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Blog July 11, 2024

Better UX Writing Builds Better Products

Aprill Jones
Aprill Jones

What Is UX Writing?

UX (user experience) writing encompasses the words that appear in digital experiences and products, including websites, apps, or product features, as well as in our physical world, like the dashboard of a car. It’s sometimes called microcopy, but also includes longer content needs, such as coach marks for onboarding, alerts, tooltips, and even internal and external communications, such as emails, confirmations, requests, and welcome messages. Pretty much, if you read it on a screen, it’s UX writing.

  • Notifications
  • Error states and empty states
  • Buttons and navigation labels
  • All microcopy in forms
  • Security and privacy information
  • Calls to action

A UX writer is essential to delivering high-performing microcopy with clear, concise language for a successful product development, fostering both user success and customer conversions.

Oh, Our Developers Do That

But how well can they do it? Would you have one of your copywriters write code because it has the word “write” in the job description? Of course not. Then you just can’t expect your developers to be skilled in writing microcopy and notifications, or be expert in failure messages, alerts, or warnings for your products and features.

In a Medium article, UX Design, Good Copy is Good Business, the ROI of Microcopy we see how Google found people casually browsing hotel room options online weren’t ready to commit to making a reservation when the call to action (CTA) was, “Book a room.” When a UX writer changed those words to “Check availability,” engagement increased by 17%. And in the hospitality business, those numbers matter in product performance.

The same article also refers to a Danish e-commerce site creation that involved a UX writer from the beginning of the product design process as opposed to being asked to fill in the lorem ipsum placeholder copy in the final wireframe. When the UX writer looked at the content design, they added one more call to action, “Review bundle,” which increased buyer conversion of product bundles by 17%.

Keep in mind, a skilled UX writer brings a unique depth of knowledge and a wide range of experience, crafting the text that expertly guides the user through the product and helps them interact with it. A large part of UX writing is directly related to actions of the desired user flow including onboarding a new user, product guidance, and instructing your users how to carry out a desired action within the product.

At CapTech, we consider UX writing an integral part of the UX and product development of any digital experience. And as a bonus, our UX writers can also conduct a thorough content assessment in your customer and employee experiences.

CapTech’s UX content experts lead our clients through complex content challenges, while significantly improving the user experience. For example, working with a large legacy university, an assessment and inventory of UX content resulted in an overall 30% page reduction and identification of a dozen priority pages. Our UX writer not only led the oversight and consolidation of over 1,000 web pages but also provided messaging strategy and new content for the priority pages, strengthening the university’s overall product offering.

Similarly, for a state Tax Department, our UX writer reworked content during product development to remove internal jargon and acronyms to make the product more approachable and understandable. As a result of an assessment of their payments-related content, a UX writer was able to follow up with optimized content for new pages. Moderated content testing sessions with taxpayers showed a 100% user success rate and less than a minute average time on task.

UX copy seamlessly guides the user through the Guest Pay process

Where Should I Start?

Put your product content in the hands of a skilled writer during product development. Because ideally, users will hardly notice the text or words throughout your digital product. Poorly executed UX content, on the other hand, becomes painfully obvious. We’ve all seen text in a digital product that not only failed to enhance the experience, but detracted from it, with a typo, an obvious copy and paste mistake, or, my favorite, lorem ipsum, that hasn’t been replaced. Take a quick scan through your latest product, preferably before launch. Do you see any content that should be rewritten or replaced?

Do a gut check. Does your product content meet the goals of the brand experience and the goals of the people using the experience? If your product features do not test well, and you’re not prepared for a total redesign, a UX writer can sharpen the content and help improve engagement and conversions in the interim.

UX writing can be a standalone engagement, a part of a larger product design and development effort, or as a product team resource, to improve the user experience, increase customer conversions, and facilitate user adoption, while leveling up content maturity.

Watch Your Language

Inclusive language is essential to any digital product or feature. It ensures a consistently exceptional customer experience and will set appropriate expectations for your internal team. It reminds your customers of yet another reason they feel loyal to your brand.

A skilled UX writer has the eyes and ears to ensure your product demonstrates inclusivity. This will help you avoid unintentionally alienating anyone from your digital products, regardless of culture, ethnicity, or background. Remember, your digital brand language reflects your organization’s core values and your relationship with your customers.

UX writers create inclusive product content with these things in mind:

  • Have we unnecessarily referred to personal characteristics such as sex, religion, racial group, disability, or age?
  • Do prototypes include multi-cultural placeholder names?
  • Do references to the customers reflect their diversity?
  • Do we avoid the use of jargon and acronyms that may exclude some people?
  • Does the digital conversation treat all people with respect and impartiality?

How you present your brand in content and copy has the power to build bridges and increase understanding of your intent. Watching your language can be one more protective layer that helps keep your brand and your products relevant and desirable.

Is Accessible Content a Product Development Concern?

Yes, because accessible content ensures your digital products are approachable to everyone, including individuals living with disabilities or impairments. By using clear and concise language, providing alternative text for images, and considering different reading levels, UX writers make content more accessible to people with visual, auditory, or cognitive challenges. UX writers should complete accessibility training to ensure a thorough understanding of the W3C and legal requirements for web and digital content.

The best UX writers have a greater understanding of how what they write could impact thousands, if not millions, of users, including those with accessibility challenges. Products optimized with accessible content has profound, real-world consequences, and bottom-line organizational impact.

Should Your Design System Include Content Guidelines?

Absolutely. A big, giant leap toward content maturity for any organization engaged in product development is often signaled by a content section included in their digital design system.

Atlassian and Gitlab are examples of robust, impactful content systems, addressing not only expected guidelines for punctuation and capitalization, but also inclusive UX writing and accessible content.

A UX writer has the skillset and expertise to create a content system that lives within a digital design system. It’s a verbal brand guideline for product design and it drives verbal consistency and concerns that often arise in UX and development. It provides a place to onboard new designers and writers or acts as a source of truth for non-writers.

Will AI Change How Content Is Created for Products?

Sure. But while the technology can assist in creating content quickly and efficiently through ever-evolving and smarter content tools, it cannot entirely replace the creative process and inherent skills UX writers bring to the table. If you’ve sent a text, you’ve already seen how AI content tools can predict the next word in a sentence based on a vast array of data. As you’ve likely experienced using various content generation tools, AI can help with wording, but it can’t decide what information to present to users – that decision still needs a human with expertise in creating an empathetic digital product.

Strong UX writers stay in step with the capabilities of AI, using it to refine content, improve delivery, and generate ideas. Technology advancements, including, AI generated content, will continue to require human understanding of specific environments, brand language nuances, and expertise that allows for the creation of the exact right content, at the right time in the right context. AI has not quite mastered that skill.

Recently, the XD lead of an employee-facing digital platform commented to one of our UX writers, “Love how you turn nonsense phrases into intelligible sentences.”

Site visitors are greeted by a call-to-action and led through checking dates on a mobile device

In a nutshell, a good UX writer can do that for your products, too. Adding UX writing expertise to your product design and development team is becoming increasingly important, and emerging technological advances will only amplify the impact.

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. — Mark Twain