Week 2: Role of the UX Writer and how they fit in the design process
Job descriptions, real-life insights, working as part of a design team
The UX writing role is one whose effect cuts across departments in any company. From maintaining a consistent brand voice company-wide, to regular check-ups for improvement in the company’s way of communicating with their customers via copy or other forms of content (videos, images, etc), the UX Writer is one who is involved in making sure users have a great experience when in contact with the company and its offerings.
“ UX Writers can’t just work in their own little bubble and create microcopy without understanding what’s happening with the rest of the business.
You need to be a strategist.” — Patrick Stafford
N.B There are practice questions at the end of this post
What the UX Writer does - Based on a job description survey
While differences in company size, company goals, and other factors will create unique tasks the UX Writer is expected to perform particular to that company, there are some tasks that are generally and widely expected of UX Writers.
So after going through several UX writing job ads, I’ve put together a list of the most frequently reoccurring tasks the UX Writer is expected to perform. Let’s dive in!
- Write interface copy.
This goes without saying, that the UX writer is expected to write copy for onboarding screens, settings, tooltips, error messages, etc, on websites, mobile sites, apps, and other applicable interfaces. The writing of microcopy is essentially the most basic task that should be carried out.
2. Create, maintain & contribute to a content style guide
Content style guides are a set of content rules guiding every word put out by the company to ensure the company’s brand voice is consistent at all times.
Depending on the company size or your role in the company, you may be asked to create a style guide if they do not have one, contribute to, and maintain the style guide.
3. Collaborate with teams
Another thing expected of UX Writers is the collaboration with teams; designs, marketing, engineering, product, etc.
Collaborating with people is so integral to the UX writing role that it has to be specified. Being able to listen, learn, share feedback, and so on, is a must if you want to be successful as a UX Writer.
This doesn’t mean the role is only open to extroverts. If you’re not a ‘people person’ or you’re shy, you can still be a user experience writer! Collaborating with people is a skill that comes with practice. Start small then grow from there. It may take a while, but soon you’ll discover you’re doing a good job!
4. Carry out research and work with data
Like I shared in the previous post, words are not gotten through guesswork.
Before a single word is written, a lot of research and thought goes into it. This can be by looking within the company to find out existing data on that problem, doing a comparative analysis to see how your competitors dealt with the problem, or even having a fresh primary research conducted with your users. All these are done and the insights used in crafting the copy.
Depending on the company size among other factors, the UX Writer may carry out the research by themselves or work closely with UX researchers or data analysts to get the necessary information needed.
5. Work on content strategy
Again, there’s more to UX writing than writing copy for product interfaces. Other forms of content such as video, images, etc are included. Sometimes, the task of working on the company’s content strategy is clearly specified in the job description. At other times, you’d grow into it while carrying out your duties.
So who’s a content strategist?
The UX Writer has been given different titles by different people. We have UX Copywriter, Digital Copywriter, Content designer, Content strategist, and so on. The differences are sometimes so minute that the job descriptions often blend with each other.
But one thing is certain, being able to plan and create content strategies as a UX Writer helps you add more value to the company, thereby setting you up for more successes.
What a UX writer does — Based on Experiences
Riri Nagao (Senior UX Writer at American Express)
“UX writing is extremely complex. Even though the name of the role includes the word writing, it’s actually a sliver of what I do. In order to produce the words on the screen, I have many conversations with people of differing perspectives and backgrounds.
As an integral part of the design team, I need to think like a designer as I approach my work and consider business strategy and goals”
Andrew Astleford (Senior content strategist at CallRail)
“One of the great things about this job is the variety of things we encounter. Day to day, my tasks can be so different. I might work on a new flow with a UX designer, participate in user interviews, write a support article, or build a video.
As UX writers, we want to empower customers and make them the heroes of their journeys within our experiences. To do that, we must be intentional about everything we write and make sure what we produce is clear, concise, and consistent with the rest of our content ecosystem.”
Oz Chen ( Senior Content Designer, Founder of UX Beginner)
“A lot of my work is spent thinking and rethinking the wording of things like is this confusing, is this potentially confusing, and if it’s big enough of an effort.
Sometimes my work will cross over into user research where we are doing some usability test gauging how people react to the design and content, and basically how something works and really getting a sense of like how they’re talking about something so that we could use those words perhaps, or a broader user research to understand people’s mental model and behavior around a certain thing…”
As UX writers, we want to empower customers and make them the heroes of their journeys within our experiences— Andrew Astleford
The design process — collaboration with teams
UX writing is a proactive discipline that requires a seat at the table from the beginning of the process— Riri Nagao
Collaborations are at the heart of every successful product. For UX Writers, the days of being included only at the end of the design process are getting fast behind us.
With this, comes the need to be a team player from the get-go. The UX writing process is one which involves you collaborating with:
- Business stakeholders
- Product manager
- Developers, and so on.
The most required collaborative work is that between the UX Writer and the UX Designer. In reality, the people UX Writers work with often depend on the size of the company, the type of project, and project deadlines.
UX Writing Process
Like UX Design, there are certain key frameworks that guide a UX Writer from start to finish.
- Meeting with stakeholders: Before a project starts, the user experience writer needs to understand what the project is about, what the business goals and objectives are, as well as the KPIs for measuring its success. This is valuable for the UX Writer to have in mind when working on the product’s copy.
- Define the problem: The UX Writer works with the design team to identify the problem the product is trying to solve, the problems users might face, as well as identifying existing user pain points in similar products.
Pain points are specific problems users encounter that can frustrate or stop them from using a service.
- Research: An initial research is carried out by the UX writer to get a solid idea on how to tackle the defined problem. This could involve going through existing company research and guides, as well as performing comparative and competitive analyses for the product.
- Ideate: The UX writer then brings up as many texts as possible — quickly. The goal is to not put so much thought into the copy, rather just scribbling down any copy that comes to mind. Ideating allows you to have many options which you can work on later.
- Prototyping: Collaborating with UX Designers, the copy is then added to the product’s designs. Adding copy to design reveals certain constraints affecting that copy which would then need to be worked on. Like is the copy too long for the button size? Is there a need for text or could an icon pass across the same message?
- Collaborative research / user testing: Here, the UX Writer collaborates with the researcher to test the copy, get feedback on how the users interact with the texts, and other valuable insights required to craft good copy. One of the insights gotten from this research is user language. Paying attention to the words they use to describe the product and certain actions they take while using the product. This helps you create a copy that sounds natural and relatable.
- Iteration: The UX Writer goes back to edit and fine tune the copy. Iteration is a continuous process that is carried out even after the product has been launched. It is necessary in order to stay up-to-date and constantly improve the copy.
Voila! This is a basic flow of the UX writing process.
However, not ALL projects will have the same process. In fact, you will often find UX Writers switch up their writing process. But the goal remains the same — improving user experience.
As a UX writer, you must be flexible and understand that processes vary depending on the task and the people involved — Andrew Astleford
Let’s Practice! 👩💻
Hi guys! Hope you enjoyed this week’s topic. Leave a clap if you did :)
At the end of every week, there are challenges for us to complete. You ready?
Week 2 Challenge
Purpose: To train your mind to bring up copy solutions quickly (ideate) as part of the UX writing process mentioned above.
What you’ll need: A sheet of paper folded into 4, a pen and a timer.
Choose one question
- ABC is a small start-up online news company. The company’s stakeholders have listed high rate of newsletter subscriptions as a key measurement of success, but it has been performing poorly. Their website is designed in such a way to stop readers midway with the newsletter pop-up and only those who subscribe can continue reading the news article.
As the sole UX writer, you have been asked to rewrite the copy because people are not subscribing.
After brainstorming with the design team and carrying out a basic research, you have two assumptions why people don’t sign up for the newsletter:
i. People are wary of spams. They think ‘How often would you send me mails? Would you also send unrelated or promotional mails? Would I be able to unsubscribe later? Would it cost me money?’
ii. People are worried about their data privacy. They think ‘How am I sure you won’t sell my data to third-parties??’
Instruction: Set your timer to 8 minutes and come up with 4 copy versions (there is no word count limit) for the newsletter within the timeframe. Sketch them on a sheet of paper and upload the picture for a review.
Remember the goal is not to be perfect but to come up with ideas as quickly as possible.
2. XYZ is a company that connects people who want to buy, sell or repair their cars with the nearest services to meet their needs. For this to work optimally, they need to know the user’s zip code and address in order to find the appropriate service that is closest to the user.
When users arrive at their website, this is the first page they see.
Due to high bounce rates (people leaving without continuing to the next page) you have been contracted as a freelance UX Writer to help rewrite this page.
You’ve arrived at this assumption that
i. People don’t feel safe giving out their private details. They think ‘Why do you need to know my location? I can’t trust you with such information!’
Instruction: Set a timer to 8 minutes, and come up with 4 copy versions (there is no word count limit) for this page within the timeframe. Sketch them on a sheet of paper and upload the picture for a review.
Don’t know how to do the challenge? There’s a solved example in our slack channel. Check it out! 👍
How to submit
- Join our slack workspace here.
- Go to the Week 2 channel to share your work and get feedback. Also give feedback on others’ works as well.
👋 Don’t forget to introduce yourself in the introductions channel and meet your fellow UX Writers.
See you next week!
6 UX writing resources you should check out!
My UX writing process — Riri Nagao
5 Things a UX Writer does — UX Planet
Content 101: UX writing — GatherContent
Rise of the UX Writer — UX Planet
UX Writer starter kit — Dribbble
Hey there! Do you want to contribute to UX Writers Learn by sharing your experience or insight on any area of UX writing? Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn here. I’d love to hear from you.