What is a good product design? A good product combines a few things—good functionality, reliability, usability, and pleasurability. When it comes to creating a good product, UI copy can be a significant factor that impacts the design. Well-crafted copy makes the product feel polished and increases the chances that users will continue using it. And the professionals responsible for writing good copy are called UX writers.
In this article, we will explore what UX writing is, why it's important, and how to become a UX writer, as well as answer a few popular questions about this discipline.
UX writing is the practice of creating clear, concise, and effective copy that guides users through a digital product. UX writing aims to make the user experience as smooth as possible and to ensure that users can accomplish their goals using a product without any problems.
Examples of UX writing include crafting microcopy (tiny bites of texts used in various parts of a user interface, such as button labels, tooltips, error messages, etc.)
Slack password validation microcopy.
as well as microcopy (larger blocks of texts such as texts used in onboarding flows and help documentation).
UX writers craft content that appears within a digital product and helps users understand what they can do using the product, how they can do it, and why they should do it. Here are some specific tasks that a UX writer typically performs:
UX writers are responsible for creating clear and concise copy that makes it easier for users to interact with a product.
Content strategy is the practice of managing the content of digital platforms in a way that supports the goals of the organization and meets the needs of its users. UX writers work with designers, developers, product managers, and stakeholders to develop a content strategy that aligns with the product's user experience goals.
UX writers work closely with user research teams to understand user needs and preferences. They use insights about user behavior collected during research when writing UI copy.
Product design should always be validated by testing with real users. Usability testing helps to identify how users react to UI copy and address areas of friction in UI. Usability testing makes it clear whether a product's messaging and copy are tailored to its target audience's needs and wants.
UX writing is more than just writing effective copy. Excellent UX writing conveys brand personality. That's why one of the goals that UX writers pursue is to ensure that the product's messaging and tone are aligned with the company's brand and values.
What is standout UX writing? Image by Guy Ligertwood.
Copy is an integral part of the user interface and has a tremendous impact on the user experience of a product. Well-crafted copy creates enjoyable experiences and engages users in interaction. The UX writer is a crucial role in product design for several reasons:
UX writers craft content within the product that is both clear and easy to understand. It can help improve the product's usability, leading to increased user satisfaction and engagement. During the 2017 Google I/0 session, Maggie Stanphill proved the importance of crafting good copy by showing how tiny changes in UI copy can significantly impact user engagement.
How a simple change of words from “Book a room” to “Check availability” helped the Google team increase user engagement. Image by Google I/O 2017.
The ultimate goal of product design is to create a loyal group of users—people who will continue using a product day after day, year after year. Good UX writing can help prevent user frustration and confusion, positively impacting user retention (continuing use of a product). By creating a positive and user-friendly experience, UX writers can help ensure that users return to the product.
The message that Mailchimp users used to see when they ran their first email campaign. This message helps to celebrate the milestone that users achieve using a product.
Every brand has its personality, and it's possible to communicate it through the language used in a product. UX writers ensure that a product's messaging is consistent with the brand's values, voice, and tone.
Here is how Shopify, a popular platform for eCommerce, approaches tone and voice in their guidelines:
As Shopify's voice, we should always be real but not too tough or overly familiar
We need to be proactive but not needy or pushy
We need to be dynamic but not scattered or impulsive
We should guide but don't handhold or prescribe
The company supports each statement with practical examples that help UX writers understand how to craft the copy.
Shopify Polaris tone and voice guidelines. Image by Shopify.
MailChimp's voice and tone is another great place to learn about the company's rules when writing texts.
Many companies aim to make their products available to users from different countries. Localization is essential to adapt the product to different cultures and user expectations. UX writers can help support a product's localization by creating content that is easy to translate into other languages.
Becoming a UX writer requires a combination of writing skills, UX design knowledge, and practical experience in the field. If you're interested in becoming a UX writer, here is a step-by-step guide that you can follow to get started in this role:
The first thing you need to do is to research the role of UX writing and learn about what it involves. Read articles and books on UX writing to get a sense of the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. You can check UX Writing Hub’s blog section to learn more about the role and read On writing well book by William Zinsser to learn more about the art & craft of writing.
UX writing is a subfield of user experience design, so it's essential to understand the basics of UX design principles and methodologies to craft compelling copy. It's always important to understand your target audience, the people who will use your product, and the context in which your product will be used.
Understanding the audience will help you find the correct language that you can use in your product. For example, if most of your users aren't tech-savvy, it's better to avoid tech jargon in your UI. Context of use will help you better understand the way people comprehend information. For example, if you design a mobile app, you shouldn't expect that users will read every word you write because they might use your app on the go. Thus, it's better to communicate in short sentences rather than write long passages of text.
It's recommended to learn tools like user personas, user journeys, and design thinking and use them to frame information you know about your target audience. A good place to start is to either take a course about UX design on a popular platform like Interaction Design Foundation or read books about the topic. A few popular titles are "Don't make me think" by Steve Krug and "Design of everyday things" by Don Norman. You should also check popular blogs about UX design, such as NNGroup and UX Booth.
How UX writing relates to user experience design. Image by Guy Ligertwood.
UX writing requires strong writing skills, and the only way to gain writing skills is to start practicing writing regularly. It doesn't mean that you should start writing UI copy. You can write blog posts, articles, and product reviews. The more you write, the faster you develop your writing style.
You can also consider formal education or training. Formal education in writing can help you build your writing skills much faster. UXContent and UX Writing Hub offer online courses for UX writers and provide certificates for students that complete them.
Quick tip: You can use special tools that help to optimize copy. One is Hemingway Editor, which highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors. The app also uses red color to highlight areas that are too complicated for readers or have splitting logic.
Hemingway app in action. Image by Hemingway.
Once you create your writing style you should gain practical experience creating UI copy. Many people who move to UX writing struggle to find their first projects. Here are two solutions to this problem:
You can volunteer to write copy for projects of your friends. Reach out to local businesses or startups and offer to help them with their UX writing needs.
Practice writing copy for popular apps and websites. You can rework existing products' copy if you notice the areas that could be optimized.
Gumroad's update about a price increase. Areas highlighted in red can (and should) be optimized. Image by Nick Babich.
A portfolio is crucial to showcase your work and demonstrate your skills. You need to choose works that prove you can write a good UI copy.
You need to provide context for each piece of writing in your portfolio. Here is a simple checklist that you can use for describing a project:
What is this project all about? Explain the project's goals and objectives.
What was your role in this project? What were your responsibilities as a UX writer?
How did you collaborate with a product team? Explain your relationships with team members.
What was the impact of your writing on the overall user experience?
Try to make your portfolio visually appealing because a well-designed portfolio will make your writing samples stand out. Consider using images, graphics, and other visual elements to enhance your portfolio, and try to communicate all information about the project in a format of a story that you tell to visitors. Ian Bamford's portfolio is an excellent example of pairing imagery with relevant details.
FC Bayern case study at Ian Bamford’s portfolio.
Start to build your network early on in your career because it will help you grow faster. Attend events such as UX conferences, workshops, and meetups to network with other UX professionals. You can check the local events in your area on Meetups. These events provide an opportunity to meet and connect with designers, researchers, and content strategists.
Join online UX writing communities on social media such as Slack, LinkedIn, and Facebook groups that are focused on UX writing. Here are a few popular online groups for UX writers: Content + UX (Slack), Microcopy & UX writing (Facebook), Daily UX Writing (Facebook), UX writers & content designers (Linkedin).
The salary for UX writers can vary depending on a number of factors, such as experience level, location, and the company. According to data from ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a UX writer in the United States is around $118,000 per year. The salary ranges from $50,000 to over $177,000 depending on the factors mentioned above.
Yes, having a portfolio is vital for UX writers. A strong UX writing portfolio is crucial for demonstrating your skills and experience as a UX writer. A portfolio should showcase writing skills and give potential employers or clients a clear idea of your writing style and approach to UX writing. It also allows you to demonstrate your experience working on a variety of UX writing projects, such as user interface copy, product documentation, and even content strategy.
When building a UX writing portfolio, it's essential to focus on the quality of your work and its impact on the product's user experience. Here are some tips for creating a strong UX writing portfolio:
Showcase various work: Include a range of UX writing projects to demonstrate your ability to write for different platforms and audiences.
Provide context: You need to provide context for writing challenges for each project you want to include in your portfolio. You need to communicate the problem you want to solve, your solution to the problem as well as how you found it.
Highlight results: Demonstrate the impact of your UX writing by including metrics, user feedback, or other evidence that proves that your work improved the product's user experience.
Include writing samples: Include samples of your writing to showcase your style, voice, and tone. Be sure to highlight the specific aspects of UX writing you were responsible for in each sample.
Keep it updated: Regularly refresh and refine your portfolio to showcase your best work.
The career path for a UX writer can vary depending on the individual's skills, experience, and goals. Here are some popular career paths for a UX writer:
Senior UX Writer: As you gain more experience and build a portfolio of successful UX writing projects, you may be promoted to a senior UX writer position. In this role, you may oversee other UX writers, develop and implement content strategy, and work closely with product managers and stakeholders to ensure that the product's content aligns with the business goals.
Content strategist: Some UX writers may move into a content strategist role. In this position, they will develop and implement content strategies across multiple platforms, including social media, blogs, and other marketing channels. Content strategists may also work closely with SEO specialists and marketing professionals to ensure that the content is optimized for search engines and is aligned with the overall brand voice.
UX Manager: As UX writers gain more experience and leadership skills, they may progress into a UX manager role. In this position, they would oversee the UX team and ensure that the content and product design aligns with the overall product vision and user experience. UX managers typically work closely with other managers to ensure that the product is delivered on time and within budget.
While knowing how to code can be helpful for a UX writer, it is not typically a requirement for the job. UX writing is primarily focused on creating effective, user-friendly content for digital products. Having some technical knowledge can be an advantage in the UX writing field because it can help a UX writer better understand the technical constraints of digital products (be able to evaluate technical feasibility) and communicate more effectively with developers and designers. For example, a basic understanding of HTML and CSS can be useful for formatting text within a product's user interface.
Yes, UX writers can work remotely, as their work often involves creating and editing content for digital products, which can be done from anywhere with an internet connection. Remote work has its challenges, such as potential isolation and lack of collaboration with team members, but with proper design tools, these challenges can be mitigated. Collaborative UX design tools make it easier for team members to work together on a project. The fact that team members can co-create in real time helps ensure that the copy UX writers create can seamlessly integrate the product's design and functionality.
Collaboration in Mockplus RP during product design between team members. Image by Mockplus.
The time it takes to become a UX writer can vary depending on your background, skills, and experience. If you already have a background in writing and content creation, you may be able to transition to a UX writing role more quickly. However, if you are starting from scratch with your writing skills, you may need to spend more time developing your craft before pursuing a UX writing career.
UX writing also requires UX design knowledge. If you already have experience in UX design (i.e., you move to UX writing from design), you may be able to learn the fundamentals of UX writing more quickly. It can generally take anywhere from a few months to a few years to become a UX writer.
Yes, it is possible to become a UX writer without a degree. While a degree in a relevant field, such as journalism or public communications, can be helpful, it is not always a requirement for breaking into UX writing. What's more important is having strong writing and editing skills, an understanding of user-centered design principles, and being able to work collaboratively with other team members.
While both UX writers and content writers create written content, there are some key differences between the two roles. UX writers focus specifically on creating content for user interfaces of digital products. They work closely with UX designers, product managers, and developers to craft user-centered language that guides users through the product's interface, explains product features, and helps users accomplish their goals. Copywriters, on the other hand, create a wide range of content that can be used across various channels and formats, such as blog posts, articles, social media posts, and product descriptions. Their focus is on creating content that is informative, engaging, and tailored to the target audience.
Copywriters vs UX writers. Image by Anastasiia Marushevska.
UX writers are a critical part of the design process because they help create effective and engaging digital products that meet users' needs. Many companies are looking for skilled and experienced UX writers who can write user-friendly copy and effectively communicate a brand's message in a way that resonates with users. With the rise of competition in the market, the role of UX writer will become increasingly important, so if you're considering moving to this field, do it right now.