User experience (UX) writing is about using words to facilitate the best user experience possible. Even if you’ve never heard of it, you’ve seen it before. It’s here:
The Airbnb search above is a great example of thoughtful UX writing. Rather than simply saying ‘search’, it gives you some gentle guidance about how to get the best results. The word ‘try’ adds an element of playful exploration – it’s not asking you to search, it’s asking you to try new things. It’s only a couple of words, but it’s telling you all you need to get started.
UX writers need to be part copywriter, part content designer, and part UX designer. They make sure every word in an interface is there to help users complete a task.
Let’s take a closer look at how UX writing works.
Know your users
Before we build anything, we need to know:
- Who the users are
- What they’re trying to do, and why
- How they want to do it
User research will go a long way towards determining our approach. We’ll do interviews with users, look at analytics, view feedback, and conduct testing to find out the best approach.
Take a look at the difference between Google Maps’ search prompt on desktop:
And on mobile:
These are both the same services with the same features. But the search prompts here reflect the different tasks people have on different devices: asking ‘where are you going?’ reflects the immediacy of mobile use by letting you know what to type, and giving you a good idea of what you can expect.
Every online interaction is a conversation between the interface and its users. But users won’t want to continue the conversation if they don’t like you.
That’s why you need to know who you are. Is your brand formal or informal? How you approach a piece of copy can depend on what kind of business you have, what kind of message you’re sending, and who your users are.
We use the messaging service Slack a lot at Storm ID, and it’s an example of a great, consistent tone. Take a look at the welcome message from its chatbot-like service Slackbot:
From this we can see that Slack is friendly, fun and focused on productivity. It’s also given us several ways to get started, both talking to Slackbot and getting started using the app.
Personality is also about managing tone. A little empathy goes a long way: recognising and placating a frustrated user will help to stop them from ragequitting, never to return.
Knowing your tone and sticking to it consistently will go a long way towards deepening trust and loyalty from your users.
No writer is an island
UX writing is an integral part of the design process. UX writers need to be sociable: they work closely with designers, developers and researchers to make sure user-centred design is considered at every step of the process. From initial wireframing through to build and testing, UX writing is a crucial part of a build.
How we can help
And that concludes our whirlwind tour of UX writing.