What a UX Writer does and why you need one

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It’s time to actually start putting your audience first.

A lot goes into a stellar product. First, there’s the idea. It must solve a relevant problem in a fresh (and ideally simple) way.

There’s the engineering and the design. The former makes your machine run, the latter makes it visually appealing and neat. And I’m sure you did your business plan long ago.

So what is it that you’re missing? A UX Writer.

UX means user experience. You’ve probably heard of UX Designers or Researchers, but if you haven’t, that’s okay! UX often hides behind many other names. At the end of the day, if you’re making decisions based on user data and needs, you’re practicing UX.

UX Writers are the new kids on the block. They’ve done a pretty solid job at establishing themselves as pivotal players along the West Coast. But the further east you move (I’m looking at you, Montreal and Toronto), these specialized writers are harder to come by.

In a few years time, UX writing will be much more prominent. But if you’re looking to get ahead of the trend and catch the wave like a savvy surfer, you might want to invest in a UX Writer.

So what exactly do UX Writers do?

Some call them Content Strategists (Facebook, Airbnb), while others refer to them as UX Writers (Google, Amazon). While the role can vary from company to company, a UX Writer usually handles any/all of the following:

  • The words that help users navigate an application or online product

  • Error messages (such as password errors and 404 pages)

  • Transactional emails (shipment tracking, survey emails)

  • FAQ pages

  • Verification code texts

  • Tone of voice guidelines

  • User personas

  • And more!

Here are some examples that were written by a UX Writer:

Uber clearly tells you when and where your next ride is scheduled. “Manage Ride” button helps you make changes. At the bottom, the app invites you to try new features.

Uber clearly tells you when and where your next ride is scheduled. “Manage Ride” button helps you make changes. At the bottom, the app invites you to try new features.

Facebook’s popup announces the new location of Marketplace on your app while inviting you to give feedback on this change.

Facebook’s popup announces the new location of Marketplace on your app while inviting you to give feedback on this change.

Airbnb doesn’t just send you a verification code. They also communicate how not to use this code, and how to avoid scams.

Airbnb doesn’t just send you a verification code. They also communicate how not to use this code, and how to avoid scams.

But UX Writers don’t just look at the words. That would be silly.

UX Writers know the importance of putting the user first. How do they do this? By looking at data, research, and collaborating across teams. A strong UX Writer will do a good amount of data-digging and question-asking before ever putting pen to paper.

They look at what has and hasn’t worked in the past, and strive to make products as intuitive as possible. If you strip a product from its design, you’re left with the words. A product can communicate using only words. It’s much harder to communicate with only design. When both work in unison, beautiful things can happen.

What kind of beautiful things, you ask? Higher conversion, better retention, and happier users. And happy users keep using products. These products are easy to understand, cause little frustration, and at their very best, are accepted as adjuncts to daily life.

It’s one of the reasons why big tech companies are big. Next time you use Facebook, Uber, or Airbnb, pay attention to those tiny words that help you get things done.

Why do I need a UX Writer?

It’s a tale as old as time (or at least since the dawn of the online world).

A product is in its final stages and is missing the words. They’re just words, right? Chances are the developers and designers know how to write. Heck, some of them might have even studied Journalism or English Lit.

So they add the words that are designed to guide users through the product and help them understand its functionalities.

Time for a game. How do these screens make you feel?

What would you do?

What would you do?


Thank you, very helpful.

Thank you, very helpful.


Sorry, Arthurs. Your food is fun but this cryptic menu is not.

Sorry, Arthurs. Your food is fun but this cryptic menu is not.

Confused? Annoyed? Perhaps even angry?

That’s the power of words (or lack thereof). They can be your training wheels until you learn to ride the bike, or they can be a massive pothole that catches your front wheel and sends you flying over the front of your bike.

The first time a user engages with your product, it will be a completely new experience. The right words will help them get through that onboarding flow or solve that recurring error. Your user will eventually learn what does what through repetition and learning. That means consistent language and predictable patterns.

So back to how those screens made you feel. Imagine your user feeling confused, angry, or annoyed.

Fine, maybe they don’t like your app. But more than that, you wasted their time. You had their attention for a moment. Not only did you lose it, but you also frustrated them. That might have been your one shot. Imagine this happening over and over again to every new user who tries your app. Chances are slim that they will give you a second chance.

Feelings are at the core of UX writing. Empathy maps are yet another way that UX Writers determine the best words for a certain feature. That’s why the tone might be different after you successfully upload a picture (you’re feeling excited about all the likes you’re going to get) versus when you’re trying to file your taxes online (you’re feeling stressed and worried about making mistakes).

When you create for people, people will like you. Dale Cargenie famously wrote:

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Translate that to online experiences. You can get more engagement in two months (or less) by creating products for users than you can get in two years by creating products for yourself.

Isn’t a Copywriter the same as a UX Writer?

While Copywriters might teeter from time to time into UX Writer territory, the short answer is no.

Copywriters create words designed to sell and influence. Any user who has not yet converted, signed up, or entered that imaginary “door” is usually spoken to by a Copywriter. Take the example of Facebook.

This is their homepage if you don’t have an account, and was probably written by a Copywriter. The words communicate the benefits of Facebook. It makes you want to make an account. Maybe the form was written by a UX Writer.

This page is all about the benefits of using Facebook. No benefits in sight. Just simple language that helps you use Facebook.

This page is all about the benefits of using Facebook. No benefits in sight. Just simple language that helps you use Facebook.

Now compare that to the words once you’re logged in. The tone here is much simpler. It’s human. It tells you exactly how to do what you want to do without saying how it will benefit you. Why? Because you’re already through the door.

fb logged in.png

A UX Writer creates words designed to help people use and understand an app or an online interface. They always prioritize simplicity, clarity, and context.

UX Writers tend to also have backgrounds in research or at least a solid understanding of how to use and interpret it. They connect the dots between teams an extract unique insights about your user that you may have never thought of. While Copywriters can be strategic, UX Writers need to be strategic.

You would be surprised how difficult it can be to write a “simple” error message. I spend more time on UX writing than on copywriting. Why? Because the stakes are higher. This person has invited you into their life. They allocated space on their phone for your app! You’ve got to continuously remind them why you’re worth it.

Looking for more UX writing insights or curious about how a UX Writer can help you? Get in touch with me today.

Montreal

Film moments in MTL. My beautiful city.

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Grid #5

I’ll travel to miss those I love.

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Grid #4

Finding home again.

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Grid #3

Surreal landscapes with my best friend.

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First Travels

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I’m on my way to Arizona, feeling uneasy and uncomfortable. I want to be one of those people who has seen so much, who has all of these soul-awakening stories. Is it common to feel inadequate about things you have not yet done? Where do these preconceived ideas of how I should enjoy these moments stem from? It’s as though I’m comparing my travel experience to some unknown source, some “cool” way to make the world mine. Who am I even comparing myself to?

I want to tell this inner pressure to take a step back. To live in the moment and experience things my way. But I feel burdened by these standards. It’s like I’m grasping at something that I can’t begin to understand. I just want to be there.

But I know those moments where I think, “I’m proud of what I’m making room in my life to experience” will come again.

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I was afraid of the unknown. I have learned that I adapt well to new surroundings. How uplifting it is to be close to people who are in similar places in their lives. Living well in new spaces is a practice in acceptance and gratitude. It’s easy to think of yourself as being different and estranged from the feelings and thoughts of others. But it’s a practice in humility to realize that you’re a tiny piece. Like everyone else, you’re doing the best you can to make the most out of your life.

Is it true that no matter your circumstance, you’re always longing for something you can’t have? If so, it puts into perspective your true needs and who you really are.

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Roses Pushed

Original drawing

Pencil

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“Roses pushed inside my palm
And rusting with the fun”

Art Glitching

Photo glitching of an original drawing with Notepad

Self-portrait

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