In the past, products were created by a design group who would then forward their efforts to a marketing team to craft copy that would explain or entice customers to use that product. For today’s digital age, there’s a need for explanatory online copy to help facilitate a better user interface. This is the job of a UX writer or a user experience writer.
The focus of a UX writer
Primarily focused on online platforms, a UX writer creates any of the writing for apps, websites, etc. that guides a user through the process, from subscribing to a service to downloading an app to the error messages you receive when a program isn’t working.
What makes a good UX writer?
Our digital landscape demands that explanatory content be concise and efficient, i.e. don’t use four words when two will do. Writing for the internet is different than other forms of writing, particularly because most users scan content, especially user interface copy. Easily digestible chunks of text are the goal for a UX writer.
In addition to brevity, a UX writer needs to focus on creating content that is useful above all else. Good UI content is clear, straightforward and states the objective from the start. The more specific, action-oriented language used the better. Certainly, being a skilled wordsmith matters for a UX writer, but it goes beyond writing skills. A good UX writer writes content that effectively conveys a new experience without a single unnecessary word.
Unlike the copywriter of the past, who came in on the back end of a project, a UX writer ideally should be involved much earlier in the process. The reason for this is to keep the online user experience intuitive. UX designers focus on designing simple, clear products that are then tested to ensure the best possible user experience. If the explanatory writing isn’t part of this from the beginning, a fundamental component of the user’s interaction with the product is being neglected.
The future of UX writing
Moving forward, the role of UX writer will become even more important as the intersection between graphical user interfaces (GUI) and voice user interfaces (VUI) become more common in every life. More and more of our lives are being conducted verbally through our devices, from ordering items via a personal assistant, to commanding our phones to search for a location.
There doesn’t currently appear to be a set track for UX writers. Companies focused on this area often look for those with some kind of educational background in communications, whether that means journalism, public relations or creative writing. Also, since the role is still somewhat new, many companies are interested in a UX writer that is able to be flexible and work across functionalities. Finally, many companies looking for a UX writer will be asking writers to defend their choices. Be prepared to use research to validate your words and messages.
Anyone writing for the web, even if you aren’t explicitly doing so as a UX writer, should recognize how their words play a part in the user experience. Doing so will only make your content better.