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UX Writing: What Is It + 12 Tips for Effective UX Copy


UX Writing: What Is It + 12 Tips for Effective UX Copy

As more of our personal and professional lives take place online or in some hybrid version of physical and digital, user experience (UX) design has become invaluable to businesses everywhere. User experience puts the focus on the user of a product or website, ensuring that everything is designed and written with the user in mind. An essential part of this process is considering the copy that appears on any website, app or product. The content in these places can make the difference between a clear user experience and one that leaves users unsure of what to do.


If you’re thinking about creating a website with excellent UX design and writing, we recommend using a website builder. This will enable you to easily move or change elements and gives you the ability to add or remove content anywhere you see fit. This flexibility is essential for providing a great user experience and great UX websites. To help you get more deeply acquainted with UX writing we put together this article that explains what it entails and provides tips to help you get the most out of your UX copy.



What is UX writing?


User experience writing is the process of creating copy for a website that is both useful to visitors and makes the website easier to use.


So, what differentiates UX writing from other kinds of website writing? Primarily, it’s a difference in goals and approaches. For instance:


  • Copywriters create website and landing page copy with the express purpose of attracting leads and turning them into revenue.

  • Content writers create blog posts, articles and other informative content that educates and sometimes entertains readers for the purposes of marketing and thought leadership.

  • UX writers create website copy that make websites more intuitive and enjoyable to use, which in turn increases users’ confidence and satisfaction with the entire experience.


It’s important to note that all three of these can and should seamlessly work together. UX writing can add to other website writing in a number of ways, including by ensuring that deep research and testing has been done to ensure the best possible content.


To understand UX writing a bit more deeply, we’ve laid out the components that typically go into the UX writing process:



01. Research


All parts of UX design require user research to understand the typical user and the way that they behave. And UX writing is just one piece of the larger UX design puzzle. Because of this, UX writers are just as involved during the initial research and discovery phases as the designers and researchers are.


General research into the industry and audience is a must. However, it’s critical that UX writers be involved in the user research and interviews that take place upfront. Not only will this help them gain a better idea of who they’re writing copy for, but it allows them to hear the users’ actual voices and to get a sense for the language they use.



02. Strategy


UX writers are masters of communication. Even if they aren’t fluent in web design, they understand how the formatting and flow of language can impact a person’s ability to comprehend and relate to the message. UX writers should therefore be involved in determining the larger strategy of a given website or brand.


In addition to being involved in the website strategy, UX writers are also often responsible for creating the content strategy for the blog.



03. Style guide development


The process of optimizing a website and its copy for the user experience is never complete. That’s one of the reasons why UX writers create content style guides.


This document outlines a variety of points:

  • Guiding principles and values of the brand

  • Brand voice and personality

  • Copy guidelines

  • Formatting, spelling and grammatical rules

  • Approved brand jargon


The style guide ensures that everyone who writes copy for the website remains on-brand and dedicated to preserving the user experience. This is an essential step in creating a website or app that has strong UX writing.



04. UX writing


Of course the most crucial step is the writing itself. UX writing is commonly associated with the smaller components on a website. For example:

  • Button text

  • Menu labels

  • Push notifications

  • Success messages

  • Error messages

  • Form instructions

  • Disclaimers

  • 404 messages


While it’s true that UX writers need to pay close attention to microcopy, they can’t ignore the rest of the copy on the site. All site copy comes together to form a complete picture that the user receives when they visit a website. Therefore, when thinking about the writing itself, consider both the microcopy as well as the more long form content. Think about how the two will work hand in hand to convey a complete message.



05. Testing


UX writers choose their words carefully, considering the data and real user input that they receive. That said, while they might have found a better way to rewrite “Transaction declined”, it might not be the best way.


This is why UX writers are always testing variations of their copy through A/B testing. The goal is to make the website as easy for visitors to use as possible and even the smallest tweaks to menu labels or form instructions can help them accomplish that.



Why UX writing matters


Writing copy for your website is no easy task. While you might know your brand inside and out and can explain your offering well, you also have to consider how your website’s visitors are going to feel when they read your copy. This in turn helps users to create a positive association with your website and brand and can ultimately lead to notable business growth.


More practically, a user needs to understand the flow of your site and what will lead them to where they want to be. So for example, if a user is looking to make a purchase on your website but has misunderstood what will lead them to the checkout page, that can prevent a purchase from going through. This can have an immediate impact on your business. It is therefore crucial to take the time to consider the copy and placement of all content on your website.


UX writing also forces you to look closely at who your brand serves, what pains them, what they need and what they want. This can produce writing that is targeted towards your ideal customer, making them more likely to buy from you and increasing the chances that you’ll be satisfied with your users.


To break down the reasons why thoughtful UX writing is worthwhile on your site, consider the following:

  • UX copy comes from a combination of research, user psychology and empathy. This user-first approach to writing can create more positive and memorable experiences.

  • Visitors will be able to “hear” your brand’s voice through your writing, which will help strengthen brand identity.

  • Conversational interfaces remove the machine-like quality from a website and instead make it feel more welcoming and honest.

  • Even the smallest of roadblocks in a website’s design or interactions can be smoothed away with clear and concise UX copy.



UX writing tips


To help you implement UX writing on your webpages, products or apps, let’s take a look at some practical UX writing tips to keep in mind while building your website.



01. Collaborate closely with the UX design team


The designer is going to take all of their user research, interviews and tests and come up with a visual language for the site. The best way to ensure you’re all on the same page in terms of what that language sounds and looks like is to work together from the very start.


You’ll also create a better website working together with copy and design that complement one another. Rather than write content that the designer then has to work around, or vice versa, you can work together to create a cohesive outcome.



02. Listen to your customers’ voices


It is important to speak to your customers at their level of understanding of your offerings rather than using the terms that you might be used to behind the scenes. When business owners, salespeople and marketers talk to prospective customers, they shouldn't use overly technical terms or company-specific jargon.


Doing UX research can help you understand what your customers will understand and what might be too niche for the average visitor. You, in turn, can apply this type of language to your site. This will ensure that your customers will feel at ease with your content and offerings.


One way in which you can apply this is on a chatbot on your site. Be sure to greet your customers at their level and be understanding of the issues that they might be having. This might often mean speaking in a casual and friendly tone so as to be sure to have everyone feel at ease.


Here’s an example of how you might improve the chatbot greeting with UX copy:



Listen to your customers’ voices when UX writing, text example


03. Change all of the placeholder content


One of the great things about building a website with a high-quality website template is that it saves you a ton of time and is often already optimized in many ways. That said, be sure to check the template elements closely to make sure they accurately represent your brand and desired messaging.


Specifically, remember that the placeholder content in that template all needs to be replaced and written for your specific audience. This goes for the “Lorem Ipsum” text within the design as well as the messages that visitors get from the website.


For example:



 Change all of the placeholder content when you are UX writing example with text on a screen


04. Don’t stress about length


Minimalism is an important principle in both design and writing. However, shorter isn’t always better when it comes to copy. When writing UX copy, ask yourself if what you’ve written accomplishes what you set out to do.


Let’s say this is the main call-to-action on your homepage:



get the eBook example of short UX writing


Visitors that see this button will know they can find and get the ebook when they click on it. But if after they click they discover that it actually costs $49 or only comes in a format that isn’t compatible with their device, they are going to be shocked.


It might not seem like a big deal, but you can remove a lot of frustration, confusion and unnecessary customer churn by writing more specific copy instead of worrying about brevity. In this example, just a few extra words might be helpful:



ux writing examples


These are much clearer calls-to-action that can reduce customer frustration and improve the user experience.



05. Use power words to strengthen the emotional response


What are the primary reactions you want visitors to have when reading the copy on your site?


Do you want them to laugh at how cheeky the brand is?


Do you want them to feel heard and understood?


Do you want them to be satisfied with letting your company take the reins once they’ve filled out a form?


The proper use of power words can evoke an emotional response from your reader, making your copy more persuasive to them. This can help you elicit the response you want from visitors. OptinMonster has a list of over 700 of them known to increase conversions that you can take advantage of while writing your UX copy.


Just keep in mind that UX writing needs to improve the visitor’s experience, not put them on edge or make them feel guilty for not taking action. So, be mindful of what kinds of emotions your word choices make them feel.



06. Use active instead of passive voice


One of the benefits of writing in active voice over passive voice is that it gives the visitor the sense that you’re in control. Active voice also tends to be clearer and doesn’t force your visitors to do mental backflips to figure out what you’re saying.


For example:



Use active instead of passive voice screen on text example


07. Use action instead of linking verbs


Action verbs can help you visitors understand exactly what they receive from your service or product. They are great for boosting visitor confidence in your brand and help make a strong case for your company.


On the other hand, linking verbs are less strident and powerful. One of the main issues with using linking verbs (like “to be”) is that it adds extra words where you don’t need any.


For instance:



UX writing example of using action instead of linking verbs


08. Use present instead of past tense


Oftentimes businesses are successful when they are innovative and can help customers or clients get away from their past. So, when you write in present tense, you address their needs and your solution as the reality today instead of asking them to look backwards.


Here’s an example of how you can use present tense to make your brand appear stronger:



text on a screen that shows you how to use present instead of past tense


Even if the number of clients has been left out of the present tense statement, it’s still a stronger and more confidence-building approach.



09. Use positive instead of negative phrasing


You want visitors to respond positively to your website and, by extension, to your brand. There’s a lot you can do with your UX copy to make them feel that way. One of the simplest tricks is to turn a negative phrase into a positive one:



example of how to use positive instead of negative phrasing


Your website should never be discouraging or intimidating. By using positive phrases, you’ll create a more supportive and helpful atmosphere.



10. It’s okay if your UX copy isn’t funny


There’s a common misunderstanding about what UX copy is. Many of the more memorable examples we see on the web are silly. Like this example from Pixar’s 404 page:



404 error page example of UX Writing from Pixar


The messaging here is great and it’s spot-on with the brand. However, impersonal and cheeky copy doesn’t work for every brand.


For instance, let’s say you’re building a website for your accounting firm. While a tiny bit of comic relief might be appreciated, it’s a gamble. You never know what the visitor on the other end is going through with their finances and an ill-timed joke could turn them off from your services.



11. Help visitors focus


It’s not just the designer’s job to make the copy look good. By formatting your UX copy, you’ll ensure that visitors notice what you’ve written and fully digest the most important parts. Consider using visual markers like headings and bold font.


Another organizational tactic to keep in mind is hierarchy. With hierarchy, you can use font sizes, font formats, as well as the order of your messages to convey which content is the most important and should be read first.


Uncommon Goods’s backorder notice is the perfect example of how to do this:



Uncommon Goods UX Writing Example from website


The most important details are in a larger font (i.e. the first line). In case the shopper doesn’t read the whole thing, the shipping date is in bold font, making it difficult to miss. The secondary information is in a smaller font, but maintains purposeful formatting like the underlined, hyperlinked text and the em-dash before “and worth the wait” which call visitors’ attention to the message.



12. Make your copy accessible


When we talk about accessibility, it’s often related to things like choosing the right colors for a website or including captions on videos. But accessibility is about more than making a website easy for impaired users to access.


Let’s use the button example again:



click here button CTA


What does this call-to-action tell us? It tells us that the website is speaking to users who have devices that allow them to click on buttons. Namely, desktop computers and laptops. We could use “Tap Here”, but again, that would be limited to tablet and smartphone users.


UX writing will get you thinking about how truly inclusive your language is. It might seem nitpicky, but it’s little details like these that can make a big difference in your visitors’ on-site experience.



Jenna Romano

By Jenna Romano

Web Design Expert and Writer


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This Blog was created with Wix Blog

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