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User Experience Design July 31, 2019

What is UX Writing?

5 min read

 

As user experience design continues to drive business success, it’s no brainer that the field of user experience design continues to grow, too. 

 

“As we are able to distinguish more of what each role entails, it becomes more clear what each role is alone.”

 

The industry is constantly changing. Not long ago, many folks hadn’t even heard of the term user experience design or UX. Today, it’s something completely different than it was yesterday. As Matthew Corstorphine, Director of Product Design at aeqdigital described, “By the time you read my description of user experience design, it will have changed again.” 

In a recent article explaining user experience design, Matt spoke to the evolution of the industry and the developing role of the UX Designer: 

“User interface was intrinsically tied to UX and we had the same role in a digital agency, from designing digital components, apps, and web-platforms to researching the end user, how they think, and what pain points each product would solve. It was evident that you could not have one without the other; each relies heavily on each other to be meaningful and to have a connection between the brand and the user. As we are able to distinguish more of what each role entails, it becomes more clear what the role of a UX Designer is alone.”

The role of the UX Designer has changed rapidly in the span of just a few years. While UX Designers used to do everything (as Matt describes above), their role today becomes more specific and more defined as new roles such as UI Designer emerge. As a result, the industry has also seen the emergence of the UX Researcher and the UX Writer in more recent times.

UX writing is perhaps the most new and novel of the bunch. In Invision’s January UX trends for 2019 report, Inside Design named “the rise of the UX Writer” as the number three top trend. This is backed by a number of new job opportunities at companies such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook––and we can always look to GAFA to predict growing trends in technology and design. 

 

What is UX writing, anyway?

UX writing can be defined in many ways. In fact, since it’s so new and changing so fast, there isn’t really one set and clear definition of what UX writing is other than that it enhances user experiences through words. It’s often complementary to design and applies the same process of design thinking. Most would probably contend that UX writing is specific to writing only for digital products (i.e., websites, mobile apps, software), but with “digital” changing so quickly alongside the advent of AR, VR, AI, and voice, this could easily mean that UX writing has the potential to expand our traditional notions of what digital products are and can do. 

Microcopy helps users navigate various functions in an app by using
simple, concise, and clear words to describe desired actions. 

 

That being said, UX writing is really about using words to guide users and to help them complete their desired actions. UX Writers are thus responsible for all the text the user encounters when navigating their way around a product. Microcopy is the term that is typically used to describe the short and concise help text, error messages, or CTA buttons that impact both brand and user experience. 

 

UX writing is not marketing

A lot of UX Writers, including myself, come from a marketing background, which makes a lot of sense when you think about where unicorn UX Writers might’ve otherwise come from (an egg? Space?). There are a few key differences between UX Writers and marketing writers to note, the major difference being the objective or purpose of writing. Marketing writers focus heavily on user acquisition, whereas UX Writers focus on retention; while marketing is all about conversion, UX writing is about making sure that the user experience is as smooth as possible. 

Process also plays a key role in the difference between the two. Marketing copywriters are often provided with a creative brief from a marketing, brand, or sales director with messaging already defined in the earlier stages. UX Writers are involved in the design process from the very beginning and it is part of their responsibility to help define the course of the end product through iteration.

 

Why UX writing is super important

There are a number of reasons why UX writing has gained traction in recent years, the leading reason for businesses being an incredible return on investment. When we talk about how user experience drives business success, UX copy has proved to be a significant contributor on ROI across industries.

UX Writer Anastasiia Marushevska shared a telling example from Google during Google I/O 2017 where the engagement rate of a Google product was increased by 17% after they changed “Book a room” to “Check availability”. UX copy can be extremely easy and effective and we often recommend UX copy changes during iterations to our clients who are looking to see improvements in flows.

 

Google changed Book a room to Check availability
and the engagement rate increased by 17%. 

 

Products and brands are constantly looking to differentiate, and user experience can be personalized to the tee with UX copy. Even the smallest changes in microcopy can alter the user experience, which makes UX writing a perfect component for A/B testing. In our experience, this often gives clients more tangibility in terms of data-driven design, and clients are always happier with solid numbers. 

 

What does this all mean?

UX writing can provide business value not only through the product design––it can improve the operational capacity of the team, too. Loosely applying the principles of Fordism to specializing roles within a given team, a talented UI Designer could free up time spent on learning and writing UX copy for a product and then maximize the time spent working on interface design, or what they are actually good at. By introducing a UX Writer to our internal UX design team, we’ve been able to produce better user experiences for clients at an even faster pace. 

Looking towards the future, it seems within reach that UX writing will have a more prominent role in digital product design. As chatbots and conversational interfaces become more popular, for example, writing will become the main vehicle for experience design calling for stronger collaboration between UX Designers and UX Writers. 

While we don’t know exactly what’s in store for the future of UX altogether, we can probably guess. The role that UX plays in a successful product is branching away from a 2-person garage band into a very complex, highly-skilled orchestra of specialists, and UX writing is now becoming a new and much needed addition. UX writing as we know it will provide a new layer of experience for the audience. If you’re interested in learning more or have a project for UX writing in mind, get in touch with our UX design team

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