the design file, and asked 3 questions under each screen:

How does the user feel?
What does the user need to know right now?
What is the desired outcome?

Answering those questions when designing every single screen, helped me to design more clear, concise, and useful experiences for that specific product, which is a collaborative tool for music teachers and students.

How would you recommend testing the copy? Do you have any tips for that?

There are plenty of analytics tools that helps us test our copy. For example, we connected Hotjar, which is a tool that shows a heat map of users’ clicks on your product for one of my clients, which is an education platform for college students.

When looking at the heat map, we figured out that the copy of one of the most important buttons isn’t clear enough, so people didn’t press it. That’s what made us change the copy to make it more clear.

In general, my belief, just like in UX design, is that there are too many variables when collecting that type of data, so we can’t rely on that alone.

The best way to test copy and design is to actually talk to our users.

Is UX writing the new must-have skill?

Writing is writing.

You can be a creative writer, content writer, SEO person, novel writer, and any type of writer that you choose to be.

UX writing is just a single branch of writing, and also a great way for writers to work in tech and earn a lot of money for being creative.

Sounds like a pretty decent deal right?

Do you have any ideas on how to make system errors better?

In general, for every type of UX writing, the idea is to figure out how to solve a problem for the user in a creative and delightful way.

One of my favourite microcopy error messages is by codecademy, which is a platform that helps you learn how to code.

When receiving an error message, they send you to a course that teaches you about HTTP errors. That’s a pretty cool way to solve a frustrating problem for the users!

Is UX writing a trend?

I wouldn’t say it’s a trend, but the future of design is creating highly customized experiences for the users. Figuring out what is the context that the users use our app for.

Is it the first time that the user entered got in from a desktop, or the fifth5th time the user entered through the Mobile app?

Different contexts mean different experiences, and I believe that we will see many more customized experiences like this in the next few years.

Where do you look for writing inspiration?

When I figured out that there isn’t a place for UX writing inspiration, I opened a facebook group for that. The easy way is always to post on the group and wait for brilliant responses from the other community members.

When conducting a UX writing research, it’s a great idea to check where your users are.

Look at Facebook groups and even Amazon reviews in order to understand how to communicate with your users in a better way. In addition, I read a lot. Everything written by the UX writing team of Dropbox is a must-read for example.

What do you suggest for inexperienced UX writers?

Learn the UX methodologies. Master research, product development processes, and even know how to operate design tools.

Figure out what problems must be solved on apps that you are using on a daily basis, solve those problems, and present your solution on your UX writing portfolio to land your first UX writing gig.

How do you see UX writing in the next 30 years?

At some point, the borders between what we consider to be human and what we consider to be a machine will slowly disappear.

Whether we want it or not, people are becoming dependent on technology and it is changing our brain.

For example, when we have access to Google maps 24/7 like we do today, the part of our brain that is in charge of navigation drastically become useless, and that’s fine! That’s evolution and it means that we don’t need it as much as we needed it in the past.

Different parts of our brains are evolving as well.

Being connected to the internet that would be implemented in our bodies one day would make us some type of augmented superhumans, a new species that the world hasn’t had before.

Data is king and the more data connected to our future human version, the more super it’s going to be.

It will become impossible to recognize whether a robot is human or not, and we won’t be able to recognize the humanity in humans anymore.

Scary stuff. That kind of future might be dark if designers and writers abuse the technology as we know it today.

Even today, you can see a lot of corporate product designers abuse UX design, making people addicted to their platforms or making their users believe they want things they would never get otherwise.

That’s why one of my missions in life is to increase the awareness for an ethical design that doesn’t mess with people minds, but actually makes their lives better and I believe that we must have plenty of designers and writers that hold this agenda in order to create brighter future for our kids.

The future of UX writing and product design depends on the pioneers that are going to lead it. Let’s make sure that we put our future in the right hands.

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